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Reaction upbeat to merger rejection

HOUSTON, April 28 (UPI) -- Officials and residents in Houston, Texas, said they were relieved Continental Airlines had turned its back on the concept of merging with another airline.

Houston Mayor Bill White said Monday the city supports Continental's decision, the Houston Chronicle reported Monday.

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"Oh, thank God," Houston merchant Tim Connolly said.

"There's been talk of merging for so long ... and it's never come to pass," Anna Anderson, a Continental gate agent told the Chronicle.

The reaction included the upbeat interpretation the airline industry was still on its feet. "People will still fly," Anderson said.

The decision not to merge came earlier Monday in a letter from Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Larry Kellner and company President Jeff Smisek said in a letter to the airline's 45,000 employees.

The letter pointed to the company's strengths and an "enviable position in the New York market," hubs in Houston and Cleveland, and "the youngest, most fuel-efficient fleet."

Industry observers have been predicting a rash of mergers that could follow the proposed merger of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, announced April 14. Continental and United Airlines had been rumored to be in talks.

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