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The Future of the Friendly Skies

United CEO outlines pitfalls and promises of a changing airline industry

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April 6, 2011 | by Brendan Cosgrove

On public policy issues facing the airline industry

On a changing business model in the airline industry

On the biggest challenges he's faced in his airline career

On bringing the differing United and Continental corporate cultures together

Jeffrey Smisek
Jeffery Smisek

EVANSTON, Ill. --- In a world of rising oil prices, changing customer preferences and ever-present government regulation, it is tough to compete in the airline industry. But Jeffery Smisek, president and chief executive officer of United Continental Holdings, Inc., the world’s largest airline, believes his company is poised well for the future (United Continental Holdings, Inc., is the holding company for United Airlines and Continental Airlines.).

Smisek delivered the 30th annual Patterson Transportation Lecture sponsored by Northwestern University's Transportation Center.

In his talk, “The New United: Flying to Win in a Changed Industry,” Smisek covered rising fuel prices and how the new United follows its “Go Forward Plan” to benefit employees, customers, shareholders and communities around the world.

The audio above is a sampling of Smisek's comments on a variety of issues facing his company and the airline industry in general.

The Patterson Transportation Lecture is an annual event supported by the Patterson Transportation Endowment, which was established at Northwestern in 1979 honoring the late William A. Patterson, founder and chief executive officer of United Airlines.

The Northwestern University Transportation Center is an interdisciplinary education and research institution at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. The center is dedicated to the long-term improvement of global transportation and supply chain systems.