Business Travel, Star Alliance, Help Continental Post Impressive Q2 Profit

Continental Airlines says it's hoping to keep up the momentum from the first half of the year into the second half of 2010. As David Pitman reports, fewer flights and more passengers helped the Houston-based carrier to its best second-quarter performance in ten years.
Continental's profit for the second quarter surged to $257 million. During the second quarter last year, it posted a $213 million loss.

President and CEO Jeff Smisek says the positive news is the result of a slow, but steady, comeback in business travel, along with Continental's switch to the Star Alliance frequent flier program.

Smisek says upgrade charges have also helped the bottom line.

"Our customers have begun to take advantage of the additional options we've begun to offer, such as day-of-departure upgrades and premium seating. Together, these two initiatives are currently generating over $200,000 per day in additional revenue."

That's about $18 million dollars in upgrade charges for one quarter. Airline Industry analyst Robert Mann says Continental is trying to create an environment where it can earn profits every quarter.

"That'll mean higher prices. It'll mean fewer seats on offer. It'll mean having to book further in advance for holiday travel. So book early, and from the industry's perspective, book often."

Mann says two years after Continental and most other carriers began slashing their schedules, they're finally starting to see their efforts to earn year-round profits pay off.

David Pitman, KUHF News.
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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...