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Airline Chief Apologizes To Governor, Mayor

December 6, 1989

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ The chairman of Continental Airlines has written to Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus and Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne apologizing for an advertisement run in Great Britain last month belittling Boise.

The governor took exception to a jibe in the ads that asked how often someone would need to go to Boise. Andrus called it a ″cheap shot″ in light of the 1987 Denver crash of a Boise-bound Continental flight that killed 28 people, including from 14 from Idaho.

The Houston-based airline said it has changed its advertising policy to prevent a similar incident, Continental officials said Tuesday.

Marc Johnson, Andrus’ press secretary, said an apology was the least Continental Chairman Frank Lorenzo could do. Lorenzo is also chairman of Continental’s parent, Texas Air Corp.

The mayor, Kempthorne, said he appreciated the apology but still wanted follow-up advertisements in Great Britain aimed at boosting Boise’s stock as a destination for air travelers.

The offending advertisement, since yanked from publication, pitched 2-for-1 tickets from London to Denver and other destinations. The ad admitted there are a few places in the United States that Continental does not serve, but asked, ″But be honest, how often do you really need to go to Boise, Idaho?″

Continental pulled out of Boise and seven other cities in September 1988, saying it would focus on more profitable routes.

Lorenzo wrote in the letter to Andrus and Kempthorne, sent by fax machine late Monday, that ″my view of advertising does not include poking fun at any city.

″Furthermore, a copywriter could not have chosen a more unsuitable target for his weak pun. I was appalled to see the effect of these coinciding mistakes,″ Lorenzo wrote.

″Both Idaho and Continental share many unhappy memories brought on by the Denver accident. I want to continue to do everything possible to mend the wounds that resulted from the tragedy,″ he wrote.

Art Kent, Continental vice president of corporate communication, said a proposed policy Lorenzo also mentioned in the letter had been adopted.

″All advertising done overseas has to be approved and cleared before publication here at the Houston headquarters,″ Kent said.

Continental has maintained that the ad prepared by a British advertising firm was conceived by people who had no knowledge of the Denver crash and was not reviewed at corporate headquarters until after publication.

″I guess I’m surprised that a major corporation like Continental Airlines would not have such a policy in the first place,″ Johnson said. ″I find it hard to believe that some senior management person in that organization did not sign off on the ad.″

Kempthorne said he appreciated the straightforward apology made by Lorenzo but stood by his letter written Dec. 1 to the company asking for more.

″I believe that a published retraction and a rehabilitation of Boise’s image by Continental Airlines is warranted,″ the mayor said.

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