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Merged United To Keep Ohio Jobs For 5 Years

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Merger partners United Airlines and Continental Airlines must maintain jobs at Ohio's Cleveland Hopkins Airport (CLE) for at least five more years as part of an agreement with Ohio officials.

The merged airline will have to pay damages of up to USD$20 million should it fall short of its commitments, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said in a statement on Monday.

"Through this contractual agreement, the airlines have committed to working with my office and the city of Cleveland to ensure that CLE remains a viable hub for the foreseeable future," Cordray said in a statement.

United parent UAL said in May that it would buy Continental in an all-stock deal worth USD$3.2 billion.

Cleveland officials had been openly uncertain of what the merger could mean for their area. Airline watchers had said that the Cleveland airport hub could be downsized or lost.

Cordray's office may audit the books and records of the airline, at the company's expense. Any violations of the agreement are enforceable in federal court in Ohio, the attorney general said.

The Cleveland airport is one of Continental's major hubs. According to the statement, Continental employs more than 2,000 workers at the airport and 1,000 others are employed by the airline's regional affiliates.

In 2009, Continental fliers made up 65.2 percent of the passenger traffic to the airport, while United accounted for 5.4 percent. Last year, the airport was the No. 35 busiest airport in the country, according to the release.

(Reuters)