The contrails of air carriers that have flown into bankruptcy reorganization crisscross the industry’s skies. As Delta Air Lines Inc. this week joined United Airlines, US Airways and Northwest Airlines as major U.S. carriers operating under Chapter 11 protection, the experiences of Continental Airlines and now-defunct Eastern Air Lines provide case studies of the best and worst scenarios for Atlanta-based Delta.

Continental Airlines took two years to emerge from its 1991 bankruptcy as a much more efficient, stronger company. Eastern, another Atlanta icon, was liquidated in 1991 after employees clashed with Eastern’s management during bankruptcy talks.

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