What is United getting out of the Continental merger?

In a word: EVERYTHING

When you hunt around chatrooms and talk to people who fly regularly, there is not a lot of good that is often said about many of the major airlines (United, American, etc).  The thing is, though, Continental always bucked that trend.  They always ended up on the good side of the customer loyalty and comment section of airline surveys.

United?  They were always in the toilet.  They deserved it, though.  My flight on Horizon got canceled due to mechanical once, and since I’ve got status with Alaska/Horizon, they put me on a United flight, with a connection in San Francisco.  I got to my gate and proceeded to listen to the gate agent bad-mouth United passengers for 10 minutes — LOUDLY — before boarding said passengers.  And it’s not like she did it behind a curtain or anything.  She was standing AT the service desk, talking to other United people.

Yes, there are travelers that like United, I’ll give you that.  But they were the exception, not the rule.

Now it’s coming out that United is going to merge with Continental.  Honestly, it’s not a huge surprise.  Continental, United, and US Airways made up “Star Alliance”, once Continental bolted from Delta’s Skyteam (which the writing was on the wall when Delta and Northwest both went into bankruptcy the SAME day).  Continental bolstered Star Alliance.  Now with the merger, two big facts have come out.  Yes, the United name is staying.  BUT:

  1. The CEO of Continental, NOT United is going to run the combined airline
  2. The new livery for the airline, which does include the word “United”, is the old Continental livery (you can see it here).

This is going to allow United to turn itself around, both inside and out.  The old visual feel of United is going away, and the old way of thinking of United is going away.  So in a word, this is the surrendering of United, and a takeover by Continental — just not in name.

A couple of years ago, I predicted United would file for bankruptcy one more time, and then fade away.  Only half of that prediction is coming true.  With the loss of the leadership and the livery, United will be a thing of the past.  And you know what?  That may be a good thing for the airline industry.

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