January 16, 2004
Continental Pilots Acknowledge CEO’s Contributions
HOUSTON---Like many of their co-workers, pilots at Continental Airlines (CAL), the nation’s fifth largest airline, were surprised to learn this morning that the airline’s CEO, Gordon Bethune, will be retiring at the end of 2004. Nonetheless, pilots are expressing gratitude and appreciation for Bethune’s 10 years of leadership.
"For several weeks, rumors have been running throughout the airline, alleging a "big announcement" was in the offing," said Capt. Jay Panarello, chairman of the CAL pilots union’s Master Executive Council, a unit of the Air Line Pilot’s Association (ALPA).
"Since assuming the helm in 1994, Gordon Bethune’s contributions to our airline have been indisputable," Panarello said. "Under his leadership, Continental was transformed from a second-rate airline into what is routinely recognized as one of the premier carriers in the world. He will be sorely missed."
"Gordon has an opportunity to cement his legacy of successfully guiding Continental through both the "boom" years of the late 1990s and the unique financial circumstances surrounding the airline industry during the last three years if a new pilot contract can be negotiated this year," added Panarello. Continental pilots have been involved in contract negotiations for more than two years.
In addition to Bethune, four long-standing airline board members will also be stepping down – David Bonderman, William S. Price III, Pat Foley and Richard Pogue. In recent months, several of the airline’s labor unions, including ALPA, were calling for Bonderman and Price to relinquish their interests in other airlines or resign from Continental’s Board of Directors.
Bonderman, the founder and president of Texas Pacific Group (TPG), and Price, a fellow founder, have been members of the CAL Board of Directors since 1993.
"As a member of the Board and TPG President, Mr. Bonderman brought a tremendous amount of financial and airline savvy to Continental. We deeply appreciate his service and contributions, as well as those of Mr. Price, Mr. Foley and Mr. Pogue, and wish them well," Panarello said.
Continental President and Chief Operating Officer Larry Kellner will succeed Bethune at year’s end. Kellner has been consistently recognized for his exceptional talents and skills since he began serving as the airline’s senior vice president and chief financial officer in 1995. Kellner was named president in 2001 and took on the additional role of the airline’s chief operating officer last year.
"We have complete confidence in Larry’s ability to lead our airline without missing a beat and we look forward to ‘working together’ with Larry and his team in taking on the challenges ahead," said Panarello. "In the last three months, Larry has made a personal effort to reach out and establish a working relationship with our union leadership and our pilots.
"Successfully concluding a pilot contract that recognizes the contributions of Continental’s industry leading pilot group before yearend will serve to re-affirm management’s commitment to the "Working Together" principles that are core to Continental’s success," Panarello said.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is the bargaining agent for the 6,500 pilots of Continental and Continental Express. ALPA is the world’s oldest and largest pilot union, representing 66,000 airline pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA Web site at www.alpa.org.
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ALPA contact: Jim Moody, 281-987-3636