United says farewell to Oprah

united oprah.jpgUnited is saying own farewell to Chicago icon Oprah Winfrey as the final and 25th season of her wildly popular and long-running talk show gets underway.

It’s an opportunity for United, which is merging with Continental but keeping its headquarters in Chicago, to hold tight to its title of “Chicago‘s Hometown Airline.”

United is sporting one of its 757s with a newly painted livery featuring The Oprah Winfrey Show logo and a specially decorated interior.

 

To cap it off Oprah is welcome passenger onboard with a special video greeting ans each customer on the flight is receiving a monogrammed “Oprah 25″ fleece blanket – no charge.

 

united oprah 757.jpgThe feel good campaign keeps United’s brand in front of customers, but behind the Oprah logo the carrier is really getting down to business and cleaning up its balance sheet as the merger integration continues.  Continental recently announced the calling of $175 million of 5% convertible notes due in 2023.  CRT Capital Group analyst Michael Derchin says while that’s not surprising, “it is evidence of management’s plan to deleverage its balance sheet on a fast timetable. Management indicated to us this morning [November 2] that the call of the Continental 5% notes is incremental to the $540 million debt reduction goal.”

All US carriers are drilling home the message to analysts that they’re cleaning up their balance sheets is a top priority. It’s pretty good sign that maybe this business cycle could be different, perhaps even one of sustained profitability.  Stay tuned.

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