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12 Years Ago: A Look Back at the United-Continental Merger

United and Continental completed their merger just over a decade ago.

A Continental 767-400 (Photo: Mark Winterbourne | P H O T O G R A P H Y from Leeds. West Yorkshire, United Kingdomderivative work: Altair78 [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])

The airline industry is well-known for being cutthroat and competitive, where there are turbulent times and moments of success and profitability. Air carriers have come and gone as those transitions transformed the physical nature of the business, and new trends arise. The merger of United and Continental — cemented on March 3, 2012 — is one of those notable transformations.

At first, the two carriers initially had discussions of a merger in 2008, but those were called off. The industry as a whole was in the process of consolidation and adapting to new challenges to cut down on losses and expand connectivity.

United later instead began talks with US Airways once again in April 2010. However, those talks quickly fell through, clearing the path for further talks between United and Continental. As a result, the two carriers proposed a “merger of equals.” since United was the dominant partner, in May 2010. Both entered a definitive merger agreement, with the new holding company known as United Continental Holdings, Inc.

A Continental Airlines 737-900 (Photo: Continental_Airlines_Boeing_737-800_N71411.jpg: Brian from Toronto, CanadaContinental737.JPG: NicolasJzderivative work: Altair78 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)])

In terms of the route network, United brought in the hubs of Chicago, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver, while Continental featured Newark, Houston, Cleveland, and Guam to complement. The financial merger transaction was completed on Oct. 1, establishing the new United.

Under the helms of Jeff Smisek, who was United’s CEO at the time, the airline announced a new livery and logo, leaving behind the iconic “Rising Blue” or “Blue Tulip,” shifting more towards Continental’s “Globe” logo. Each aircraft would have the airline’s name capitalized on the side of the fuselage.

The Final Flight

As 2012 rolled around, the final days of Continental were barreling towards the end. The last official Continental flight was CO flight 1267 departing from Phoenix at 11:59 p.m. on March 2, 2012 and landing in Cleveland at 5:46 a.m. on March 3, ultimately completing the merger.

Today, United continues to be one of the major three legacy airlines in the U.S. The prominent Star Alliance carrier unveiled a new, updated livery in April 2019 featuring a larger tail logo, new shades of blue, a gray belly, and the words “Connecting People. Uniting the World.” painted near the nose of the aircraft.

Benjamin Pham


  • Benjamin Pham

    Benjamin has had a love for aviation since a young age, growing up in Tampa with a strong interest in airplane models and playing with them. When he moved to the Washington, D.C. area, Benjamin took part in aviation photography for a couple of years at Gravelly Point and Dulles Airport, before dedicating planespotting to only when he traveled to the other airports. He is an avid, world traveler, having been able to reach 32 countries, yearning to explore and understand more cultures soon. Currently, Benjamin is an Air Transporation Management student at Arizona State University. He hopes to enter the airline industry to improve the passenger experience and loyalty programs while keeping up to how technology is being integrated into airports.

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