No one would have predicted seven years ago the devastating effect one day would have on the airline industry. But since Sept. 11, 2001, airlines have struggled, and now are scrambling to hold their place in a faltering American economy. Rising fuel prices are challenging them to search for ways to stay profitable, and some airlines have not yet recovered from the bankruptcies they were forced into after the terrorist attacks. Consolidation is expected to help relieve pressure, but the most recent merger rumors haven't yet come to fruition.
These challenges make life interesting for Jennifer Vogel. After a one-year stint as GC of Enron Global,
Vogel had the foresight to get out of the company before it imploded, joining Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. as vice president of legal in 1995.
Sometimes we come across an issue here none of us has ever dealt with, and we just roll up our sleeves and sit down and try to figure it out. And that's what makes this job so interesting. When you're in an industry that's on the front page of the paper on almost a daily basis, it's both exciting and frustrating.
Q:During Hurricane Katrina, Continental stepped in to help?
A:We brought in cargo such as generators and emergency supplies. Once we unloaded, we had room to take passengers. Continental volunteered to help fly people out of New Orleans, but we faced problems because there were no TSA agents to clear people through security. Our legal department had to work with regulators to find ways to screen people. We got waivers for certain requirements because of the emergency situation. We also set up special flights to transport abandoned animals and pets to shelters around the country.
Q:What is the Texas General Counsel Forum and what role do you play in it?
A:As the president of the Texas General Counsel Forum next year I would provide leadership for the organization's strategy, membership recruitment, events and operations. The organization is made up of general counsel and managing attorneys across Texas. They come together to discuss legal department best practices. We hold quarterly events with speakers and have lunches for general counsel. We take a topic of interest--for example, how you interact with your board or board communications--and we discuss the problems we face and share our solutions.
Q:What's your favorite place to fly?
A:Two years ago I took the family to Egypt, and we absolutely loved it. It was awe-inspiring to be on the Nile and in the Valley of the Kings and standing in King Tut's tomb.