It's a road Alliant Credit Union and Continental Federal Credit Union have been down before, only this time, there may be a clear destination in sight.
United Airlines and Continental Airlines recently announced plans to merge to create a $29 billion airline, making it the largest in the world. Together, the two carriers serve more than 144 million passengers annually to 370 destinations in 59 countries. The holding company will be named United Continental Holdings Inc., and the name of the airline will be United Airlines. Both companies expect the merger to be completed by the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the $7.2 billion Alliant CU, which has served United for 75 years, is looking forward to the merger. Of its 250,000 members, 100,000 are active or former United employees. Roughly seven years ago, Alliant started diversifying and now serves 150 select employee groups, said David Mooney, president/CEO.
"We're hopeful that the merger will be approved. It's good for the airline industry and we look forward to serving an expanded membership," Mooney said.
Over the past few years, there have been rumblings that United and Continental would merge. In all of those instances, the buzz soon died out and the respective carriers ended up turning back to business as usual. This time around, it appears a merger could likely happen this year pending regulatory and other approvals. Mooney said like everyone else, he's watching how everything shakes out. There's hasn't been a huge outpouring of concern from Alliant members on the impact.
"We're certainly interested in what's going on because we have a long history with the airline," Mooney said. "But it's kind of speculation at this point."
It may also be too early to tell how the merger will affect the combined carrier's more than 86,000 employees. The airlines did say the effect on frontline employees will be "minimal," with reductions coming principally from retirements, attrition and voluntary programs.
The $164 million Continental FCU is evaluating the impact of the merger on its 2010 strategic initiatives, said Thomas Martin, president/CEO. The consolidation could be an opportunity for growth in the long run resulting in "even lower rates and better products." Members have been asking questions about how the merger would affect them, he added.
"It's to be expected. They're a little nervous about what's going to happen to them and their credit union. We are dedicated to them regardless of the airline they're with," Martin said.
That's because Continental FCU has a trade, industry and profession charter that allows it to serve the entire air transportation industry, including the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and employees of all airlines and their subsidiaries. Still, more than 80% of the Tempe, Ariz.-based CU are employees at Continental Airlines and US Airways, Martin said, adding that technically, members of Alliant are eligible to join. He did not have figures on the number of members who joined under the TIP charter.
"The reality is there is a lot of potential that is still untapped. We have not gone after other employees per se but we have not discouraged it," Martin said.
In addition to belonging to a more than 6,000-shared branch network through CU Service Centers, Continental FCU has branches in Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, N.J., and Tempe, Ariz. The Chicago-based Alliant has branches in Illinois, California, Colorado and Washington. If the merger is approved, the combined airline's headquarters would be in Chicago while maintaining "a significant presence" in Houston, the carrier's largest hub.
Mooney said as always, Alliant will be prepared to assist members in case there are layoffs through loan forbearances, financial counseling and payment extensions.
"During these times, we often see interest in investment services pick up. People start looking at reallocating or reinvesting funds," Mooney noted.