Glenn F. Tilton
chairman, president & ceo, ual corporation
at the Wharf Room at the Boston Harbor Hotel.
UAL boss urges industry revamp
The chief of United Airlines yesterday called for a major overhaul of the nation's aviation system and emphasized that industry consolidation should be a part of those future changes.
Appearing at the Boston College Chief Executives Club, the blunt-talking Glenn Tilton also said Massport chief Thomas Kinton lobbied him at yesterday's luncheon to start up passenger service between Boston and China- something Tilton said United Airlines can't do on its own under the current system.
Tilton, whose airline is the second biggest in the U.S., said "lazy attitudes" and special-interest groups have prevented necessary reforms of America's aviation system, especially modernization of the U.S. air-traffic control system.
America is falling behind European and Asian rivals in investing in new airports, expansions and technologies- and it will hurt the nation's productivity in the future, he said.
(Clockwise, from bottom right) Charles Haldeman (President & CEO, Putnam Investments), Eric Rosengren (President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston), Thomas Kinton (Executive Director, Massport), Joseph Campanelli (President & CEO, Sovereign Bank), John Murphy (Chairman, President & CEO, OppenheimerFunds), Michael Jesanis (Former President, National Grid USA), Thomas May (Chairman, President & CEO, NSTAR), John Fish (President & CEO, Suffolk Construction), David Barrett (President & CEO, Lahey Clinic), John DesPrez (President & CEO, John Hancock Financial Services), James Mongan (President & CEO, Partners HealthCare).
"Today, we no longer lead," said Tilton, recalling that the rest of the world once looked up to America's aviation system.
Without mentioning any possible deals involving United, Tilton suggested major U.S. airlines will have to consolidate in order to be competitive with other nations' airlines.
"We at United have been talking about this for the past three to four years, and there's been very little company among us," said Tilton after his speech, adding that other airlines are now indeed talking about possible mergers.
In recent weeks, United has been the subject of merger speculation itself.
This month, hedge fund Pardus Capital Management LP launched a push to get Delta Air Lines to merge with United.
Members of the media gather around Mr. Tilton following his remarks.
Tilton wouldn't say if United is in talks with anyone.
But it is clear that consolidation could cut duplicate costs for struggling U.S. airlines in an increasingly global economy.
As for Boston's Logan International Airport, Tilton said he sees expansion down the road in Boston. He said Kinton, who sat at a luncheon table with Tilton, had pressed United to start passenger service between Boston and China.
But under current trade rules with China, airlines have to apply for airport "slots" and can't just start service between cities, even if they wanted to, he said.
Article by Jay Fitzgerald
Wednesday, November 28, 2007