Make us your home page
Instagram

Working out the thousands of details in United-Continental airline merger

LOS ANGELES — Continental Airlines serves Angus cheeseburgers. United Airlines doesn't even have the right ovens to heat them.

United loads passengers in window seats first. Continental boards from the back. And United has a specific way to load dogs onto a plane. On Continental, there's no strict policy.

These are just three of the thousands of differences in the daily practices and policies of United and Continental airlines. But soon they will have to act as one.

The two airlines are close to completing a $3 billion merger that next year will create the nation's largest carrier.

But in the past year and a half, a team of managers and staff from the two carriers has made about 2,000 decisions about how the new hybrid airline will operate. The trick has been trying to preserve the most popular practices of each without alienating devotees of either.

One merger decision — whether to have a fleetwide audio channel to let passengers hear pilots talk to air traffic controllers — even sparked an online campaign by fans of the channel.

"If the acquiring airline has an open mind, it will examine both carriers' business practices and pick those that offer a combination of better service for the traveler and improved savings or efficiency for the airline," said Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a San Francisco travel marketing and technology research company.

It's a time-consuming process. When Delta Air Lines merged with Northwest last year, airline officials said they had so many decisions to make that they started by writing the topics on Post-it notes that covered an entire wall.

"It only made sense that they would do that," said Bob McAdoo, an airline analyst for Avondale Partners in Nashville. "That is the kind of stuff that makes a merger work."

When United and Continental operate as one, the airline will fly with United's name but with Continental's globe symbol and a new motto: "Let's Fly Together."

In weighing which boarding system to use, airline executives chose the United method, which has been shown to reduce time.

On the other hand, the new airline will adopt a Continental policy that gives employees priority over retired workers when waiting to fly coach on standby.

Some policy changes are made in response to customer feedback.

"We have a lot of data," said Rahsaan Johnson, a spokesman for United Continental Holdings, the Chicago company that owns both carriers. "We know what people say they like."

The new airline will adopt Continental's policy of offering early boarding to active-duty members of the military traveling in uniform and Continental's practice of offering free alcoholic drinks at members-only airport lounges.

It will also sell a snack box that contains some of the most popular food sold on both airlines.

Continental's Angus cheeseburgers, a passenger favorite, will not survive the merger because United's planes are not equipped to heat up the patties.

Working out the thousands of details in United-Continental airline merger 12/11/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 11, 2011 7:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul

    Markets

    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall

    Business

    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages

    Business

    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel

    Business

    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.