Continental Airlines in 2003 Sustaining the Turnaround

Topics: Continental Airlines, Airline, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport Pages: 18 (6025 words) Published: March 15, 2010

Imagine a company where employees hate the moment when they wake up because they know that they’re going to have to go to work. Once at work, these employees, who even consider maximizing their sick leave just to have an excuse not to be there, are all day with disgruntled customers complaining about the lousy service, the late planes and lost baggage. When the saving grace of break time finally arrives, these employees rush out and exert the utmost effort to pretend not to be associated in any way with the company to avoid helping other employees and more so to avoid the irate and angry customers. After the few minutes of reprieve that lunch and coffee breaks provide, these very unfortunate employees are thrust once again into the hellish environment where each and everyone is trying to step on you because it’s the only way to keep their jobs amidst the rampant cost cutting by management. Working in this kind of company, these employees can’t help but to transfer all the negative energy even to their customers. Of course, you can expect that the company’s reputation will be like that of a skunk, a reputation that repels almost all that come near it. To top of the employees’ miseries, sometimes, they don’t even get paid. Imagine working in an environment like the one described, without even being compensated properly, and even sometimes not being compensated at all. This is what is was like to be working for Continental Airlines in the year 1994. It’s unfortunate that the above description couldn’t be rightly called an exaggeration of how awful Continental’s situation was at that time because it actually accurately depicts it. Founded over more than 80 years ago as Verney Speedlines, Continental’s pioneers Walter T. Varney and his partner Louis Mueller would probably turn in their graves if they ever lived to see the state that their creation is in. Most would look at Continental and would probably say that there never was a perfect situation where euthanasia would be justified. At the state that it was going at that time however, mercy killing wouldn’t be needed because the company was indeed on its way to its demise. But, like it was taken out from a movie, out of Continental’s gloomy darkness came forth a bright and headstrong guy by the name of George Bethune. If others looked at Continental and saw only destruction in its future, Bethune saw a company which has the potential to become one of the best and which deserved to be fought for. Fuelled by his confidence and enthusiasm, it didn’t take long for him to take over the outdated and jaded CEO. Now that Continental has found itself a leader, it’s time for the leader to act. Bethune didn’t waste any precious time trying to get accustomed to his new leather chair. He immediately launched his brainchild, the Go Forward Plan. And as it’s been said many times, it was history after that.


Having successfully executed the “Go Forward Plan” and resuscitating Continental Airlines’ dire situation, how could the company sustain its upward trend amidst new and never-before experienced problems more specifically, problems that affect its customer base? Moreover, what must it do in order to become better equipped to handle problems that are caused by external forces (e.g. terrorist attacks)?

We used SWOT Analysis in Continental’s “Go Forward Plan.” In examining the strengths of the company, we discuss through explicating each of the four (4) parts of the plan.


A. Market Plan: Fly to Win
Plan of action is focused and determined
Bethune’s Fly to Win is very remarkable in the sense that it had a very clear goal, i.e. to stop doing those things that were causing the company to lose money and to concentrate on the company’s market strengths. What sets it apart from other strategic plans is that it goes straight to the point and does not dilly dally whatsoever and makes sure...
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