United and Continental airlines will get clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday to operate as a single airline, the union for Continental pilots said.
The so-called single operating certificate means that, as far as the FAA is concerned, United and Continental are one airline.
For passengers, it's a different story. The company will continue to sell tickets on United and Continental flights, and passengers will still check in and fly with two separate airlines. The parts of the airline that passengers see, such as check-in and frequent-flier programs, are expected to be merged early next year.
A spokeswoman for the airline said that it had not received the single operating certificate as of Tuesday evening. But the company has told pilots that the two airlines will begin operating under the single certificate at 6 a.m. CST Wednesday. That means Continental pilots will start using the "United" call sign when they talk to air traffic controllers.
United is on its way toward merging both airlines under the United name. It will be able to merge flight operations once it gets a single union contract covering pilots from both airlines.
Shares of Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc. rose $1.05, or 6.3 percent, to close at $17.63.