Continental Airlines' history
dates back to 1934, when the carrier was operated under the
name of Varney Speed Lines by its owners Walter Varney and
Louis Mueller. The would be operated out of El Paso, Texas.
The carrier operated between Pueblo, Colorado to El Paso,
Texas with stops in Las Vegas, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New
Mexico. Mueller gained control over the carrier and in 1936,
sold 40 percent of the company shares to Robert Six. In July
1937, Robert Six changed the name of Varney Speed Lines to
Continental Airlines and the carrier moved its headquarters
to Denver, Colorado.
1940' and 50's, Continental Airlines was able to expand its
fleet of aircraft and profits through its participation in
World War II by providing air transportation to the
military. In the early 1950's, Continental Airlines merged
with southwest based Pioneer Airlines. This merger allowed
Continental Airlines to operate air routes between Texas and
New Mexico. By the end of the 1950's, Continental Airlines
had expanded its routes to include Chicago and Los Angeles
and was operating 7 days a week.
By the early
1960's, Continental moved its headquarters to Los Angles,
California and was providing air transportation for United
States Military troops to the Orient during the Vietnam
conflict. As a result of Continental's experience in the
Orient, Continental formed Air Micronesia, picking up air
routes between Saipan and Honolulu.
passing of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 airline
carries were provided with new freedoms to expand their
route systems and the flexibility to develop innovative
pricing structures. This flexibility allowed the carrier to
further grow into new markets. However, deregulation brought
about many unwanted hostile takeovers and mergers. In 1982,
Continental merged with Texas International Airlines and
under the management of Frank Lorenzo. This was a very
turbulent time for Continental. However, Continental
expanded its route structure to include South America, Asia
and Australia and had a fleet of over 100 aircraft.
Continental filed bankruptcy with losses of ($218,000,000.).
Continental restructured the air carrier and participated in
the air fare wars with the hopes of stabilizing the carrier
and to turn a profit. By the end of 1984 Continental was
able to turn a profit. In 1986 Continental took over
Frontier Airlines and began flying its routes. This was a
boost for the carrier. However, with the rise in the cost of
fuel due to the invasion of Kuwait, Continental again in
late1990, filed for bankruptcy for a second time. It was not
clear if the filing for restructuring under the bankruptcy
laws was Lorenzos attempt to bust the union or not.
Continental purchased over 90 new Boeing aircraft which
included 737's, 757's, 767's and 777's with the investments
made into Continental Airlines by Air Canada and Air
Partners. In addition Continental President, Gordon Bethune
recognized one of his most valuable resources was his
employees. He initiated the "Fly To Win, Fund The Future,
Make Reliability and Working Together" program. This program
would improve on departure and arrival time of his aircraft,
improve baggage handling, customer service and improve
employee moral through employee incentive program.
was very successful, it brought the airline carrier out of
the red and allowed the carrier to make record breaking
profits. This program motivated other major carriers to
develop similar programs as the public was now demanding air
carriers to as well improve their performance with departure
and arrival time of aircraft, improve baggage handling,
customer service and improve employee moral.