Continental, one of the top six majors in the United States, started its life in 1934 as an air mail company, Varney Speed Lines, flying between Pueblo, CO and El Paso, TX in (at the time) blazing fast Lockheed Vega aircraft. It was given its current name in 1937 after being bought out by businessman Bob Six, and moved its headquarters to Denver. During World War II, Continental made money by working on B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers at a special plant in Denver, and after the war used this extra capital to purchase Pioneer Airlines. By 1957, its route network stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles: in 1959, they went jet with their first Boeing 707.

During the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense gave Continental a hefty contract to ferry supplies and personnel across the Pacific, and Continental moved its headquarters to LA. Once the Vietnamization process began, they were allowed to keep their routes in Micronesia: by 1977, they were the largest U.S. carrier in the South Pacific, serving Saipan, Guam, Australia, and New Zealand, and given clearance for flights to Japan from the Pacific islands. They purchased new Boeing 747 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft to fly longer routes, and kept a large fleet of Boeing 727's for shorter routes.

In 1983, shortly after merging with Frank Lorenzo's Texas International Airlines, Continental was hit hard by airline deregulation, and had to declare bankruptcy. By 1984, however, they were back at full operations, and in 1985 began their first transatlantic service from Newark to London. In 1987, feeling confident again, they bought out Frontier Airlines, People Express, and New York Air, becoming the third largest airline in the United States. Then, in 1990, Lorenzo sold his shares in Continental, just in time to escape the airline's second Chapter 11 filing.

They were stuck in bankruptcy until 1993, when Air Canada threw them $450 million. Recovery was slow at first, but in 1995, Continental's stock rose nearly nine times in value, and the company posted a $224 million profit. With high consumer ratings and good market performance, Continental had reversed itself from the cheap image it had held before, and today it's a very comfortable airline to fly on, unlike its airline alliance partner, Northwest Airlines.

Continental has two main hubs at Newark International Airport and George Bush Intercontinental Airport, as well as a smaller hub at Agana, Guam. Their fleet, one of the newest in America, consists of 18 Boeing 777, 26 Boeing 767, 45 Boeing 757, 250 Boeing 737, and 35 McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft: they are slowly phasing out the MD-80's in favor of an all-Boeing fleet. Their regional network, Continental Express, flies 135 regional jets.

CO is a member of the Northwest/KLM alliance, and has codeshares with Alaska Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Eva Air, Air Europa, and most recently British European. They also sell Amtrak Acela Express tickets from Newark to several cities in the Northeast.