The US Department of Justice has cleared Southwest to merge with AirTran Airways one week before the seven-month-old deal is scheduled to close on 2 May.

The DOJ's antitrust division acknowledged overlaps on some non-stop routes with the merged carrier, but concluded the combination of the low-cost carriers is "not likely to substantially lessen competition".

The mandatory antitrust review also found that combining Southwest and AirTran would generate routes in new markets, such as connecting service from the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The review is the last remaining regulatory approval before the carriers can close the deal. The US FAA has already accepted Southwest's transition plan. Last week, Southwest named EVP of strategy and planning Bob Jordan as president of AirTran after the deal closes on 2 May. The transition plan calls for achieving a single operating certificate next year and reach full integration in 2013.

The $3.4 billion deal was announced on 27 September, with Southwest gaining access to Washington National Airport and expanding its reach to New York LaGuardia and Boston.

The DOJ's antitrust division also determined that airports affected by overlapping routes of the merged carrier are not restricted on slots or gate availability.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news