Saturday, March 28, 2009

Continental Airlines - May, 1995

I wrote a little about the history of Continental Lite here. Following up on that post, here's a palm-sized timetable published during the Lite experiment. Continental had pulled out of Denver and most of the planes went to this "airline within an airline." Interestingly, the Express operation still existed in Denver.

I included a few pages from the timetable that show the breadth of the Lite operation out of Greensboro; the route map also shows that GP Express served 11 destinations to support the mainline operation. Additionally, the timetable shows the cities served from Guam by Air Micronesia, now known as Continental Micronesia.

This most likely was one of the last timetables to feature the Lite service. A few weeks prior to the effective date of the timetable was this report from the New York Times:
Continental Airlines said yesterday that it would drop Continental Lite, admitting that the low-fare service it heavily promoted and trumpeted as an industry-leading innovation had been a $140 million mistake.

"It was an awfully expensive experiment," Gordon M. Bethune, the airline's chief executive, said in an interview. "It was something that started as a pilot project that should have been proven before it was expanded. But once this thing started rolling, it was awfully hard to turn it around."

By July, many features of the Continental Lite service will be undone. The "Lite" logos on 100 planes will be painted over, first-class seats will be added back to planes that had been switched to an all-coach configuration, and the airline will stop serving peanuts -- underscoring that it has dropped its Peanuts Fares promotion.

As the airline changes its pricing structure, many of the bargain-basement fares that had cut into the airline's profitability will also rise. Service will also be reduced at cities like Greensboro, N.C., that were flooded with new Continental Lite flights.

The about-face is in keeping with history at Continental Airlines, which has been in a near-constant state of flux -- including two bankruptcy filings, several mergers and continual shuffling of top executives -- since the early 1980's. Within the last 12 months, 28 vice presidents have left the company.

Mr. Bethune said yesterday that the drastic move was necessary to halt the losses resulting from the experiment started in late 1993 under his predecessor, Robert Ferguson. "If we had let things go another six months, we could have lost the farm," he said. Continental Lite was responsible for $120 million of losses last year, he added, and about $140 million since it was begun.

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