A federal bankruptcy judge gave the go ahead Wednesday for the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.
Judge Sean Lane approved a settlement in the federal government's antitrust lawsuit, challenging the merger. That clears the way for the merger early next month, which would create the world's largest airline.
The judge also rejected a move by a group of consumers to delay the merger while they pursue their own antitrust lawsuit against the airlines.
As travelers get ready to fly out to their holiday destinations, a federal bankruptcy judge delivers a reason for American Airlines and US Airways executives to be thankful.
The judge ruled an antitrust settlement with the federal government doesn't upset American's bankruptcy plan that merges the airline with US Airways.
Area economic development leaders are thrilled.
"The certainty, first and foremost for the families, but certainly for the economic impact for our region, is tremendous," said Owasso Chamber President Gary Akin.
Fifteen percent of American's work force lives in the Owasso area, so Akin is thankful the merger can move forward.
"Success begets success. And today is a successful statement," he said.
Other area leaders agreed.
"This news is a long time coming," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett. "The leadership of the Tulsa region has been there since the beginning, ready, willing and able to do whatever necessary to insure American stays in Tulsa. It is a positive step for not only job growth in our region but job security. Looks like December 9th will be the day when the largest Airline company in the country will be created and its maintenance base will be in Tulsa Oklahoma. Great way to start a new year."
Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, issued this statement Wednesday:
"The approved reorganization of American Airlines is a monumental accomplishment for our region and is tremendous news for all of Oklahoma. The company can now pursue continued success and growth.
"The Tulsa Regional Chamber, American and US Airways have worked for many months together striving toward the best outcome for the employees at the American Airlines MRO base and for the Tulsa region.
"The Chamber, Governor Mary Fallin, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, the Tulsa County Commission, TWU and many other regional partners have been integral in this effort. We are thrilled this final hurdle has been cleared so the new company can pursue continued success within the new merger."
"Maybe we can see the aerospace sector as strong as it is today, getting even stronger in the future, knowing that the base will be here," Akin said.
Under the antitrust settlement, the new airline would give up dozens of take off and landing slots at some major airports that will now go to smaller, low-cost carriers.
Economic leaders hope now, rather than concentrating efforts at protecting jobs, they can focus on attracting more companies to Tulsa's aerospace industry.
"We know where we are today, but from that base we can grow tomorrow," Akin said.
We talked with the secretary of the local transport workers union, who said US Airways' current business plan does outsource more positions than American Airlines', but it's too soon to know how or even if jobs would be impacted in Tulsa. He sees the merger as an opportunity to perhaps get more work at the Tulsa facility.
The merger is expected to close December 9 and will create the world's largest airline with more than 100,000 employees and more than 6,500 daily flights.
The new company will be called American Airlines Group Inc. based in Fort Worth, Texas.