By: Gordon Bethune

Former Chairman & CEO
Continental Airlines


"We're still stuck in the 1960s when it comes to using everybit of airspace productively and safely"


Gordon Bethune

Today's airline industry in the USA is more stable, secure and safe than ever before. Safety throughout the industry is enhanced tremendously by advanced technology in aircraft systems, training and through increased commitment of our air carriers and our government.

No one in the world enjoys a more safe and secure air-transportation system. It is the result of many, many thousands of professionals in every facet of aviation working together to provide an optimal level of safety, comfort and security.

We are more stable through consolidation, better product networks, better balance sheets and by better management. The top airlines are led by a new generation of people who witnessed the excesses of the past two decades and, hopefully, learned from those mistakes. They also realise the implicit value of their employees. They know that employees who enjoy their work provide higher revenues and lower costs. Treating employees with dignity and respect pays off and this new generation of leaders know that and work on it every day.

We are more secure by the breadth and depth of the networks that have been created and the stronger and deeper balance sheets these airlines enjoy. Broad alliances worldwide, coupled with an extensive global network maximise revenue and staying power.

What is really missing is an air traffic control network that will allow the industry to save millions upon millions of dollars by increasing the productivity of the airplanes they own and the airport's capacity to accommodate traffic. Not only are we burning unnecessary hydrocarbons and wasting fuel, we are flying thousands of unnecessary flight hours and paying thousands of employees to waste time needlessly. I can think of no greater improvement to the productivity of the air transportation system than the establishment of a 21st-century air-traffic-control system.

We've made tremendous headway in every facet of the industry these past 20 years, but we're still stuck in the 1960s when it comes to take-off's, landing, routing and spacing airplanes to use every bit of airspace productively and safely.

I'm enthusiastic about the next 25 years. I am certainly proud of the many professional men and women I've worked with who make up our great airline industry today.


Bethune cover

Bethune underlined a strategy to "stick to the basics" by making Continental the best rather than the biggest airline. Its merger with United in 2010 now puts it in the worlds top three airlines.



"We certainly learned from our disastrous experience with setting up an internal low-fare airline with an airline," he explains. The unit, Continental Lite, struggled and was shut down in 1995 within a year of its start up.With some of his famous straight-talking, Bethune calls the concept "stupid, really goddamned dumb".


Source: Airline Business