Shareholders at Continental Airlines have overwhelmingly voted to approve its merger with rival United Airlines.

United parent company UAL Corporation’s shareholders also gave the thumbs up to the merger at a meeting in Chicago.

More than 98% of the votes cast at a special Continental meeting in Houston and 75% of shares outstanding were voted in favour of the deal.

Continental chairman, president and chief executive Jeff Smisek said: “We are grateful for our stockholders’ strong vote of confidence in this merger.

“In approving the transaction, our stockholders recognized the value of bringing together Continental and United to create a platform for increased profitability and sustainable long-term value.”

Continental and United announced the merger in May 3. The carriers have received clearance on the deal from the US Department of Justice and the European Commission.

The merger is due to be finalised by October 1.