CONTINENTAL Airlines says that it has broken off merger talks with rival air carriers, believed to include Delta Air Lines.

In a message to employees, Gordon Bethune, Continental's chairman and chief executive , disclosed that the fifth-ranked US airline had recently undertaken "preliminary" merger discussions with "many different air carriers". He adds, however, that those talks have ended. "We are not in any discussions, nor do we have any plan to have any discussions with anyone," says Bethune.

He does not say why the negotiations broke down. Bethune also fails to identify any airline with which Continental has talked. He says that he was speaking in response to press speculation and to workers' questions.

The Wall Street Journal reported towards the end of 1996 that Delta, the third-largest US airline, was studying a merger with Continental. Both carriers have also signed codesharing partnerships with Air France. Continental, which has declared bankruptcy twice in its history, is controlled by Air Partners LP, an investor group. In recent years, it has secured a financial turnaround under the leadership of Bethune.

Source: Flight International