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Credit: Cordey.

Credit: Cordey.

Contintental and United airlines cleared another hurdle on their way to a merger when the U.S. Department of Justice signed off on the deal. But to win approval, United and Continental had to reduce its presence at Newark Airport. And the winner in the cutback? Southwest Airlines, the most feared competitor in the skies.

A deal struck between Continental and United and Southwest will “lease” 36 take-off and landing slots at Newark, Continental’s major hub, to Southwest. That’ll allow Southwest to launch 18 roundtrips a day. Southwest expects to begin flights in March and have a full schedule from Newark by June. Expect Southwest to target key business markets. Continental and United currentlyoperate about 450 flights a day from Newark. And you may think that 18 roundtrips hardly count as a challenge from Southwest, but watch what happens. Whenever Southwest enters a market, fares fall dramatically.

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Joe Brancatelli is editor and publisher of, a non-commercial Web site for business travelers. Copyright 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. Licensed by contract for Orbitz use.

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