Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune this week referred to financially strapped United Airlines as "HIV-positive," a comment that has drawn sharp criticism from AIDS Project Los Angeles and other AIDS activist groups. Bethune made the comment in a Denver Rocky Mountain News story focusing on the financial problems at United Airlines and the fact that the company is unlikely to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bethune called United "HIV-positive" as a metaphor for a company that is unlikely to recover from its current financial woes.
"What was the man thinking?" APLA executive director Craig Thompson said. "Mr. Bethune seems to equate HIV infection with death. The metaphor is grossly insensitive and totally misplaced. It is especially unfortunate given the long history of support that United Airlines has given to people living with HIV and the social services agencies that support them."
Bethune has not commented on the reaction to his comments.