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]