I Disagree with Randy

Randy Petersen is usually spot-on, but a Houston Chronicle piece from last week on changes to Continental’s frequent flyer program for 2005 have him making a couple of claims that I disagree with.

Continental has extended the offer of full elite qualifying miles for discount fares booked on its website, introduced a dedicated elite telephone desk, joined Skyteam (with its concommitant benefits), and increased the money ‘buy up’ required in order to use miles to upgrade with miles on from discounted airfares on international flights.

Randy says:

    Randy Petersen, editor and publisher of Inside Flyer magazine and an authority on frequent-flyer programs, said, “I have some problem with Continental wanting to take both my miles and money for a BusinessFirst upgrade, but they are the only airline offering these (international) upgrades against the cheapest tickets.


    “Continental’s problem,” Petersen continued, “is that ever since they started BusinessFirst, they’ve had the best business class service across the Atlantic. So I can understand the reluctance to give it away. They have some issues with capacity controls.”

I have to take issue with both claims. American allows upgrades from the lowest fares internationally, and they do not require payment of a fee along with miles. And while United doesn’t offer mileage upgrades from the very cheapest international fares, they do offer mileage upgrades which usually do not require a substantial fare premium — certainly nothing as drastic as Continental’s buy up costs.

And while Continental’s business product is generally good (and while their domestic first class service is probably the best in the U.S.) it can’t be said to be “the best business class service across the Atlantic.”

I’d give that nod to British Airways hands down. And I’d rate Virgin Atlantic as superior, and I even prefer United’s seats over Continental’s though Continental’s service trumps United. Then we can’t forget the fact that Singapore actually flies from New York’s JFK to Frankfurt.

Randy, I just think you’re letting Continental off a little bit easy here. They aren’t the best, though they sure charge as if they are.

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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