OGDEN — Flying J Inc. and Pilot Travel Centers, based in Knoxville, Tenn., finished a merger Wednesday that will make it the largest operator of interstate travel centers in North America. The merged firm will employ 20,000 people.

It was unclear whether the merger will tidy up all debts involved in Flying J's business and allow the Ogden-based company to get out of bankruptcy — a goal that the firm announced it intended to fulfill last year.

The new venture, which involves more than 550 interstate travel centers and travel plazas, will be called Pilot Flying J.

"We are now one great company, two great brands," Flying J President and Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam said. "Our new organization is a combination of the two best-known brands in the travel center industry, both with strong family histories and shared values.

"So whether you are a professional driver, a trucking company, a business traveler, a family on vacation or a nearby resident, our new company is ready to serve your interstate fueling, dining or other consumer needs," Haslam said.

"The merger is a historic moment in our industry," said Crystal Call Maggelet, Flying J board chairwoman. "Our customers will benefit through new and expanded services. Outstanding customer service will continue to be a top priority at our new company."

Among other things, the new firm is working on more restaurant choices in its locations, including such eateries as Denny's, Subway and Pizza Hut. There also are plans to provide better drivers' lounges, showers and rest rooms, and add new gasoline and diesel fuel pumps.

Pilot has started taking the THC card, and Flying J is doing the same thing with Comdata cards, which give professional truck drivers more options for buying fuel.

Pilot and Flying J signs will still be visible on interstate highways, despite the merger and company's new name.

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Last year, both companies said in a joint announcement that the terms of merger anticipated then would permit Flying J to get out of bankruptcy with "all creditor obligations paid in full."

Flying J Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, Big West Oil and Longhorn Pipeline, filed to reorganize under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2009.

In July 2009, Flying J sold its Longhorn Pipeline subsidiary to Magellan Midstream Partners of Tulsa, Okla., for about $350 million.

Maggelet said then that the company anticipated being out of bankruptcy fairly soon.

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