United Continental Holdings Inc , the parent of new United Airlines , wants a contract with pilots, but any deal must be affordable and fair, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

We want to get things done, Jeff Smisek said at United's annual shareholders meeting. Now we can sometimes differ on the processes and the most efficacious way of getting a deal, but there is no lack of desire.

Smisek said any contract must be fair to workers and the company.

UAL shares rose more than 2.2 percent to $22.39 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Unionized United and Continental pilots challenged Smisek's assessment that integrating the two companies into a single Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operating certificate is on track for the end of the year.

Pilots picketed the annual shareholders meeting, saying that talks are lagging.

Until an agreement is reached, this merger cannot be considered anything close to a success, said Wendy Morse, chairman of United's chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association.

The union represents more than 12,000 pilots at the combined carrier.

United and Continental closed their $3.17 billion merger last October, hoping that the combination with sprawling domestic and international route networks would attract lucrative corporate travel contracts.

United hopes to realize more than $1 billion in annual revenue benefits and cost savings by 2013.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Gerald E. McCormick)