Experts say airline merger settlement good news for Charlotte

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Charlotte leaders are crowing about a big step in US Airways' effort to merge with American Airlines.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced a settlement with the airlines that resolves a lawsuit filed by the government.

It clears one of the last roadblocks to the merger which could now be finalized by December.

"Now a cloud of uncertainty around the future of our hub airline has been lifted. This is a red-letter day for Charlotte," said Bob Morgan with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

In the settlement with the Justice Department, the new American Airlines promises to keep its hub at Charlotte-Douglas Airport for at least 3 more years.

Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle said he expects Charlotte to remain a key part of the new airline for much longer than that.

"We're very optimistic that with our prime location and low cost that this will create opportunities for more domestic and international service," Cagle said.

USAirways CEO Doug Parker, who will lead the new American Airlines, also said Charlotte should expect no major changes.

"We intend to continue servicing all the markets that are served today by the two airlines independently and maintain all hub service," Parker said.

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee said the city is "very pleased" with Tuesday's news.

Charlotte Chamber's Bob Morgan said, "It's a red letter day for Charlotte."

The deal requires the new American to give up space at seven airports nationwide.

Those slots would go to low-cost carriers to keep the market competitive.

Officials at the DOJ turned down an interview request by Channel 9.

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said he wanted to resolve the lawsuit before it went to trial, which was scheduled to start later this month.

"What we've tried to focus on is to make sure any resolution in this case necessarily includes divestitures of facilities at key, constrained airports throughout the United States," Holder said.

Now that the airlines agreed to give away slots, Justice Department officials expect more choices and better fares for customers.

The airlines expect to complete the merger next month.

A judge must still approve the deal.

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