Both Continental and United Airlines announced updates to their loyalty programs today, the first such announcements since the two companies merged earlier this year. As expected the programs are quite closely aligned, with aspects from each being used in the new program. The changes are a bit of a mixed bag, depending on just how much one flies and how much one spends, but overall there is nothing incredibly surprising in the announcements (UA’s; CO’s).
Perhaps the most important point is that earning on both programs will be combined for qualification into the 2012 program. A customer who credits 10K EQMs to OnePass and 45K EQMs to Mileage Plus has still probably made a mistake but at least the programs will fix it for them when the 2012 program takes effect.
The duration of the program will also be changing. Rather than running through the end of February of the following year the program will now run through the end of January. The main impact of this change will be on folks who make big runs every other year in the first couple months to maintain their status; otherwise it is mostly a non-issue.
One of the most significant changes affecting both programs is the issuance metrics for upgrade instruments. System-wide upgrades (SWUs) and Confirmed Regional upgrades (CR1s) will be changing in both programs. On the SWU side, the United approach to the certificates will be the surviving solution. This means six SWUs will be earnt upon reaching the 100K EQMs/120EQPs tier and two additional SWUs can be earnt for each additional 50K EQMs/60 EQPs. The SWUs will also remain restricted to W fares or higher. For OnePass members this is a change as the Continental SWUs were valid on all fares, though only four were issued annually.
For CR1s the earning rules will be changing rather significantly. OnePass members will have their first opportunity to actually earn CR1s while Mileage Plus members will see their earning ratio decreased. Going forward two CR1s will be earnt at the 75K EQM/90 EQP level and two more for each additional 25K EQMs/30EQPs. For Mileage Plus 1Ks their earning rates will be decreased, while for folks in the 75K range the ability to earn the CR1s is a nice development. It should be noted that the Continental version of the CR1s (and the new SWUs) are going to be issued “mid-year” which could mean anything from April to October based on last year’s performance.
Finally, the two programs have noted that the 75K and 100K levels will have different upgrade priorities in the 2012 program. This is a pretty good indication that there will be four published tiers to the program in 2012, with the qualifications at 25/50/75/100K EQMs or 30/60/90/120 EQPs.
For top spenders the Global Services program will be surviving, replacing Presidential Platinum. This includes the unpublished qualification rules and mostly unpublished benefits. Not too much of a surprise there as the GS program is much more well established.
So who wins and who loses?
- The United folks who fly 75K-100K are going to benefit from the addition of the 4th tier, improved UDU/EUA priority and the ability to earn CR1s now whereas they previously could not.
- All Continental elites who fly more than 75K are going to benefit from the CR1s that they will earn.
- Continental elites who fly a LOT will benefit from getting more SWUs, though the fare restrictions being placed on them are an unfortunate side effect of this change. A net negative for leisure travelers but a positive for folks flying on the company dime.
- Folks in Mileage Plus who fly 50K-75K will lose in that they’ll now have two tiers ahead of them in the upgrade queue (three if you count GS) rather than being bundled with the 75K-100K folks previously.
- Mileage Plus members who fly a LOT will lose out on the CR1 earning rates. What used to be accomplished with only 100K in flying will now take 150K or more.
- Everyone who flies a TON will win with increased CR1 earnings over 150K.
Overall the airlines have been marketing their merger efforts as combining the best of both programs. This initial announcement seems to suggest that they mostly are doing so. Not perfect for everyone, but no major surprises. Yet.
Oh, and they have combined their marketing and PR groups pretty impressively. They’re using the same stock photo images (the woman above) on both announcement web pages.
- Welcome to the new United
- Sneak peak at the first new United plane
- American opens the bar at Admirals Clubs October 1
- Continental/United merger approved by DoJ
- Continental and United announce reciprocity – aka The other shoe drops
- Thus ends the Continental brand
- New United to fly as Continental after all
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