AMERICAS: United’s Tilton talks consolidation

United Airlines chairman and chief executive Glenn Tilton has suggested a possible resumption of merger efforts between United and Continental. Merger talks between the two ended in April 2008 amid soaring fuel costs and fading cash reserves, at which time Continental then left the SkyTeam alliance headed by Delta and Air France and joined United […]


United Airlines chairman and chief executive Glenn Tilton has suggested a possible resumption of merger efforts between United and Continental. Merger talks between the two ended in April 2008 amid soaring fuel costs and fading cash reserves, at which time Continental then left the SkyTeam alliance headed by Delta and Air France and joined United in the rival Star Alliance.

“The investor seems to have spoken,” Tilton told the Financial Times in reference to the merger of Delta and Northwest in 2008. “The market seems to have suggested that scope and scale in a global business are important.” That merger created a group with a market capitalisation of US$9.5 billion, compared with a combined market value of just under $5.5 billion for United and Continental.

But Tilton played down any immient resumption of merger talks with his counterpart at Continental saying the two would continue to take “full advantage of our partner relationship”.

Tilton said he believed there would be another big airline merger within the next two years, but declined to be more specific, according to the report. Tilton has been an outspoken critic of the myriad of international legal barriers to global airline consolidation, particularly the bilateral air rights system which he said, “prevents crossborder consolidation, keeping the industry financially handicapped.”