WASHINGTON (AFP) — Delta Air Lines said Wednesday it had merged with Northwest Airlines to create one of the world's biggest carriers after winning approval from US antitrust authorities.
Delta announced late Wednesday that the merger was completed, "creating a premier global airline with service to nearly all of the world's major travel markets."
The takeover by Delta, the nation's third-largest airline, of number-five Northwest creates a new mammoth airline that keeps the Delta name and, like its namesake, is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
The new airline serves customers in 66 countries and more than 375 worldwide cities -- "more than any other airline" -- with a worldwide workforce of approximately 75,000 employees, Delta said.
"The airline industry faces a very difficult economic environment around the world and this merger gives Delta increased flexibility to adapt to the economic challenges ahead," said Delta chief executive Richard Anderson.
With the completion of the merger, Northwest Airlines is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta, it said.
The merger comes amid consolidation in the aviation sector as airlines struggle to survive amid high fuel prices and economic turmoil.
The company said its "strong liquidity balance" will help it cope with the challenges of the weakening global economy.
US antitrust authorities earlier Wednesday cleared the proposed merger of Delta and Northwest, the final hurdle in the deal.
The Justice Department said it concluded a six-month antitrust review and determined that the merger "is likely to produce substantial and credible efficiencies that will benefit US consumers and is not likely to substantially lessen competition."
The new Delta is the world's leading passenger carrier, with an estimated 285.5 billion revenue passenger miles, a measure of the number of passengers and the distance flown, according to 2007 data from the International Air Transport Association.
The Justice Department's antitrust division said the airlines "currently compete with a number of other legacy and low-cost airlines in the provision of scheduled air passenger service on the vast majority of nonstop and connecting routes where they compete with each other."
The agency said the merger "likely will result in efficiencies such as cost savings in airport operations, information technology, supply chain economics, and fleet optimization that will benefit consumers."
The new Delta will remain a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, which includes AirFrance-KLM, China Southern Airlines and Korean Air. Delta and Northwest were members of the 11-airline alliance.
Delta and Northwest estimated the combined airline would reap 500 million dollars in cost savings in its first year.
Both airlines were in the throes of restructuring amid a credit crunch and until the past few weeks, painfully high jet fuel costs that have thrown US airlines into a tailspin.
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