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United Continental pilots OK joint union contract

By JOSHUA FREED, Associated Press Published: December 16, 2012

“For too long, the pilots of United and Continental have had to shoulder more than their share of the burden as our respective airlines struggled through the difficult economic times of the past decade,” the union representatives said in a statement. “We now stand ready to embark on a fresh start for the pilots and the airline.”

United Continental, based in Chicago, called the contract ratification an important step for its pilots, as well as the company, which now will get to use more regional jets. Right now, United is using just 153 jets with 70 seats. The new contract allows it to add 68 more in that size range starting in 2014, and more in future years if it also adds planes with more than 100 seats. The new contract represents an even bigger departure from Continental's old limits on regional jets.

United is the world's biggest airline by traffic. Its main competitor is No. 2 Delta Air Lines Inc., where pilots over the summer approved a contract that also allows it to add more 76-seat regional jets. Pay under the new United contract is also similar to Delta's, which is widely considered a model in the industry.

At American, a new deal approved by pilots on Dec. 7 will allow the addition of 76-seat regional jets and an expansion of the number of larger regional planes. Currently American has 47 regional jets seating a maximum of 65 passengers, while the rest of its regional jets all have 50 or fewer seats.

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