Sat, Jan 17, 2004
Well, it's not quite goodbye just
yet. But Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune, widely credited
with bringing the airline back from the brink of financial ruin,
will retire at the end of the year. Continental says he'll be
replaced by the airline's current president, Larry Kellner.
When Bethune joined Continental ten years ago (as of next
month), the airline was staggering out of its second bankruptcy in
a decade. In a few short years, Continental rose in all standings,
from customer service to on-time performance.
"He has focused on the basics of
being an airline," said airline analyst Michael Boyd, in an
interview with the Houston Chronicle. "The airplanes are clean, the
airplanes are on time, and you can see it."
But the 62-year old CEO has seen his share of controversy. Like
fellow airline CEOs Donald Carty and Leo Mullin, Bethune got a
whopping compensation package last year, even though -- like the
others -- his airline was still reeling from the 9/11 disaster.
But Bethune has always tried to project the image of a
straight-shooter. "You have got to tell everybody the truth," he
said last month. "You get a lot more respect."
The Chronicle quotes Jay Panarello, the master executive
chairman for Continental's pilots as saying he hopes Bethune will
avail himself of the chance to leave behind a legacy of happy
worker relations when he retires. After a month off, contract talks
between the airline and its pilots get underway again this month.
Panarello hopes they're wrapped up before Bethune retires in
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