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…