MIAMI — Virgin America has announced today the approval of its shareholders to merge with Seattle-based Alaska Air Group, clearing the path to materialize the $2.6 billion deal to take place later this year.

Under the terms proposed in the merger agreement, Virgin America’s shareholders will receive $57 a share in cash. The aggregate transaction value is approximately $4.0 billion.

Alaska Air Group, holding company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, beat out low-cost carrier (LCC) JetBlue and won a bid to acquire Virgin America, United States’ ninth largest airline. The combined company would become the 5th largest carrier in the United States in terms of capacity (available seat miles), behind of American, Delta, Southwest and United Airlines, and just ahead of JetBlue.

The merger will give Alaska a larger presence in the West Coast, particularly in California, which is to date the nation’s largest market and three times the size of Oregon, Washington and Alaska combined. Recently, Brad Tilden, Alaska Air CEO, commented that there was a debate whether both brands, Alaska and Virgin America, should be kept separated.

The next major step to consolidate the merger is to obtain the approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which has now to determine whether or not the transaction breaches antitrust laws.

Both carriers expect to gain the regulatory approval and complete the transaction in the fourth quarter of 2016.