As the newly combining Northwest and Delta adds fees and reduces elite bonus miles, Continental seems to be moving in the opposite direction.
Continental will still permit the old, higher-level elite bonus mile accumulation for elites with their premium co-branded credit card, and Continental is actually taking away fees on award redemption. Changes made by all members more than 21 days in advance of travel will be free, as long as the original and destination remain the same. (Platinums remain exempt even within 21 days.) The neat thing about this is it isn’t just date changes that are fee-free, you can change times, airline partners, and even routing without incurring a fee.
This makes sense. As it breaks off its partnership with Delta/Northwest come the end of October, its frequent flyers and the frequent flyers of its soon to be former partners will be making decisions about which carrier to stick with moving forward. Drawing a contrast makes good sense.
Meanwhile, United continues to block its members from booking award seats being offered by United’s partners. Informally, Continental has suggested that it will not engage in this practice. Also a good move, making the airline potentially the preferred Star Alliance carrier within North America. (Continental certainly has a better domestic premium product, it lacks economy plus, and international upgrades are harder though United is introducing Continental-style co-pays as well — United’s only real advantage will be Systemwide upgrades for 100,000 mile flyers which are increasingly difficult to use in advance.)
It remains to be seen the details of how Continental’s partnership with United will work, and how it will handle Star Alliance awards, but Continental does seem to be moving in a positive direction.