Continental joins Star Alliance

Continental Airlines on Tuesday officially joined the Star Alliance, a move it says will give passengers more options and the airline more places to expand.

The Star Alliance is the world's biggest airline grouping, with 25 members; including United, US Airways, Lufthansa and Air Canada. Continental was a member of the SkyTeam alliance, but left over a year ago when two other major carriers in the alliance -- Delta and Northwest -- said they would merge.

Speaking to a group of reporters in midtown Manhattan Tuesday, President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Smisek said the merger relegated Continental to "junior partner status" and prevented it from having the kind of input it wanted in an alliance.

Smisek said that with the Star Alliance's wide reach, the change will give passengers many more destination options through connections with other carriers. He estimated that the move to Star will bring in about $100 million a year in added revenue.

Continental is the only major carrier ever to switch membership in an airline alliance. Most airlines join these groups to share pricing and scheduling information. Carriers can also sign agreements, called code shares, within these teams to cooperate on route schedules and to combine some marketing and operations.