For many business travelers, the holy grail of all those miles spent on planes is Lifetime Elite status. It is somewhat of a retirement gift from the airlines, offering their most frequent passengers the opportunity to maintain some of the benefits from their frequent travel years after they get out of the rat race. Not every airline offers such a program, and the details amongst the carriers vary. Continental Airlines briefly offered an “Infinite Elite” program in the early 90’s to keep passengers in the fold as they navigated some bankruptcy issues. Once they righted the ship, however, that program went away.
Today Continental announced the return of the lifetime elite program and released some of the details regarding benefits. As expected, the qualification levels are set at 1MM, 2MM and 4MM miles lifetime for Silver, Gold and Platinum qualification, respectively. This puts Continental in line with the other US-based airlines that offer a similar program. Qualification is based on “Lifetime Flight Miles” which includes EQMs earned in the OnePass program since that qualification metric was introduced and regular flight miles (but not bonuses) from OnePass prior to the EQM days. It also includes credit for flights taken back in the day with the original Continental Travel Bank program and even the Eastern Airlines Frequent Flight Bonus program, based on mileage balance of those accounts when they were merged into OnePass. Hardly perfect (especially if someone went on a redemption binge of Eastern points just before the account was merged), but considering that the data is 20+ years old, pretty impressive that they are able to get any of it.
One HUGE area where Continental has chosen to break ranks with the other legacies is that Continental will also allow each of their Lifetime Elites to designate a travel companion to share that lifetime status with, at a matching level. The closest thing that I can draw an analogy to on this benefit is the SouthWest companion pass, but that is a free companion plane ticket, not elite benefits. This is a fantastic benefit and one that I am incredibly impressed by. Each Million Miler can designate their elite companion once per year and the status is good for the entire year for the designee. Continental would seem to be the only carrier in the world that offers such a benefit.
According to the details released today I should be able to see my Million Mile balance on the beta web page later this week, and it will be available to everyone on June 14th when the public Continental.com website is updated. I know I’m not there yet; I don’t even think I’m halfway. But it will be fun to watch the counter grow….
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