Report: Continental/United merger may be near

HOUSTON Thousands of people in Houston work for /*Continental Airlines*/. A merger may send Continental headquarters on the move across the country.

People familiar with the situation tell The Associated Press that United and Continental are moving closer to announcing as early as Monday that they will combine to form the world's largest carrier by passenger traffic.

They say Continental's board plans to meet Friday and Sunday to consider a deal.

One person briefed on the talks says United and Continental executives have agreed that the combined company would be called United, based in United's hometown of Chicago, and run by Continental CEO Jeff Smisek. Directors for both companies would need to approve all those decisions.

The companies are declining to comment.

Continental Airlines has 16,000 Houston area employees but no one has said what would happen to those jobs.

Earlier this week, city and county officials in our area sent a letter to Continental, pleading their case to keep the airline here. In part, the letter points out that Texas has a lower unemployment rate over Illinois, and that Houston has the businesses and banks to support Continental.

Two years ago Continental's board voted no to a merger with United.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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