NEW YORK (TheStreet) --Regulatory filings from Monday indicated that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B) is making a substantial bet on the U.S. airlines. Per the filings, Buffett's company is purchasing a stake in Delta Air Lines (DAL), American Airlines (AAL), United Continental (UAL), and Southwest Airlines (LUV).
The investment is noteworthy because Buffett was notoriously burned by an investment he made in U.S. Airways in 1989.
"I think it's a sign of confidence that the airline industry is not what he invested in 1989, it has certainly transformed itself," former Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" today.
Bethune headed Continental from 1994 until his retirement in 2004.
The combination of stabilizing oil prices along with the prospects of economic growth opportunities in the U.S. make this a "smart play," Bethune noted. "I think it kind of endorses the four top management teams."
Moreover, Bethune says he's never seen the airline industry look this attractive.
"I have never seen it this good. This is as good of management teams that are out there. They have got stable fleets, and the economy is doing well. I would not underestimate these guys," Bethune contended.
However, should the economy underperform or "go into a slump" it will drag the airlines down with it, he cautioned.