Continental Airlines is recalling pilots it furloughed several years ago, as the company ramps up international flights and replaces retiring older pilots.
Continental spokeswoman Julie King said the airline is recalling
15 of the 147 pilots it furloughed in 2008. In addition, it is putting more
than 100 pilots back on active status from the voluntary leaves of absence that
they took in 2008.
Some of these pilots will be flying the company’s two recently acquired Boeing
777s, which will be used for international flights, King said.
Continental furloughed the pilots during a particularly tough year
for the airline industry, which has struggled to cope with stagnant business
and vacation travel thanks to the recession, as well as volatile fuel prices.
“We are pleased to see our pilots returning,” said Capt.
Jay Pierce, a Continental pilot and a chairman for the Continental chapter of
the Air Line Pilots Association. “With the anticipated delivery of new
aircraft, the improvements in the economy and the expectations for increased
passenger travel during the upcoming summer vacation season, the return of our
furloughed pilots — all of them — is needed to maintain the level of service
that Continental is known for.”
Hunter Keay, senior airline analyst for Stifel Nicolaus & Co.,
said the recall is a small but positive sign for the airline industry.
“Clearly, the industry is recovering, but I think certain
regions are performing better than others, and certain airlines are
outperforming others,” said Keay. “I think that’s a bullish indicator
for the demand that Continental sees in its core markets.”
The recall is occurring as Continental prepares to merge with UAL
Corp.’s United Airlines.