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updated 5/4/2010 8:31:38 PM ET 2010-05-05T00:31:38

Nothing good ever comes of calling someone "the ugly girl."

It was the most-quotable moment to come out of Monday's news that United Airlines would acquire Continental Airlines. Continental CEO Jeffery Smisek was describing his thoughts after hearing earlier this month that United Airlines was in merger discussions with US Airways Group Inc.

"I recognized that United is the best possible partner for Continental," Smisek said on a conference call. Referring to United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton, he said, "I didn't want him to marry the ugly girl; I wanted him to marry the pretty one, and I'm much prettier."

No one likes to be the ugly girl. And US Airways had already been stung by United's pivot toward Continental during the combination discussions this month.

On Tuesday, US Airways Chairman and CEO Doug Parker wrote to employees saying that Smisek's comments were "both chauvinistic and offensive to the hard-working people of US Airways."

He said Smisek sent him an apology, stating he "got carried away in the moment," "really felt badly," and "had no good excuse."

"I believe Jeff was sincere in his apology, have accepted it on behalf of all of us and am ready to move past it," Parker wrote.

He his note went on to point out the areas where US Airways has been looking better than Continental. Its first-quarter loss shrank faster, and its profit margin (excluding certain items) was higher than Continental, he said.

Continental spokeswoman Macky Osorio said the company had no comment.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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