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WSJ: United to Announce Purchase of Texas International, New York Air, Others

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that United Airlines will announce on Monday that it is merging with the remaining pieces of struggling carriers Texas International, PEOPLExpress, Frontier, New York Air and Eastern to form an international behemoth that could emerge as America’s strongest airline.

Continental Airlines will also be included in the sale.

No word yet on whether Ionosphere Club members will have access to Red Carpet Clubs.  Sadly, it looks like New York Air’s Flying Nosh snacks will be a casualty of the deal.

Har.

If you hadn’t read, should the merger go through, the combined entity will be called United, which, as you’ve by now deduced, means that Continental, which dates back to 1934, will disappears from the air.  Not since Pan Am have I felt such a tinge of sadness about an airline’s name vanishing.

We have been a Continental/Eastern family since I was a child going back and forth to Florida from Newark.  My first trips to California and Hawaii were on Continental 747s – trips that caused by slightly disturbed quasi-obsession with airplanes and airlines.  Continental was a hated carrier for a long time, primarily because of its association with Frank Lorenzo.  However, the Gordon Bethune years turned many of us into true believers.  Airlines yammer on about their loyalty programs, but they really only generate loyalty by how they treat their customers.  I know that most people who fly Continental frequently know that they were treated as well as anyone, if not better, whether they were in the front of the plane or in 34G.  Those who fly them often, despite Continental’s management taking over the combined carrier, know that it won’t really be the same after that.

After my beloved Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina, I basically gave up on the NHL.  I’m not going to stop flying, but it’s depressing to see a great piece of American aviation history evaporate into thin air.

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  1. I think continental is actually taking over United, but I am sad the see the name go. Karmic revenge for Eastern? Continental was the one airline that actually liked their customers, but that has been slipping since Gordon left.

    Lorenzo was a very misunderstood character, but his essential insight, that the combined parts of eastern-people’s express-texas air-etc could make a effective airline was correct.

  2. Yes – you are correct, Continental will likely be buying United. But they are keeping the Chicago HQ and calling the company United.

  3. Yeah, this is a bit tough on us old-timers. If (like me) you were a fresh-faced kid out of school in the late
    80s — and were the kind of person who now posts on flyertalk — you gravitated toward CO/EA for “the deal.” The two airlines were always on the edge of solvency (and, indeed, one didn’t make it), but the perks of flying them were great. In grad school, I was taking trips all over the world and not paying for them (back then, they’d give you free hotel rooms, too!). Thanks to this largesse, I wound up with “Infinite Elite,” which hopefully will continue to shower me with great perks in the new company.

    Then, in the late ’90s, if you were a geeky person who followed aviation as a business (or even if you were just a loyal customer), you couldn’t help but be impressed by Gordon Bethune and “the turnaround.” Bethune is a living aviation legend, and his (mediocre) autobiography is well titled: “From Worst to First.” The odds that CO would become the best US airline to fly seemed pretty darn improbable 20 years ago.

    I really don’t know much about Jeff Smisek. I don’t think I’ve ever met him, and he tends to make me drift off to daydream-land when I listen to him on the CO quarterly conference calls. He does not strike me as a “larger than life” personality, which is a shame, because that’s exactly what the new airline could use to make the integration work.

    I suspect/hope that the new airline will be more like CO than UA, and it will be a fine airline to fly. But I’m not sure there will be a lot of “magic” surrounding it.

  4. @iahphx: what was “the deal”?

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