Update on the Minutiae of the United-Continental Merger

Generally good piece in today’s Cleveland Plain-Dealer on United-Continental integration, focusing on the minutiae.

The author goes through policy changes like crated pets being will loaded backwards, rather than forwards (score that one for United) and the switch in boarding from zones over to rows at United, to mirror Continental, and then quickly shifting back to zones – a policy that will spread across Continental going forward.

On aircraft configuration, in addition to keeping economy plus and international first class on some routes but not others, she notes that the airline’s 787 orders are for two-cabin aircraft, and that the layout of their 777s are different:

Nor has United said whether it will go with Continental’s wider business class seats on aircraft such as Boeing 777s used on international routes, said Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst at Forrester Research. Both airlines fly the plane with business-class seats that can recline flat. On Continental they are 22 inches wide and six to a row. On United they are 20.5 inches wide and eight to a row.

On outstanding questions, some others she flags as to-be-determined:

No details have been announced on the pattern on beverage napkins. And the one-pour or two-pour issue is also up in the air: Should flight attendants hand you the can or pour your pop and keep what’s left for the next customer?

She references the contentiousness of some of these decisions on message boards, there she’s referring to mostly the Milepoint threads started by UA Insider (I spoke with the reporter for about half an hour, she found me through Milepoint and we went through the threads for many of the examples and changes that folks are concerned with).

To me, the most important outstanding issue which I had explained to the reporter) is:

Message boards also have bubbled over complimentary upgrades for elite customers. United gives free upgrades on domestic flights to elite MileagePlus members before offering upgrades for sale. Continental tries to sell first-class seats to coach customers throughout the booking process, before providing premium seats as an elite benefit.

“We’re still weaving the systems together,” O’Leary said.

I do love the extensive detail the piece gets into, though, like bowling ball and tandem bike checked baggage policies. And while I did know that United was going to keep Channel 9 inflight air traffic control perhaps I’ve been under a rock but I hadn’t seen it confirmed that Continental aircraft would be getting channel 9 — I did tell the reporter that this was important, and she confirmed that channel 9 would be “Added to Continental aircraft beginning in 2012 (phased in by aircraft type.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thanks for the great update….very interesting.

    a. It did seem UA’s bus. class seat was narrow but didn’t realize such a difference….20.5″ vs. 22″ on CO. And UA seems to have made a strategic mistake by putting those seats in 2-4-2 config. Those center people still have to crawl over someone to get out. Cont.’s 2-2-2 config. sounds very nice.

    b. As for upselling thru out the booking & checkin process, there’s been many comments posted by 1K’s on flyertalk.com. Just search “UA mileage plus upselling” there. Their comments are interesting on upselling, as its difficult to upgrade in advance, on many UA’s int’l. routes (even for 1K’s). Apparently, its not a random activity; many think it’s a policy.

  2. Thanks for making me feel better about not knowing they were phasing Ch9 into CO planes. 😉

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