United and Continental to announce merger on Monday

The Wall Street Journal reports that United and Continental are expected to announce a merger on Monday. Oh boy. Not even sure where to start on this one.

First of all, I guess, this was absolutely necessary. If you had asked me a couple of years ago if United and Continental had a chance of merging, I would have said there’s no way. I’m amazed by how much aligning the airlines have done in the past year or so, and frankly, how well it has all gone over. Consolidation is still necessary in the industry, and this was inevitable. And from the perspective of the two companies (especially United), this was a brilliant move. Enough said about that.

Let’s think about this from the perspective of the consumer. Again, I have mixed feelings. On one hand United just couldn’t have survived in the long run as a standalone airline, so I’m happy in the sense that I want to see them survive, and I’m convinced a Continental merger is the best way for that to happen.

At the same time, selfishly, I’m sad to see this merger happen. If you’re a mileage runner you shouldn’t be looking forward to this merger, plain and simple. Part of what makes United “profitable” as a customer is what a mismanaged airline they are and how poorly so many of their policies are thought out.

If you complain that your seatmate farted, you’ll get a $200 electronic certificate good for future travel. On Continental, on the other hand, they’ll find a way to blame you for a flight attendant spilling a box of wine on a passenger. At United you can make four connections in each direction of travel within the US. After all, who wouldn’t want to fly from Tampa to San Francisco via Washington Dulles, Newark, Denver, and San Francisco? On Continental you can connect once for the most part, and with a hub conveniently located in Houston, chances are your layover will be right on the way.

On United you can either pay a truly outrageous first class fare or upgrade on a $200 ticket. On Continental you can pay a reasonable first class fare and get a good value, but don’t expect a transcon upgrade unless you’re traveling on close to a full fare ticket. Ever. You see where I’m going with this?

Don’t get me wrong, most of the above is just me being a selfish consumer that’s looking out for me. And since Continental’s management team is a bit more on top of things, I would expect most of these ridiculously generous United policies to end. And that ain’t good for me!

Now, let’s talk more generally for a second. I think we can finally say goodbye to Starnet blocking. There’s no way in heck Continental’s management will stand for Starnet blocking, so I’m betting that’ll be the really, really good news.

The other question is what happens to Economy Plus? I’m thinking Continental will eventually add Economy Plus to their planes, since United seems to be generating a good bit of revenue through upsells.

Lastly, and this is a question near and dear to my heart, what happens to million miler status? At United one million miler gets you lifetime Premier Executive status (mid tier), two million miler gets you a Red Carpet Club membership for life, and three million miler apparently gets you 1K for life. At Continental, on the other hand, one million miler gets you Silver for life (low tier), two million miler gets you Gold for life (mid tier status), and four million miler gets you Platinum for life (top tier status). The only cool thing about their program is that you can appoint a companion to have the same status for life.

But still, I’m approaching million miler, and I’ve really been looking forward to Premier Executive status for life. Here’s to hoping the million miler program of the combined airline looks more like United’s current scheme than Continental’s.

This’ll definitely be an interesting merger to watch…

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. I too am close to MM status on UA. Maybe we will have to do a run for lifetime status before the merger is completed. My friend did that on SQ so he could get lifetime solitaire status before they scrapped that benefit. I don’t even want to know how much he spent racking up all those PPS sectors.

  2. I am also afraid that the generous e-cert compensation will go away, making my hobby much more expensive. If it does go away, I hope it takes a while.

    You also didnt mention CO’s lack of hot nuts. I’m very afraid those will go away!

    Will the airbus A350XWB order get cancelled and the additional 787 options be taken instead? Will this mean that the A319/320 fleet will now get replaced with 737’s?

    I think CO isnt as bad as you make it out. I’m 2/4 for upgrades SFO-EWR on L/T fares. Ive also found SFO-IAH-BOS easier to clear on CO than SFO-BOS on UA. And ive found the trick to mileage runs on CO is to go somewhere in the MIDDLE of the country from one of the coasts. For example I did SFO-EWR-BOS-IAH-ORD and then ORD-IAH-TPA-EWR-SFO for the return. Of course once the route maps get combined this could get more difficult to do.

    I also wonder about hubs. Somehow I see DEN and IAD getting a bit smaller and becoming more the size of LAX for the new airline.

    What about 2-class vs 3-class? Will p.s. and Int’l 1st survive? I would imagine so given how much UA has invested in IPTE, but many routes may only get 2-class service…

    These will be interesting times ahead. UA/CO merger ought to make DL and AA sweat a bit, and US needs to go away already!

    Also, did you see UA’s tweet promising that domestic C/F meals will be imprving this summer? I hope its real rather than an “”enhancement””

  3. As a MM with UA I had no idea that CO did not have the same level of benefits.

    So then what happens with GS? Does CO have a similar program? Will the GS ranks swell with the combined airline or will the GS program disappear with the combined program?

  4. @Pat- CO has “presidential platinum” which was created this year to align with UA’s GS. I am only a regular platinum, but I find CO doesnt treat their Platinums anywhere near as well as UA treats 1Ks. Frankly they dont treat me better than a general member other than upgrade priority and bonus RDMs. Hopefully that part of UAs culture will prevail in the merger.

  5. If it happens as seems likely, you can say that you called this. Wasn’t that one of your new year’s predictions? If not, you’ve been saying it was coming.

    I am not sure what I think of this merger if it happens. I am less confident of the future of E+ than you are. The MM question is problematic too. If the two mileage programs combine, I will be 80% the way there. So that is an exciting prospect.

    The comments by others about CO plats not treated as well as 1Ks. I am 1K and was a CO plat for several years. I think that I would agree there.

  6. IIRC, CO MM status is based off of EQM, not BIS, which makes (made?) it easier to attain with DEQM or other EQM bonuses. Not quite as easy as AA MM, but still easier than UA.

  7. Welcome to Chase airlines. I hope it is more of of ua takeover then a merger, they need to keep the people who have made Ua better over the last year or so.

  8. I am not convinced that UA (and CO) couldn’t survive independently. Bigger isn’t always better and just rehashing so-called analyst/expert opinions doesn’t make it so. What UA requires is better management, better policies (which may not be what people here would necessarily want), better employee relations. A partnership/code share agreement with CO and alignment of policies/programs should give them (and customers) most of the benefits of a merger without a lot of the pain points.

  9. Bigger isn’t alway better. However, I understand United have to merge in order to survive long term.

    On the MM status. I am approaching 2 MM lifetime with United. My question is about whether the M+ BIS/RDM earned from flying CO (since CO joined *A) will be added to my lifetime total once UA and CO ties the knot. That would get me closer…..

  10. I know it sounds nice, but do you really want to be Premier Executive for a day, much less for life?

  11. I like how you differentiated between what was bad for you and maybe good for the airlines. It’s interesting, I hope they keep the economy plus. I don’t have status so don’t get upgrades, but am willing to pay a little more for a better seat on a long flight.

  12. Economy Plus has caused me to fly UA trans-Atlantic instead of CO or US. (BMI is a non-starter trans-Atlantic.) I’ve connected via LHR to fly UA, rather than fly non-stop US-UK on CO, when flying in back. So I really hope that the E+ seating will be added to (current) CO trans-Atlantic 2-cabin aircraft.

    I also find UA’s new C/J seats to be MUCH better than CO or the deployed US C/J seats. So I’d like to see CO aircraft get upgraded to those new UA horizontal flat-bed seats (with AVOD & iPod connector) for international flights. I’m not willing to pay for C/J on current CO, but am willing (sometimes) to pay for it on UA, and the seats (and AVOD) are a big reason why.

    Last, on selected routes with CO’s widebody aircraft (e.g. Trans-Atlantic/Trans-Pacific 777s, it would be nice to have at least some F seats added. For example, NYC::HKG and NYC::LHR still have lots of bankers/executives able/willing to pay for an F seat. So moving those 777s to 3-cabin would make sense.

    Oh, and somehow the CO flights at LHR need to move from T4 to T1 soonest, so *A connections are sane at LHR.

  13. UA won’t want to lose traffic to AA, CO to DL… I expect the merger to be pretty neutral for FFers – except for the outrageous compensation that UA doles out… that will go away.

  14. @bmvaughn – didn’t UA lose less money Q1 than CO? Maybe in the long run, the payout of compensation provides a worthwhile return on investment. I think for 99.9% of UA flyers it will be a one time thing and not cost the airline money – only FTers really use it very much. Remember, UA is very stingy – so they MUST have crunched the numbers and found it to be worthwhile.

  15. MM is my #1 worry. I’m at 850k lifetime which probably means I won’t make MM until right about the time the merger would be full consummated. Lifetime *G is infinitely more valuable than lifetime *S.

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