Updated from Wednesday, Oct. 29As expected, antitrust regulators at the Justice Department have approved the merger between Delta Air Lines ( DAL) and Northwest ( NWA). Hours after receiving antitrust clearance, the airlines officially closed the merger. The deal, announced in April, will create the largest airline in the world, surpassing AMR ( AMR), the parent of American Airlines. The carrier will be based in Atlanta and retain the Delta name. Currently, Delta is the second-largest carrier, while Northwest is fifth. "We're pleased the DOJ has decided not to challenge the Delta-Northwest merger," said Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton. Northwest, founded as a mail carrier in 1926, will disappear as a separate entity. Delta will acquire its shares in a deal valued at about $2.6 billion. Observers had widely expected the merger to be approved. "After a thorough, six-month investigation, during which
"The Machinists Union will fight to ensure that workers at the combined airline will be protected by the guarantees that can be found in a union contract," IAM General Vice President Robert Roach said Wednesday in a prepared statement. "The days when Delta could ride roughshod over their employees is coming to an end." Roach called the deal "another opportunity for executives to stuff their pockets at the expense of working-class Americans" and noted that it was preceded by bankruptcies at both carriers. Nevertheless, it became clear at a series of four congressional hearings, which took place in the month after the merger plans were announced, that opposition beyond the two unions was limited. Additionally, the deal had the strong support of the Delta pilots union, which a year earlier had been a principal opponent of a failed plan by US Airways ( LCC) to take over Delta.