plane.pngA federal judge ruled in San Francisco today that United and Continental airlines can go ahead with a merger creating the world’s largest airline.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg refused to grant a preliminary injunction sought by 49 air travelers who filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging the merger.

“The court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the requirements for the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunctive relief and therefore their motion must be denied,” Seeborg wrote in a 26-page ruling.

Chicago-based United and Houston-based Continental have said they hope the merger will be completed by Friday.

The U.S. Justice Department and shareholders of the two airlines previously approved the plan.

The new airline, which will be called United, will be the world’s largest in terms of revenue-producing passenger miles.

The 49 plaintiffs, most of whom are current or retired travel agents, claimed in the lawsuit filed in June that the merger would reduce competition and lead to higher fares and fewer flights.

The airlines claimed the combination would enable them to compete more effectively and provide better service.

United and Continental chief executive officers Glenn Tilton and Jeff Smisek both testified in defense of the merger on the first day of a two-day hearing before Seeborg on Aug. 31.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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