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Continental, United Pilots Take Step Toward Merger

There’s still work to be done, but one of the major hurdles standing between United, Continental, and a completed merger is closer to being cleared.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that pilots from both airlines have agreed to the main points of a plan that will dictate how they will operate during the transition from two carriers to one. Each airline’s pilot union is represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, but has different contracts that must be reconciled before a merger is complete.

This transitional agreement, however, is exactly that. Both sides will need to work out a permanent arrangement for the merger to complete, which means a joint contract and an agreement on seniority lists. This transitional deal (which, mind you, isn’t done down to the details) seems to suggest both sides are capable of finding compromises.

Not surprisingly, the press release was full of positive platitudes. “This is an important step forward that reflects the hard work and collaborative dialogue required to reach this transition agreement that is in the best interest of our new company and our pilots,” said Glenn Tilton, United chairman and chief executive officer. That’s likely true, of course, and no doubt Tilton and his counterpart at Continental, Jeff Smisek, have their fingers crossed that future negotiations between their respective pilots go just as smoothly.

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