Continental planes won't be seen in the skies much longer as they are… (Kamil Krzaczynski / EPA )
How do airlines die? Somewhat slowly but surely, in the case of Continental Airlines.
The October 2010 merger with United Airlines means Continental planes and flight codes are on their way to the aviation graveyard alongside Pan Am, TWA and other big-time carriers. (Nostalgia buffs take heart: the "Pan Am" TV series is set to start 10 p.m. Sept. 25 on ABC.)
United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson explains what happens next.
First planes get rebranded as United (which has been ongoing), then the Federal Aviation Administration issues a "single operating certificate" (which should happen by the end of the year) and finally Continental's reservation website and flight codes will cease to exist (end of the first quarter 2012).
For a bit of time, Johnson notes, passengers will be flying on Continental flights but the planes will say United.
Here are some highlights from the airline's history:
--It was founded in 1934 as Varney Speed Lines.
--Its name was changed to Continental three years later.
--It went all Hollywood and moved its headquarters to Los Angeles in 1963.
--It retained its name through prior mergers with Pioneer and Texas International.
--By 1997, headquarters returned to Houston.
And one other thing: I received notice of a farewell party planned with former and current Continental employees at the Proud Bird restaurant near Los Angeles International Airport on Saturday night.
Organizer Todd Magnus writes in an email: "The operational merger is still going on, but literally, the Continental name is almost gone. ... It's very sad for many of us who have devoted our lives to Continental Airlines."