Usually when an airline decides to cut benefits or otherwise screw their customers they sortof try to protect their frequent fliers. In general the FFers are considered the most profitable customers, so it makes a bit of sense. That being said, the FFers are not always the most profitable customers, so alienating them – especially when there are no greener pastures to defect to – may not really be that huge a deal. Still I was rather surprised this evening when I read the email I received from Continental.
The cuts to their OnePass program are pretty dramatic. They are removing the 500 mile minimum credit for elite credit and reward credit, following the footsteps of USAir who started down that path. They are also reducing the reward bonus miles that elites earn for flying, with Platinums dropping from 125% to 100% and Silvers fropping from 50% to 25%. Golds remain static at 100% which is good for them but crtainly reflects the devaluation for Platinums pretty clearly. The third and final cut announced today is that checked baggage for most flights (domestic/USVI/Puerto Rico) that CO operates will now cost you money. On this one front they’ve coveref elites, exempting them from the charge, but the change sucks. I can’t say that I’m surprised, as “cash grab” seems to be the name of the game these days, but it definitely sucks. And it is going to suck even more for me next year when I no longer have elite status (or Silver at best).
All in all, the moves by CO are not particularly surprising considering the direction the industry is headed as a whole. That doesn’t make the moves any better or more welcome, and I’m glad to be spending miles more than earning these days. The programs are no longer nearly as useful to the airlines as they once were and now they are cutting the easy spots. CO used to pretend that they were different. Now they’ve fulfilled their promise to “study the changes” of the other programs and respond appropriately. This isn’t really a surprise at any level (maybe the elite bonus cuts) but it still sucks.
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