Continental sets start date for Star membership

Washington DC
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Continental Airlines intends to join the Star alliance on 27 October after it severs ties with the SkyTeam alliance following its final flight on 24 October.

Houston-based Continental unveiled plans to switch alliances in June 2008. The carrier says its hub at New York Newark Liberty International airport-where it is the largest operator-will play an important role for Star.

Earlier this year, the US DOT endorsed antitrust immunity among 10 Star carriers including prospective member Continental and approved a transatlantic joint venture proposed by Air Canada, Continental, Lufthansa and United Airlines.

However, regulators imposed restrictions in Houston-Calgary/Toronto, Cleveland-Toronto and New York-Ottawa. In these markets, exclusion from antitrust immunity disappears if a new entrant operates five weekly roundtrips in the city pairs for nine consecutive months.

DOT also required a carve-out between the United States and Beijing until a carrier with no Star immunity launches service on the route. Both SkyTeam carrier Delta Air Lines and Star alliance member US Airways have postponed new service to Beijing due to the economic crisis.

In the meantime, Continental has been preparing for the alliance shift. The operator's codeshares with SkyTeam members Delta and Delta subsidiary Northwest Airlines largely ended last month, Continental CEO Larry Kellner said in July.