The proposed merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines will get its first public test on June 16 when the House aviation subcommittee holds a hearing on consumer impact from the deal. A Senate committee is expected to follow soon after, and various states have announced their own plans to look into competition issues. But the most important review -- the only one with the ability to block the deal -- will be conducted by the Justice Department and its antitrust chief, Christine Varney, who has vowed to pursue "vigorous antitrust enforcement in this challenging era." Still, many analysts and the airlines themselves point out there is little overlap in routes and that competition from discount airlines will leave consumers with plenty of competition and low fares.

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