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United-Continental Merger Cleared for Takeoff

A San Francisco judge rejected a lawsuit that would have halted the merger between United and Continental, clearing the path for the deal to close on schedule this Friday.

The lawsuit was brought by 49 passengers who claimed the merger would lead to higher fares. But according to the Associated Press, the judge found insufficient evidence that the merger would harm these 49 travelers directly, and noted many of the plaintiffs had testified that they did not even fly United very often. Apparently only one of the plaintiffs said she would fly the airline once the merger was complete.

It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the lawsuit was thrown out, but it’s a little disappointing nonetheless. It’s not that I want the merger to crumble, but it would be fascinating to watch a public, objective trial of the merits and drawbacks of these deals and what they mean for the future of airline travel. So much of the airline merger process is done behind closed doors, and potential hurdles always seem easy to clear, such as gaining Department of Justice approval or defeating lawsuits like this.

Unfortunately, this lawsuit seemed frivolous, if the judge’s comments are any indication. Too bad we’ll never know if a stronger case could have achieved more traction.

Up next for the merger is the scheduled October 1 closing date. Everything seems to be on track, so expect United and Continental to issue triumphant press releases Friday or sometime early next week. But that’s only the beginning of the hard work. The road ahead includes merging the two airlines’ unions, combining reservations systems, aligning countless policies and procedures, and, of course, painting planes.

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