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2 airlines take step to be united

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Rich Accordino, left, and Juan Perez-Wheeler remove an old Continental Airlines sign to reveal the new United Airlines logo featuring Continental's globe.

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It will be another year before United and Continental are really one airline. For now, they're trying to make it easier for travelers to navigate them separately.

Kiosks at 83 airports Wednesday began allowing travelers to check in for flights on either airline. And at Chicago O'Hare, signs with United's old logo came down, replaced by United's name with Continental's blue globe.

United Continental Holdings Inc. has owned both airlines since October. It's merging them under the United name into a single airline, which will be the biggest in the world.

The two will operate separately until mid-2012, selling their own tickets primarily for flights on their own planes.

United's "Economy Plus" seating -- coach seats with more leg room and space, for an extra charge -- won't show up on Continental planes until early 2012. And the airline has said it expects to keep a mix of United's three-class service for international flights and Continental's two-class service for several years.

Most of the changes so far are cosmetic. Customers are now able to shop for flights, get seat assignments, and check flight status on either United or Continental's Web site regardless of what airline they're flying.

Separately Wednesday, United apologized for briefly restarting use of flight numbers of two planes that crashed after being hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. A spokesman blamed the reuse of flight numbers 93 and 175 on a "technical error," and said the airline has taken steps to have the numbers removed from its computers.

United Flight 93, heading to San Francisco from Newark, N.J., crashed in Shanksville, Pa., killing all 44 people aboard. Flight 175, from Boston to Los Angeles with 65 people aboard, crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

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