Updated from 1:44 p.m. ESTUS Airways ( LCC) is willing to surrender gates at Charlotte Douglas International Airport to ensure that its merger with Delta Air Lines ( DALRQ) is approved, a company executive said Wednesday. The move could remove a major obstacle to the proposed merger, which some experts say is a long shot because it would leave a single airline in control of the two principal hubs in the Southeast, Charlotte being one and Atlanta the other. The number of gates to be divested could be important in determining whether intense competition on connecting Southeast routes would continue. "It's not inconceivable that we would have to give up gates in Charlotte," President Scott Kirby said in an interview. "Giving up gates is something we might do, but I don't think divesting ourselves of the hub is conceivable." He declined to specify how many gates might be shed, and he said he doesn't anticipate that another carrier would want to establish a Charlotte hub. In preliminary discussions with the Justice Department about the antitrust ramifications of the proposed merger with Delta, the Charlotte divestiture wasn't mentioned, although US Airways' offer to part with a shuttle was, Kirby said. Both Delta and US Airways operate shuttles between New York LaGuardia and Washington National airports. Charlotte Douglas is US Airways' biggest hub, with 534 departures to 122 nonstop destinations. But it pales by comparison with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The world's busiest airport handled 87 million passengers in 2005, including 28 million local passengers. By contrast, the total number of passengers in Charlotte, including connecting passengers, was about 28 million.