As expected, lots of updates hit Continental’s website at midnight CDT this morning, and the Star Alliance details are all over the place. From the hundreds of lounges now accessible for Presidents Club and Star Gold members to an interactive travel reward chart that is actually comprehensive and accurate to many details on upgrades available for travel on other Star Alliance carriers, there is lots of information there to digest.
The Star Alliance upgrades are a nice feature but ridiculously expensive in most cases, charged per segment and require a full-fare (Y or B) ticket to begin with. Not a great value, but it is always nice to have more options.
The reward search online is also quite nice, with more than 10 carriers available immediately. A couple test searches this morning show availability in line with what other Star Alliance carriers are seeing which is quite nice. Of course the three carriers that are delayed in reward integration – Swiss, EgyptAir and Shanghai Airlines – affect me personally (I need a reward on EgyptAir) but I’ll get over it eventually.
The move also means an end to the Continental partnership with Qantas. Hardly a surprise as Continental now has United Airlines and Air New Zealand as partners offering service to Australia. The relationship officially ends on December 17, 2009. Tickets for reward travel after that date will be honored but no new tickets will be issued and no miles will be accrued on revenue tickets.
The lounge access benefit is ridiculously good at this point. There are over 800 lounges available for Star Gold members, a group that now includes Continental Platinum and Gold elites, not just Platinum elites. That’s a lot more lounges for a lot more people. Many of the lounges are now also accessible for Presidents Club members. It might actually be enough to tempt me to join, though with the Star Gold access maybe not.
Partner earning rates were also announced and no major surprises there. The bad news is that the lowest fares on many carriers don’t actually earn miles. Plus most partner carriers will no longer earn bonus miles for elites; only United, US Airways and Lufthansa earn elite bonuses. On the plus side, there are not too many 50% earning fare classes. So it is all or nothing, with plenty of nothing on the cheapest fares. Combined with the new reward chart announced a few weeks ago, rewards are going to be a little more expensive and the miles are a bit harder to earn. That’s not great at all. But the interactive reward chart – more than a year in the works – is accurate and mostly functional (I’ve found one bug). That is a major improvement.
Considering the amount of work required to make the leap from SkyTeam to Star Alliance in a 48-hour span I’m quite impressed at just how much of things are functional. And more will get better over the coming weeks. This change is good on the whole for most OnePass members and Continental customers (with few exceptions). I’m off to book some reward travel now!
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