Houston and Cleveland Lose, Chicago Wins In UA/Continental Merger

If and when the United/Continental merger is finalized, it’s going to be very good news for Chicago, which will retain its status as the new airline’s headquarters. Cleveland, on the other hand, will lose out, since it will basically be a redundant hub stuck between the airline’s bigger operations in Chicago and Newark. And, Houston, current HQ of Continental? Sorry, pardner.

National Public Radio took a look at what the future may hold for each of the three cities. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley didn’t take very long to sum up the benefits to his town: “Chicago is the home of the world’s largest airline, United; the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, Boeing; and I firmly believe, the world’s finest airport, the modernized O’Hare.” Other Chicagoans interviewed by NPR talked up the new routes the city is likely to gain, and how that will both make it more of a destination for travelers, and make it easier for local business travelers to get around the country.

Meanwhile, Cleveland, where Continental accounts for 65% of all flights, fears being shut out. “We will protect our interests,” says Mayor Frank Jackson. Although United says it will keep the city as a hub, locals are already talking about the possibility that discount carriers might come in and fill the gap after Continental downsizes.

Houston mayor Annise Parker vows a fight: “Our pride may be hurt a little bit, but this is a business decision… We believe that in the long run, this will be excellent for the city of Houston and for our airport, and we’re not going to give up trying to lure the headquarters here.” We admire Parker’s gumption. But in a battle between her spurs and Daley’s big shoulders, it’s not very hard to see who’s going to come out on top.

Morning Edition, May 5, 2010 [NPR]

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  1. dreamfish says:

    To be precise, they’re basing the new company not in Chicago but a place called Chicagorichardmdaleymayor. At least, that’s what it says on all the signs in that city.

    • humphrmi says:

      It wasn’t too hard, he only had to replace the “j”s with “m”s on all the signs.

  2. ecwis says:

    IAH is the HQ of Continental so does this basically mean that United is taking over? Say goodbye to another decent airline… United will be the next Delta. Oy vey.

    • nbs2 says:

      That’s the debate. Cpt. Doucheshnozzle will be leading the new management team, so there will be CO personnel in charge. Additionally, CO will be bringing the logo and font. UA will provide the name and HQ. IAH and CLE aren’t toast, but things aren’t looking too good. This could be especially painful, as the C-North PC at IAH has the best service in their entire system and without a hub, my transcon layovers would be stuck in a winter wonderlands of ORD or DEN.

    • r01984 says:

      United and Continental are the two worst airlines.
      I really hate flying continental, but my work is in Houston and they have some travel agent deal with continental. It sucks.

  3. PupJet says:

    I hate mergers like this. I bet you now that we’ll [Cleveland] have to pay even more to fly because of the dinky little airlines having to hub out of here to a major hub. *Sigh* I hate United/Continental now.

  4. Tim says:

    What about United’s Dulles hub?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Dulles will stay the same, I think, since it’s a huge international hub. The signage may change, and certainly the planes might reflect the merger in its signage, but if they stop or reduce service at Dulles, there are plenty of airlines that are more than willing to pick up those passengers.

      • r01984 says:

        It could change.
        If it is not the most profitable routes then only large airlines can afford to run those routes.
        Smaller airlines are going to run the most profitable only.

        If they pull some flights/routes there may not be anyone willing to take them.

  5. fairywench says:

    I wouldn’t count Annise Parker out. After all, she is a lesbian and she got herself elected mayor of Houston, Texas. Think about that for a while.

    • Trevor says:

      Right on, Fairywench! We all love her, and she’s a strong mayor….Houston won’t take it lying down…laying down? damnit….

    • Emperor Norton I says:

      Since Houston elected Tootsie as mayor some time ago, almost anyone can get elected there.

  6. Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

    Frankly I don’t see what the Mayor could do about it. If she starts building shit to “lure” the HQ back to Houston we’re all going to lose. Just like when they tried to “lure” the olympics.

  7. Speak says:

    This is going to affect the small airport in my town as well. Right now Continental provides bus service to Newark (2+hr drive) and UA has commuter planes to O’hare & DC (IAD) (both about 1.5-2hr flight). Can you guess what is going to go away from my airport now? It will mean even less selection from my airport and higher rates to anywhere I need to travel.

  8. brinkman says:

    St. Louis also wins–Continental was going to lay off some ground workers and that decision has been halted for the time being.

    • r01984 says:

      Not really.
      As they merge operations they are going to let people go.
      The whole point of a merger is to cut redundant jobs to save money, so jobs will be lost.

      • montusama says:

        I think he was talking about the speed at which they will be laid off. Continental is going to focus more on the merger than downsizing right away. Let United do that paperwork!

  9. Underpants Gnome says:

    I wonder what this does for all of those O’Hare modernization plans that have been in legal limbo for the last 10 years, and got even murkier when the economy tanked?
    If they’re really talking moving flights from Cleveland to Chicago, they’re definitely going to need the re-arranged runways and possibly the 5th terminal.

  10. levenhopper says:

    My friend had the idea that Cleveland may actually be helped a little by the fact that Chicago can’t really take any more flight into/out of it…so they may keep the Cleveland hub to accommodate new routes they want to open up.

    • SG-Cleve says:

      That is our only hope, that the Chicago airspace is too crowded to move flights there from Cleveland.

      It’s nice living in a hub city, lots of non-stop flights.

      • cromartie says:

        The idea that the discounters will move in to CLE if the new airline pulls out is silly. CLE doesn’t have the business for them, and CAK already has airTran, Frontier, and had a record 2009.

        CLE was really a hub in name only to begin with. Certainly you could make the case that the combined airline could reroute a lot of the small market service to Concourse D, but don’t hold your breath on CLE doing anything over the next five years but consolidating operations into a Continental abandoned, for the most part, Concourse C and shutting down A and B completely.

        • t325 says:

          Southwest will pick up the slack after UA cuts routes at CLE, at least they’ve been doing so in St. Louis. It seems as soon as AA announces a route cut, Southwest announces a new route to that city a week later. AA recently cut BOS, RDU, BNA, SAN, MSY and MSP out of STL, and guess what Southwest’s 6 newest routes out of STL are? All of those. Hell, after AA cut SFO, United even came in and brought back their mainline service to SFO.

    • t325 says:

      That’s what they said about STL when AA bought TWA. Not the case. They even built a new runway under the assumption that we would remain a major hub after the merger. Didn’t happen, now we have a runway that no one hardly uses because the major airline at STL, Southwest, is out of the east terminal which is on the other end of the tarmac from the new runway, and to save fuel, they’d rather taxi to the closer, older runways which aren’t busy either. AA fucked this city hard, and I see the same unfortunate fate for CLE.

      • MichiganWolverine says:

        How did they “fuck the city”? The airline is a customer of the airport (city). They decided they would no longer be doing business there. The fact that cities and states are in a race to the bottom by bribing and enticing companies is really corporate welfare. How about St Louis spend some money on more police, firefighters, teachers, road repairs, and not on an airport to improve their economy at the expense of other cities. Chicago makes more sense because there is a significant amount of final destination travel to the city. If you look at the hub system, the best will always be when the city has traffic that is a start or end point. Chicago, New York, LA, Denver, Houston, Detroit, Atlanta. Washington DC.

  11. 3rdUserName says:

    Anybody know what will become of the Presidents Clubs in Continental hubs? My a-mex gets me in for free, I wonder if that will be dropped with the merger?

    I live in Houston and I feel really bad for all the families that are stressing out right now with all the uncertainty.

  12. Emperor Norton I says:

    United would have owed the city millions if they had moved the HQ out of Chicago.
    Richie Daley, mayor for eternity gave them a huge sum in TIF money to leave Elk Grove & move the HQ to Wacker Dr. & the operations center to Sears Tower.
    There wouldn’t have been any savings due to merging if they left here, only a multi-million dollar penalty.

  13. t325 says:

    We St. Louisans know not to believe an airline when they say they will keep a city as a hub. American Airlines gave us the same line of bullshit when they bought out TWA. Now, all long haul international traffic is gone, just an Air Canada Jazz flight to Toronto remains, big jets were swapped out in favor of those god awful regional jets, and now AA serves less than 10 destinations out of St. Louis. Now, Southwest is the major player at STL, not that that’s a bad thing. This was all because we were redundant, what with being close to their major hubs in Chicago and Dallas. And Cleveland will suffer the same fate, due to their proximity to Chicago and Newark and even Dulles. United may say that CLE will remain a hub, but we’ll see what it’s like 10 years from now at CLE.