Officials at the Transportation Department largely overruled their colleagues at the Justice Department on Friday, granting final approval to Continental Airlines' bid for antitrust immunity in close cooperation with United Airlines and the Star Alliance. "I believe the department's decision will benefit consumers, enhance competition and preserve jobs in the airline industry," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. James May, president and CEO of the Air Transport Association, predicted the "decision will increase current levels of service while preserving jobs for thousands of airline employees," and some analysts saw the approval as a boost for American Airlines, which is seeking similar cooperation with British Airways and the Oneworld alliance. In announcing its decision, the DOT said objections from Justice erred in focusing exclusively on non-stop routes. "The vast majority of trans-Atlantic passengers use connecting services and benefit from the improved connecting products at lower fares that integrated alliances provide," DOT concluded.

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