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Continental and United Airlines Close Merger Deal

Houston is now largest hub to world’s largest airline

Houston Airport System
October 1, 2010

© Houston Airport System
Houston now has the distinction of being the largest hub to the world's largest airline

Less than five months after the initial announcement, representatives with Continental and United Airlines have completely navigated their way through the merging process and created the world’s largest airline.

The deal to merge Continental and United Airlines, officially closed on October 1, clears the way for the two companies to begin combining operations and informing customers on what changes they can expect to see in the coming months.

Continental chairman and CEO Jeff Smisek, who will serve as the top executive for the new company, has already laid out a general roadmap for the merging process.

“We are delighted to announce the successful completion of this merger. With great people, an unparalleled global network, the best new aircraft order book among U.S. network carriers and a commitment to superior products and services, United is well positioned for a bright future,” Smisek said. “I look forward to working together with co-workers around the globe as we begin our journey to create the world’s leading airline that delivers best-in-class customer service, increased opportunities for employees, meaningful profitability and sustainable long-term value for our shareholders.”

Smisek and the rest of the United team will now turn their attention toward the transition. It’s a process that involves three distinct phases, the legal merger of the two companies, the “Customer Day One” program, when passengers see only one airline and the operational phase in which the two airlines operate under one certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Smisek says that customers of both airlines will not notice a dramatic difference in day to day operations until the spring of next year. For the next several months, both airlines will continue to operate their own individual websites, ticket counters, aircraft and other aspects of their respective operations.

But at some point during the spring of 2011, the merged airline will begin functioning as an individual carrier, combining the two reservation systems, replacing signage and addressing a host of other issues that come with a merger of this size. No specific date for the big switch has been announced yet, but on “Customer Day One” all flights operated by the carrier will fly under the United name.

The final stage of the merging process mainly addresses behind-the-scenes issues, such as combined training programs, collective bargaining for unionized employees and obtaining a single operating certificate from the FAA.

The host of changes will be a key point of interest for millions of fliers in the local market, since Houston is the largest hub for Continental Airlines and the two merging carriers handle almost 87 percent of the customers flying in and out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

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