Panel set up to look at impact of airline merger

June 2, 2010 4:03:57 PM PDT
Thursday will mark one month since Continental and United announced they will merge and move Continental's headquarters out of Houston to Chicago. As federal regulators look over the agreement, the city is doing what it can to lessen the potential economic impact. But is it too little, too late?

On Wednesday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced a group of experts she is turning to for advice.

When Continental Airlines decided to merge with United, there was no question the city of Houston was late to the table.

"It was a 48-hour period where they suddenly switched from US Air to Continental," said Mayor Parker.

And while there is debate whether city officials could have been more proactive about the deal, on Wednesday, Mayor Parker set forth a plan she says will keep her fully engaged moving forward.

"I simply wanted to know that once the dialogue opens up, that the resources I need are in place to advise me," she said.

On Wednesday, the mayor announced the formation of an advisory panel to look at the economic impact of the merger. It will be made up of several prominent business and political leaders.

The panel will be led by Patrick Oxford, chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership and Bracewell&Giuliani, LLP. Other members include:

  • Mark White -- former Texas Governor and Chairman, HISD Foundation
  • Daniel G. Bellow -- President, Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc.
  • Chip Carlisle -- President, Wells Fargo - Texas Region
  • Anthony R. Chase -- Chairman and CEO, ChaseSource
  • Jason Few -- President, Reliant Energy, Inc.
  • Irma Gonzalez -- Chairman, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and President and CEO, Employment Centers, Inc.
  • Renu Khator -- Chancellor, University of Houston
  • Bobby Tudor -- Chairman and CEO, Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., LLC

Oxford says their first job will be to look at what can be salvaged.

"Understanding their company, so we can help them decide which parts stay here," he said.

United Airlines has already said Houston would remain the airline's biggest hub. The panel would look at whether some other functions could remain here, too.

Still, given the fact that all this is happening after the merger was announced begs the question?

"Too late?" asked Oxford. "I can't help that. We've done it as fast as we can."

The panel will also look at the impact the merger will have on future growth here in Houston. It will also look at the quality of air service.


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