Continental, United Merging Into World's Biggest Airline
New behemoth hopes to turn around losses
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2010 2:33 AM CDT
Updated May 3, 2010 5:43 AM CDT
In this combo made from file photos, a Continental Airlines plane takes off from Cleveland Hopkins Airport, top, and a United Airlines jet takes off from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – United and Continental Airlines are joining to form the world's largest airline in a $3 billion deal, the carriers will announce today. The merger will test the notion that the money-losing airline industry can work better on a large scale—and test the Obama administration's antitrust regulators. While the companies see the deal as a merger of equals, United will dominate. The airline will keep the United name and United's Chicago headquarters, and United shareholders will own about 55% of the company.

Both carriers have been losing money. Continental posted a $282 billion loss in 2009, and United tallied a $651 million loss. The combined airline is betting on appealing to corporate travelers with a wide choice of departure times and a worldwide network from South America to Shanghai. A similar Delta-Northwest deal cleared the federal government 18 months ago, but that was under the Bush administration. One analyst estimates the odds that the Obama Justice Department will approve a mega-airline deal at just 75%, AP reports.