Mayor, governor laud United-Continental merger

Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:37 a.m.

United-Web.jpgChicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, left, chats with Glenn Tilton, chairman, president and CEO of UAL Corp. as Jeff Smisek, chairman, president and CEO of Continental Airlines addresses the media at Willis Tower in Chicago on Tuesday. (José M. Osorio/ChicagoTribune)

By Julie Wernau
| Politicians and CEOs celebrated the $3 billion merger agreement between United and Continental Airlines this morning at Willis Tower, where United CEO Glenn Tilton told Mayor Richard Daley, “Chicago just got a whole lot more competitive.”

The gathering at Willis Tower, where the merged airline’s operations will be headquartered, included Tilton, Daley, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, and Continental CEO Jeff Smisek, as well as members of the Chamber of Commerce and dozens of news crews from across the country.

The new airline, announced Monday, would use United’s name,
Continental’s logo and be led by Continental CEO Jeff Smisek once the
transaction is approved by shareholders and government regulators, a
process the merging companies expect to occur by year-end.

Tilton noted that “cities across the country and across the globe
compete just as airlines compete,” and Mayor Daley said Chicago would
become “the global center of the aviation industry,” with a strongly
positioned airline based in Chicago and a newly modernized O’Hare
International Airport.

“Chicago is home to the world’s largest airline in United, the world’s
largest aircraft manufactured in Boeing, and I firmly believe the
world’s finest airport in a modernized O’Hare,” Daley said.

Smisek was non-committal about modernization efforts at the airport,
saying candidly, “O’Hare wasn’t particularly important to me until

Governor Pat Quinn called transportation the “key to economic growth
today and in the future” and said a newly strengthened merged United
Airlines would be good for Illinois, America and the world and bring
jobs to the region.

The CEOs of United and Continental said front-line jobs would likely be
unaffected by the merger, but that changes could be made in Houston,
where Continental is based.


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