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Judge Smooths Path For American-US Airways Merger

Cleared for takeoff: That's the message from the "new" American Airlines, after a bankruptcy judge ruled it could finalize its merger with US Airways Wednesday.

A U.S. judge says American Airlines can exit bankruptcy and join forces with US Airways Group, all but ensuring that their merger can take place within weeks. Wednesday's bankruptcy court ruling was one of the final hurdles for a huge merger that's been in the works for more than a year.

The ruling by Judge Sean Lane comes months after he gave his preliminary approval to the plan. The two companies are now planning to finalize their merger on Dec. 9, when they would combine to create the world's largest airline.

After the ruling, a message was posted to the merger's website, , was titled "The New American Airlines is Cleared for Takeoff."

The bankruptcy court decision also comes 15 days after the Justice Department said it would settle its lawsuit that had sought to block the airline merger. Part of that settlement required the two companies to give up space at terminals and gates at "seven key airports" in the U.S. to competitors that specialize in low-cost flights, such as JetBlue and Southwest.

The affected airports are Boston Logan International, Chicago O'Hare International, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International, Miami International, New York LaGuardia International and Ronald Reagan Washington National.

A private antitrust lawsuit against the merger is still pending. The plaintiffs in that case had requested that Lane issue a restraining order holding up the merger as their suit proceeds. That request was denied Wednesday.

And now new details are coming out about the merger. Citing a press release from American Airlines, The Dallas Morning News, which has been following the merger closely, says the new company will trade under the symbol "AAL."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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