Continental Rumors from their Top Brass’ Meeting with Frequent Flyers

Continental hosted a gathering in Houston for a large group of Flyertalkers over the past weekend. They gave tours, sprung for meals, and offered access to top brass.

I’m not much of a Continental flyer, so I didn’t attend, but reports from the event (as posted on Flyertalk.com) are:

Larry Kellner’s presentation offered:

  • The number of first class seats in Continental’s fleet is dropping 3% next year. Continental’s 737-500’s are being reconfigured to have eight rather than the current ten first class seats, accounting for this difference.

  • There were 4.4% more coach awards redeemed and 38% more BusinessFirst awards redeemed in 2004 compared to 2003. (This doesn’t speak to Standard versus EasyPass point levels, nor to availability – increased standard redemptions may come out of a stable pool meaning that redemption was in fact more difficult.)

  • While BusinessFirst upgrades are ‘expensive’ either in terms of miles (on high fares) or miles and co-payments (on lower fares), upgrade redemption has increased suggesting that the price isn’t high relative to market demand.

  • Most upgrades go to elite members who have earned their status, rather than to members receiving complimentary status.

  • Online booking has increased substantially at Continental.com. (In my view this is driven by offering full elite qualifying miles regardless of fare when booking online, combined with the general trend towards internet bookings, rather than a result of the website’s functionality.)

  • Continental will not introduce regional jets larger than 50 seats or first class in regional jets.

  • 50% elite qualifying miles on discount fares aren’t going away. The number of Continental elites rose in 2004 even with this policy.

  • Continental is experimenting with an upsell feature on their website that will alert a customer when a first class seat can be purchased for a small percentage more than coach.

  • Lifetime elite benefits are not on the horizon. Continental may offer increased benefits to members flying more than the 75,000 miles required for platinum.

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 Milepoint.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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