Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Red Carpet Club versus Presidents Club: Closer, still not equal,

I'm heading out to Rome in about two hours, passing the time in the Red Carpet Club at Washington-Dulles International Airport. Back when I used to fly United all of the time, I was here... well, pretty much all of the time.

I haven't been around nearly as much since moving to Continental, as I fly out of Washington-Reagan instead. Since I was last here, though, a few changes have come about in light of the United-Continental merger.

First, Wi-Fi is now free to Presidents Club members. It's always been free for RCC members, but for a while, United wasn't giving daypass cards to PC members. Since United uses T-Mobile for its Wi-Fi, anyone without a card has to buy a daypass for $7.99. Not cool.

Getting the cards for free is cool, but it's still a hassle. Why not just make Wi-Fi open use for anyone in the Club? In a Presidents Club, there's no card or silly login prompt. A user just selects the Continental network, and poof! Online. I like that model better.

Drinks are free too, sort of. Continental has had complimentary drinks in its Clubs for as long as I've been flying with them. They did recently add a "premium" wine selection, but that was a step up from what used to be available (and the house wines are still available). Spirits and beers are all free in the Presidents Club.

United, on the other hand, used to charge $5 in the Red Carpet Club for any alcoholic beverage: wine, beer, or liquor, it didn't matter. Post-merger, they adopted a stance similar to their new partner. Members and guests can get beer, wine, or liquor for free -- but it's a limited selection. Thus, when I first ordered a Bacardi and Diet here, I was cautioned that it would be $7.50; I opted instead for the "house" rum, which was free.

The drink is fine. I mean, rum mixed with soda only has so much nuance. But she forgot my lime, and she didn't put down a napkin. Does that matter? Only if you compare the two clubs, and that's my point.

The Red Carpet Club has improved. Post-merger, it's closer to its Continental counterpart. But they're still not equal.

No comments: