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Southwest-AirTran merger sees labor talks progress

The merger of Southwest and AirTran will change

The merger of Southwest and AirTran will change travel for many travelers, mostly to their good. Photo Credit: Getty Images File

Southwest Airlines, the dominant carrier at Islip's Long Island MacArthur Airport, is making headway in its labor negotiations as it seeks final approval for its acquisition of low-fare rival AirTran Holdings Inc., a news report says.

A merger could mean a major expansion of destinations from MacArthur, including Atlanta and Washington, D.C., and many smaller cities. It would extend Southwest's reach to Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Reuters reports that Southwest has "reached new union contracts and pilots at both airlines have signaled a willingness to get along once Southwest's $1.04 billion buyout closes. Pilot cooperation is not always a given."

"Labor cooperation is essential in some cases to finish a deal and necessary in all airline mergers to smoothly integrate companies," Reuters reports.

Southwest is working on final regulatory hurdles, though the Federal Aviation Administration has accepted Southwest's transition plan, 

An AirTran merger also needs antitrust approval from the U.S. Justice Department. 

Southwest has said it hopes to close a deal to acquire AirTran by midyear, and to gain a single operating certificate by the first quarter of 2012.

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