With Continental’s upcoming move to Star Alliance there have been a lot of questions surrounding their OnePass program. Mileage accrual for partners and the reward charts were two of the biggest ones. We’re about 45 days from the move to *A now and Continental made an announcement this morning detailing many of the changes that will be seen in the coming weeks and months. The crazy part is that, for the most part, they actually appear to be positive changes. Like many other carriers it seems that Continental is actually working to add value back into their program and these changes are a big step in that direction.
Continental’s Platinum elites (their top tier) make out the best in all the changes. The last couple fees that they were subject to (same-day standby and close-in reward ticketing) are disappearing. Those fees are also being reduced for other elites. And for all their members they’re giving more bonus miles for short flights and getting rid of their wacky rule that only accrued 50% elite miles for discounted fares purchased through 3rd party sites. Plus the Saturday-night stay requirement is being dropped from award tickets, as is the co-pay on B fare BusinessFirst upgrades. All good news.
There is some bad news, too, however. Premium cabin fares are going to earn fewer miles (125% instead of 150%) and there are a number of partners that are being eliminated from earning elite miles. Relatively minor negatives relative to the positive benefits that are being seen. And still no details on earning rates with Star Alliance partners, which isn’t too much of a surprise based on contractual obligations. European OnePass members are getting screwed pretty good. Their earning rates are dropping precipitously on premium cabin fares and their redemption rates are increasing more significantly than others, but the number of members that affects is relatively low.
And then there is the new reward chart. Like everything else in life, some good and some bad. The best news is that Continental is finally acknowledging that their premium cabin is actually not a first class cabin. Forward cabins in two cabin planes will now be treated as business class, like they should be. In the running for best news is that the Around the World (RTW) rewards will stay pretty cheap. They will price at 160K/220K/280K for the three classes of service. Compared to other Star Alliance members these rates are a tremendous bargain. There are plenty of rewards that have gone up 5-10K points each, including Mainland-Hawaii, Mainland-Europe and Mainland-Asia. There are also a few that have dropped down, like Mainland-Israel.
Overall these changes appear to be quite positive. Gaining access to true premium cabins at a marginal increase in cost from what is available today is quite nice, and the RTW rewards are phenomenally good. Continental may still be lacking in some areas, but they’ve done pretty well with this update.
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