Continental shifting pricing to the United model

The deliberate pacing of the merger between Continental and United Airlines has left many more open questions than it has provided answers for customers. The answers that have come out are mostly being seen by reading between the lines of various announcements the carriers have made rather than based on official statements from the new organization. Little things, like what the new elite status levels will be in the combined frequent flyer program, for example, are only implied rather than stated outright. Sure, we know officially what the paint job will look like and what the operating certificate is for the new company but there are still way more open questions than there are answers out there.

One area in which the two carriers have operated differently historically has been with respect to upgrade policies for their elite members on full fare tickets. Continental has permitted customers on the highest fares to upgrade immediately at the time of ticketing while United has not. United has limited routes with discounted first class fares but they are open to all customers. It was not particularly clear how that policy would be reconciled in the new company until Continental made some adjustments to their fare systems over this past weekend.

Continental has rejiggered much of its fare structure in the past couple days and the discounted B fares are starting to disappear.

LaGuardia – San Jose, CA

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Boston – Portland, OR

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Sure, that’s just a couple samples, but there are more and the trend is pretty clear: the discounted forward cabin seats are drying up.

The real question that remains is whether there will be any discounted B fares and, if so, whether elites in the new program will be able to immediately upgrade on those discounted B fares is most definitely still up in the air. The fact that the fares are disappearing, however, does not bode well for this benefit.

I’m sure that there will be an actual announcement eventually, but for now things are not looking good on this front.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. As a cheap and selfish K/L/S/T fare traveler, I say good riddance to CO’s premium class pricing structure. Maybe now I can start clearing on transcons to/from EWR.

  2. Interesting theory, but I doubt that’s the way it plays out. Yes, as a cheap fare purchaser my chances for the freebies go up a smidge. But at what cost?

    No more 150% credit on VERY affordable fares to Asia.

    No more access to instant upgrades on the rare case that I can find a good B fare (or M as a Platinum).

    I may ride up front a sliver more but it’ll cost me in the end.

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