When Larry Kellner, CEO of Continental, said during their quarterly earnings call that he felt the transition time between SkyTeam and Star Alliance would be days, not weeks or months, I’m not sure that this is what he had in mind. It turns out that Continental is actually starting the transition today, if their web site is to be believed. Sure, they have almost 90 days left in SkyTeam, but why let that get in the way of an orderly transition?
Effective July 1 (but only announced today…thanks, guys) Continental will be offering credit in their OnePass program for many flights on Star Alliance carriers. There is some fine print, but the overall effect appears to be quite positive. For now credit will only be given if there is a connection to or from an intercontinental Continental flight. And the credit can only be received for a single segment. Considering that Continental has been selling connections to United and ANA lately on their website, having the ability to earn miles on those flights is really pretty nice.
OnePass members will earn 100% credit on the actual number of miles flown for all fare classes, with a 50% bonus for first and business class tickets. In addition, Continental is giving out Elite Qualification Miles on all these flights at 100% or better (150% for first, business or full fare coach). They are not giving out elite bonuses which would range from 25% to 100% depending on the elite level, but it is still a pretty sweet deal considering that they are still part of SkyTeam.
Although we won’t know with any certainty for a little while yet, it seems reasonable to assume that this will be the basis for the formal earning plan once Continental makes the jump to Star later this year. If that’s the case it is something of a mixed bag. No 500 mile minimums for anyone (currently elites get that on Continental family flights and a few other carriers) and no elite bonuses (this is a pretty significant loss for partner flights). But the base earnings are 100% across the board with bonuses for higher fares. The mix of 50% and 0% fares on Continental and partners right now is truly a pain to navigate when trying to figure out what the actual miles earned are.
For folks who fly a lot on partners the lack of an elite bonus will hurt, but that is rather typical of the Star Alliance program. For folks mostly looking for Elite miles, however, the new program looks pretty good. Of course, lots of things can change in the next 90 days, but it doesn’t completely suck as of right now.
It also would not surprise me to learn that Continental is using this as an opportunity to test their integration with their new partners’ IT systems, though the fact that it has to be on the same reservation and that it only counts for the one flight immediately before or after the Continental flight seems to belie that hope.
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