Sunday, November 14, 2010

Post-merger update: United and Continental

It's been a little over a month since United and Continental concluded their legal merger.  While still operating as separate airlines, both carriers are now owned by the same company (United-Continental Holdings) and there have been some changes to bring things into line: 
  • The Red Carpet Club no longer charges for bar service.

  • Each airline includes the other's elite flyers in eligibility lists for complimentary upgrades.

  • CEO Jeff Smisek addresses both sets of passengers in his pre-takeoff video recording.
Flying with United over the Veterans Day holiday, though, what struck me were the differences:
  • Both airlines now offer buy-on-board food, but United's menu is different--and about 50% more expensive, with a salad going for $6.50 on a Continental flight and almost $10.00 on one operated by United.

  • Both airlines' lounges offer complimentary wi-fi, but at the Red Carpet Club you'll need to get a scratch-off card with a code on it, while Continental offers open connectivity to anyone inside its lounge.
Of course, it's going to take time to get all of this straight, and as I've said before, I'm not in any way opposed to the airlines charging prices that make them profitable.  But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that what ultimately emerges from this process will be an airline that sets a higher bar for U.S. airlines. 

Here's hoping that United and Continental are better together than they were apart.

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