Sunday, March 14, 2010

Presidents Club

The Presidents Club is the membership airport lounge program of Continental Airlines, Copa Airlines and AeroRepublica. The clubs all have open bars, but have also started a premium bar service where higher end wines and alcohol can be purchased. Continental was the first airline to offer free wi-fi in their lounge.[88] There are 24 clubs in the network and members have full reciprocal privileges at over 40 additional locations including lounges operated by selected Star Alliance partners including United Airlines and Lufthansa. The Presidents Club offers lifetime memberships, something that as of March 2010 costs non-elite OnePass members $5,500.[89] BusinessFirst customers flying an international itinerary are allowed access to the clubs. BusinessFirst customers may bring up to two guests and Presidents Club members may bring two guests or their immediate family (spouse and children under 21 years of age). American Express Platinum and Centurion card members are granted access to Presidents Clubs if they are flying on a Continental operated flight that day under a Continental flight number.
The Presidents Club locations are listed below:
Dallas/Fort Worth
Fort Lauderdale
Houston (5)
Los Angeles
Las Vegas
New York LaGuardia
Newark (3)
Panama City, Panama
(Shared with Copa Airlines)
San Antonio
San Francisco
Washington National


Continental Airlines began service in 1934 as Varney Speed Lines (named after one of its initial owners, Walter T. Varney, who was also a founder of United Airlines) operating out of El Paso and extending through Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas, NM to Pueblo, CO. The airline commenced operations with the Lockheed Vega, a single-engine plane that carried four passengers. The airline later flew other Lockheed planes, including the Lockheed Model 9 Orion, the Lockheed Electra Junior, and the Lockheed Lodestar.[6][page needed]
Following cancellation of all domestic airmail contracts by the Roosevelt administration in 1934, Robert Six learned of an opportunity to buy into the Southwest Division of Varney Speed Lines, which needed money to handle its newly won Pueblo-El Paso route. Six was introduced to Louis Mueller (who would serve as Chairman of the Board of Continental until February 28, 1966). Mueller had helped found the Southwest Division of Varney in 1934 with Walter T. Varney. As an upshot of all this, Six bought into the airline with US$90,000 and became general manager on July 5, 1936. Varney was awarded a 17-cent-rate airmail contract between Pueblo and El Paso; it carried passengers as a sideline. The carrier was renamed Continental Air Lines on July 8, 1937. ("Air Lines" was later changed to "Airlines".) Six relocated the airline's headquarters to Denver Union (later Stapleton) Airport in Denver in October, 1937.[6][7][page needed] Six changed the name to "Continental" because he wanted the airline name to reflect his desire to have the airline fly all directions throughout the United States.[8]

Stewardess and passenger, Mother's Day, 1950
Robert F. Six was one of the colorful group of innovators, pioneers, and visionaries (including Juan Trippe, William A. Patterson, Jack Frye, C.R. Smith, and Eddie Rickenbacker) who established and built the U.S. airline industry. Throughout his life, Six had a reputation as a combative and risk-taking executive who presided forcefully over the airline that was largely forged in his image for more than 40 years.[6][9][page needed]
During World War II, Continental's Denver maintenance facilities became a conversion center where the airline converted B-17s, B-29s and P-51s for the United States Army Air Force. Profits from military transportation and aircraft conversion enabled Continental to contemplate expansion and acquisition of new aircraft types which became available following the war.[6] Among those types were the DC-3, the Convair 240 and the Convair 340. Some of the DC-3s were acquired as surplus military aircraft following World War II. The Convairs were the first aircraft operated by Continental that were pressurized.[6][7]

A Douglas DC-7 in flight, 1958
The airline's early route network was limited to the original El Paso to Denver route, with routes being added during the Second World War from Denver and Albuquerque across Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. By 1946, Continental had expanded new routes from Denver to Kansas City and to Tulsa/Oklahoma City, and from El Paso and Albuquerque to San Antonio. Each of these routes included intermediate stops in several of 22 smaller cities. In 1953, Continental achieved its first major expansion by merging with Pioneer Airlines, gaining access to 16 additional cities in Texas and New Mexico. These Pioneer destinations integrated well with Continental's post-World War II routes, and provided impetus for the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), the industry regulator, to subsequently streamline CAL's routes from Denver to the principal traffic points in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma. However, Continental was, like most U.S. carriers of the day, essentially a limited regional operation. Bob Six was highly dissatisfied with this situation. He vigorously petitioned the CAB for longer-haul routes to larger cities, a part of his plan to transform the regional into a trunkline like United, TWA, and American. Simultaneously, he was quietly discussing with Boeing for Continental to become one of the first among the world's airlines to operate the soon-to-be-launched 707 jet aircraft. The timing was crucial, since the new routes would justify the 707s, and vice versa.[6][7]