Continental Airlines chairman Gordon Bethune says his company has the cash and the strategy to weather labour disputes, low-fare competition and the inevitable industry downturn.

Bethune is sanguine about Continental's revival, which has seen the company rise from a $200 million shortfall to nearly $500 million in profit in less than three years.

"This is a company that hadn't shown a profit since 1985. For me, the big challenge was changing the basic nature of the company itself, and to do that, you have to slay a lot of 'sacred cows'."

Part of the slaying involved changing the labour/management relationship at Continental, which for many years was among the industry's most divisive. One of Bethune's first moves was to offer employees a $65 incentive payment for on-time flights.

Around half of Continental's labour force is unionised, and the company's pilots - recently ratified a new five-year contract designed to lift their compensation to "industry standards" within three years.

Continental will have to settle its labour situation before going ahead with alliance and expansion plans.

Source: Flight Daily News