Continental Airlines chief executive officer Larry Kellner plans to leave the airline at the end of 2009, capping off 14-years at the carrier.

Kellner joined the carrier in 1995 as chief financial officer, rising to president in 2003 and taking the role of chairman and chief in 2004. Prior to joining Continental he served as chief financial officer of American Savings Bank. He plans to return to private equity after his departure from the airline. Current Continental president and chief operating officer Jeff Smisek will succeed Kellner as chairman and chief executive. Smisek also joined Continental in 1995 as senior vice president and general counsel, taking on roles of increasing responsibility. He became president in 2004, and added chief operating officer responsibilities in 2008.

"While I will deeply miss my co-workers at Continental, it is the right time for this transition. Continental has gained approval from DOT of our Star Alliance application, which will allow us to continue as an effective global competitor," says Kellner.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news