Make us your home page

Continental Airlines CEO balances frills with frugality

Continental Airlines CEO Larry Kellner arrived in the Tampa Bay area to news that average U.S. air fares hit a record high this year and rivals Delta and Northwest got the government's blessing for their huge merger. Just another day in the roller coaster world of airlines.

A key player in Continental's dramatic turnaround in the 1990s and the airline's boss since 2004, Kellner on Thursday accepted the Tony Jannus Award for his contributions to commercial aviation at a dinner at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg.

In an interview earlier with the Times, he talked about airline fees, free meals on planes and where that merger leaves Continental.

Are airfares going to go down to reflect lower fuel prices for airlines?

Because of (illegal price) signaling, I can't talk about "forward fares." Even in the last month or so you've seen more sale activity. If you look at history, as the economy softens you tend to see more fare sale activity. We'll have to see what happens this time.

How is Continental trying to keep customers who don't want a no-frills experience but still not miss out on revenue from all the new fees competitors are charging?

Any flight where it's long enough that we can serve a meal — which is a couple hours — and when it's meal time, we're going to keep (free) meals. We're going to keep the pillows and blankets. We're going to keep the tools so our people can provide good customer service.

Then why did you join most of the others with a $15 fee for the first checked bag?

We waited a while. In general, people may not like fees. But we weren't seeing the share shift we needed (from airlines charging the fee). From an economic side, we had to remain competitive with other carriers. We're trying hard to find a mix. We're not going to be like the other guy. But we've got to be competitive.

The merger of Delta and Northwest creates the world's largest airline with global reach. What will be the impact on Continental?

We're in a network business, so size does matter. But the quality of your product matters, how you deliver to repeat customers matters a lot. We have a long, successful history of competing with larger competitors. I wouldn't tell you it's positive. But we're reacting to that by going into the Star Alliance (with United, US Airways, Lufthansa and others).

Continental Airlines CEO balances frills with frugality 10/30/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2008 6:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  2. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  3. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  4. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary


    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  5. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    The name, that is. But its replacement — Tampa Bay Next — includes several of the same projects once proposed for TBX, such as the express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan “Tampa Bay Next.” DOT officials said the point of the rebranding is to show there’s no longer a predetermined plan — this time, state officials said they want to involve all stakeholders in drawing up a new plan. Workshops will be hosted to gather community partners and work together on a comprehensive solution for the Tampa Bay region, according to DOT officials.