United is also discussing the option of deepening a three-way marketing alliance between the carriers if a merger is not agreed.
Continental restarted merger talks with United last week, two years after walking away from a deal that was very nearly agreed. The talks are progressing fast, as much of the groundwork was laid in 2008. Discussions are also intensifying because United is much further along in its merger discussions with US Airways.
US Airways’ and United’s talks have been going on for several months. The two parties still have some important issues to resolve, but it is thought that a deal could potentially happen in a matter of weeks.
United and Continental came very close to merging in 2008, but the talks fell apart as Continental chose to pursue an alliance instead.
Such a merger would create an airline larger than Delta Air, which bought Northwest Airlines in 2008 to become the world’s biggest carrier in terms of fleet and traffic. United and Continental had resolved all the major issues in 2008, leaving little left to discuss.