What United + Continental means to YOU

The new United livery keeps the Continental look, but changes the name. (Photo: United Airlines)

United and Continental boards have approved a merger of the two carriers, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.

What does all this mean to TravelSkills Readers?

FARES: While consolidation and fewer competitors ultimately leads to higher prices, the reality is that Continental and United never really competed with each other out of Bay Area airports. And there are few routes from here that are dominated by the two. For example, nonstop flights between SFO and Houston on both United and Continental have always been expensive– expect them to stay that way. Those who want a deal on the route should consider a one-stop flight on low-fare carriers Southwest or Frontier.

FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAMS: Since it appears that United will be the surviving entity, Mileage Plus members should not expect any huge changes. If you’ve got any extra Continental OnePass miles lying around, those will be added to your Mileage Plus balance. Good news: OnePass has always been one of the best rated frequent flyer programs out there, so maybe Mileage Plus will cherry pick the good parts? Time will tell.

EARNING, BURNING MILES: Mileage Plus members already have access to the Continental network due to its recent inclusion in the Star Alliance, which added nice earning and burning opportunities where Continental is strong, such as in Mexico, Central and South America as well as the South Pacific (on Air Micronesia). See Continental Route Map.

ECONOMY PLUS: United is the only legacy carrier to offer its frequent flyers roomier coach class seats. Continental does not offer the equivalent of United’s Economy Plus seating (which I really appreciate on the long haul) so I hope the concept survives.

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P.S. FLIGHTS: I’m wondering if we’ll see those nice P.S. flights between SFO and New York-JFK shift to Newark where Continental has a large, efficient hub operation and better club space… at least nicer than United’s minor presence at JFK.

SFO AIRPORT: The combination of United and Continental will mean Continental will leave Concourse 1 and operations will move to United’s hub at Concourse 3, which will get even MORE crowded than it already is at peak times.

BRAGGADOCIO. SFO will also get bragging rights for being a hub of “the world’s largest airline” which will result when United and Continental merge. The new United will take that title away from the new Delta, which when it merged with Northwest, enjoyed a short life as the biggest player.

WHO NEXT? American and US Airways are likely entering a major flirtation stage at this point. They are the remaining two legacy airlines and will be dwarfed by the new United and new Delta.

More info from United on the merger here.

It’s a little early to tell, but here are my initial thoughts. I’d be eager to hear what you think about the merger and how it might affect your flying. Please leave your comments below.

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  • fthomas

    presently have close to 300K United Airlines Miles and I have come to the conclusion they are worthless or close to that. I would like to take my family overseas for a trip. I cannot find a single destination with open seats, even a year out, with Standard Miles. I even tried one seat from Denver to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for every day for a year out. Not a single Standard Mileage opening. I sent United customer service an email with my issue and they have not replied… that was a few months ago.

    These mileage programs are like Wall Street and a big implosion of all these programs has occurred, but there is no one to bail them out. United Airlines is just not telling everyone that there is nothing in the accounts to redeem against. A big fat scam.

  • Malcolm Kettering

    yes, AA will be moving temporarily to Terminal 2 with an eventual move to Terminal 1 I think by 2012. That obviously frees up space for United in AA’s T3 concourse. It is all about moving alliance airlines into co-located concourses/gates. So AA will eventually be near to its Oneworld international partners (CX, BA, JL, LA), presumably with an airside transfer route between T1 and International. United and its Star partners will take over T3 and the other side of International. Not sure if/how Sky Team will be able to consolidate. The other good news for AA travelers would be proximity to codeshare partner Alaska’s gates, greatly simplifying transfers between those two.

  • United Frequent Flyer Member

    If United, as the new combined airline, gets rid of economy plus seating then they will have lost me as a customer who always chooses United (if at all possible) when flying.

  • BAT

    I heard that American is moving to the renovated Terminal 2 with Virgin America. Maybe UA/CO and US will take over American’s old gates in Terminal 3?

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