Look for big changes in service this summer with Continental and their 737-900ER aircraft. The 737-900ER is the newest addition to the Continental fleet and it is also the first to be equipped with the LiveTV system that they are having installed on their domestic fleet. More notable, however, are the new routes that Continental is looking to open up with the aircraft later this summer.
Most significant is a scheduled August 1, 2009 return to Maui for the carrier with the return of the LAX-OGG route, operated by the 737-900ER. At the same time LAX-HNL, currently operated by a 757-200 with the BusinessFirst seat configuration in the forward cabin, will also switch over to a 737-900ER operation. These flights will be staffed for pilots out of the Cleveland base. Continental will also take advantage of the over-water certification necessary for the Hawaii operations to add Newark-based trans-Atlantic service on the 737-900ERs, though this service will be limited to military charters, at least for now. Those aircraft can easily reach Iceland as well as the three destinations that Continental currently serves in Ireland and Northern Ireland, so there is always a chance for some crossover there.
This opens up a huge can of worms on the Hawaii front. For many years now all service to and from Hawaii has been marketed as BusinessFirst and, more recently, BusinessFirst Light. This has allowed Continental to limit upgrades and demand a premium fare structure in most cases for the flights. With the introduction of a “normal” premium cabin the primary excuse for no free elite upgrades seems to have disappeared. That could induce a major change in the flow of customers through Continental’s system headed to Hawaii as folks angle for the free (or cheaper) upgrade to the islands.
Interesting times indeed…
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