New Continental Airlines chief Jeff Smisek has declined a salary or annual bonus until the carrier reaches a full-year profit.

Smisek assumed his new role on 1 January after previous CEO Larry Kellner left Continental to start his own real estate business.

In a letter issued to Continental's staff today Smisek says: "We've lost almost $1 billion since 9/11 as we've managed from one crisis to the next. It's our airline and it's time to take control of our destiny."

Smisek says he is willing to make the commitment to refuse a salary "because I have faith in you [the employees], and because the tone for any business is set at the top".

The new CEO explains he is not asking any other employee to take a pay cut. "What I am asking is that you join me in making Continental profitable again."

US regulatory filings show Smisek's annual salary is $730,000.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news