Continental Airlines continues to push their website, this time in a new and interesting way.
Airlines began by offering mileage bonuses for online flight bookings. This was win-win. They took business away from travel agents, and even reduced their telephone agent costs at the same time. This was worth well more than the cost of awarding bonus miles. Plus they figured they were changing consumer behavior at the same time, creating substantial long-run cost savings. Some of the most lucrative offers (such as America West’s offering 3,000 bonus miles per booking) have gone away as consumers have taken to the web for making travel arrangements.
Then airlines began offering bonuses for booking award tickets online. While this doesn’t take business away from the travel agents, it does save substantial labor costs for the airline. Award tickets are more time consuming than revenue bookings — for instance because agents have to search and scour for available seats and because airlines generally offer courtesy holds on awards which results in multiple calls. So pushing these bookings to the web can help reduce call center volume.
Now Continental is offering 1000 bonus miles for making changes to reservations online. This offer is valid through December 31st and can be earned twice. (Hat tip to Free Frequent Flyer Miles.)
Now that the major carriers generally offer this functionality on their websites, I’d expect to see others matching this offer soon.