US Airways shareholders approved the planned merger with American Airlines today, moving the deal one large step closer to reality.

Shareholders representing more than 99% of the voting shares, or 132,273,780 shares, voted for the merger, according to an employee newsletter from the Tempe, Arizona-based carrier. Votes were cast by owners or proxies representing 132,788,060 shares.

With votes cast before a shareholder meeting in New York today, Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of Tempe, Arizona-based US Airways and the future chief executive of American, was able to open and close the meeting in about 16 minutes.

"It creates an important strong competitor to United, Delta and Southwest," he says at the meeting. "We will create a premier global airline."

The approval is the latest critical step in the merger, following the approval of the merger plan by the US bankruptcy court in American's chapter 11 restructuring in March.

The deal still requires confirmation of American's reorganisation plan by the court, which is expected in August, and US Department of Justice antitrust approval, which is anticipated before the end of the quarter.

Following the merger approval, attendees raised questions regarding the new carrier's slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport. Parker reiterates that it should not have to divest slots, noting that it will only fly about half of the capacity at the airport while having about two-thirds of departures.

"There is no such standard in antitrust law that says airlines can't have that size of departures from any given airport," he says.

Parker adds that there are airports where the mergers of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways, and United Airlines and Continental Airlines have more than two-thirds of departures yet they were not required to give up gates or slots.

The new airline will be named American, be based in Fort Worth, Texas, and remain in the Oneworld alliance.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news