Houston Would Lose HQ Jobs In Continental Merger
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The proposed merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines could have a significant impact on several cities. Chicago stands to gain a lot from the merger, which if approved will create the world's largest airline, with headquarters in the Windy City.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Travelers based in Cleveland have less reason to celebrate. Some fear that a merger could eventually lead to the closing of Continental's hub in Cleveland. People in Houston are also concerned because Continental would take its corporate headquarters away from there.
We're going to do some of our own traveling this morning, beginning with Laurie Johnson of member station KUHF in Houston.
LAURIE JOHNSON: Houston is known for its pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality. If there's a tough situation to deal with, well, deal with it. Which may explain why so many people here are trying to put a positive take on the whirlwind romance between hometown sweetheart Continental and bad boy outsider United Airlines. Take this cue from Houston Mayor Anise Parker, who is arguably supposed to put a good spin on these kinds of things.
Mayor ANISE PARKER (Houston): Our pride may be hurt a little bit, but this is a business decision. We're a business town. We understand business decisions. We believe that in the long run this will be excellent for the city of Houston and for our airport and we're not going to give up trying to lure the headquarters here. This is the beginning of a new conversation. It's not the end of a conversation.
JOHNSON: In other words, breaking up is hard to do. And like many a jolted lover, folks here aren't quite ready to give up on Continental. Inside the busy international terminal at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, chauffeur John Hernandez is with the other professional drivers as they await the arrival of flights. Hernandez says a lot of travelers here feel like the merger will affect customer service, something he says Continental is known for - and United, well, not so much.
Mr. JOHN HERNANDEZ (Chauffer): Losing our headquarters means, like, losing a part of heritage. But we won't lose our history. We're just going to lose maybe that - we're going to lose really who they really are (unintelligible) this merger.
JOHNSON: For many Houstonians, he says it's not about the loss of jobs when the headquarters moves so much as the loss of identity. But not everyone waxes poetic about the breakup between Houston and Continental. Jerry Brown, who used to live in the city and is now retired in a small Central Texas town, calls it much ado about nothing.
Mr. JERRY BROWN: If people want to fly, they will fly with Continental if they really like Continental. It makes no difference where their main office is. I'll bet most of the people you ask out here, they ain't got no idea where Continental's main office is. So yeah, I don't think it will make that much difference to us.
JOHNSON: But try telling that to the nearly 11,000 people who joined the Keep Continental Airlines Headquarters in Houston Facebook page.
For NPR News, I'm Laurie Johnson in Houston.
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