Continental Airlines, Like Foreigner, Wants To Know What Love Is

Eminem and Kim Mathers could do it. So could Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Richard Burton and Liz Taylor elevated it to an art form. Of course, we're talking about revolving-door couples; putting cyanide in each other's wine one minute, dancing to "Endless Love" the next. Wash, rinse, repeat.

And as many of you might already be aware from a Chron article, this kind of back-and-forth relationship is the basis of Continental Airlines's suit against nine pilots and their spouses, who it says entered into "sham" divorces to get early pension payments. Simply put, Continental's contract with pilots allows them a sweet pension -- but only upon retirement or "severing active employment."

Apparently, Continental's lawyers have rose-colored glasses and hearts made out of marshmallow, because they never in a billion years thought that some unsavory types might shoot for a loophole. Perhaps the airline should've acquired the help of Lionel Hutz in drafting that contract.

Continental's lawyers said the pilots and their spouses got paper-only divorces in order to allow personal assets to be divided. Per family court rules, the spouses got immediate access to the pensions, even though it conflicted with the airline's contract. After a while, Continental folks began wondering why all of a sudden they were paying out millions of dollars in pension funds that shouldn't have been tapped for years. So they investigated these divorces, seeking the kind of truth Foreigner pleaded for oh so many years ago: they wanted to know what love is. Uh, and divorce.

According to the allegations in Continental's suit, these couples experienced the smoothest divorces in history, only to reconcile a short while later, as if they just snapped out of some sort of fugue state. To wit:

-- "During the period leading up to obtaining their divorce decree, the pilot and spouse did not seek or attend any marriage or relationship counseling."

-- "Neither the pilot nor his/her spouse was represented by legal counsel in connection with their divorce, or they were represented by the same legal counsel."

-- Despite the division of property agreed to in their divorce decree, the pilot and spouse never altered title, legal ownership, possession, control, signatories or beneficiaries with respect to real estate or personal property (e.g., residences, automobiles, boats, bank accounts, credit and mortgage accounts, and insurance policies.")

-- "Knowledge of the divorce was concealed from children and friends of the couple."

-- "The spouses who are women did not change their names after the divorce decrees."

Hair Balls finds that last one especially odd. Did the airline conduct some sort of research to determine that an overwhelming majority of women revert to their maiden names after divorce, and those that don't ultimately remarry their exes and/or wind up in lawsuits?

Joe Ahmad, a Houston attorney who's representing a bunch of the couples, told Hair Balls that Continental shouldn't have lumped all the couples together. If there were a few bad apples (none of whom he's representing, of course) who did this, why try to lump other remarried folks in with them? He said people drift apart and reunite for a myriad of reasons, and each is unique to that particular couple, and Continental is acting as though there's some sort of formula.

Whatever the truth is, we're just sorry that a bunch of divorce lawyers missed out on some dough, and we hope that they eventually found a good old-fashioned ball-bustin'-other-woman-seein'-vases-smashin' grade-A American divorce.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow