United Continental pilots OK joint union contract

Pilots at United Airlines are getting a new union contract that brings the airline closer to finalizing its merger with Continental.

The vote gives the pilots a single union contract covering those who came from United as well as those who came from Continental before the carriers merged in 2010 into United Continental Holdings Inc.

Pilots are getting raises averaging 43.2 percent, including bigger retirement contributions. The deal also makes United the third of the three big U.S. airlines to win pilot permission for a major expansion of the use of larger regional jets with 70 or more seats.

The Air Line Pilots Association said Saturday that 67 percent of the United and Continental pilots who voted elected to approve the contract. All told, nearly 98 percent of the 10,193 eligible pilots participated in the ratification vote.