Continental Dumps News of Their Frequent Flyer Program Changes on a Friday Afternoon

I guess they’ve learned some things from politics. The timestamp in my e-mail box is 3:29pm Eastern.

First, Continental will charge $15 for a first checked bag within the US and Canada effective October 7th for tickets purchased from today forward. Elites (including Skyteam elites), first class passengers, and full fare passengers are exempt.

Then come the changes to the frequent flyer program. Here’s the bad news.

Continental is ending 500 mile minimums for short hops effective January 1. They follow US Airways and United on this change. Best strategy is to credit those short flights to another program which still offers minimum mileage.

Very few flyers will find that the 200 or 350 miles will make a difference in award redemption or elite requalification. But it does require vigilance, as accruing more mileage in another program does have that tradeoff for those who need Onepass miles.

Oddly, the change only effects tickets purchased on or after November 15 — so if you get your New Year travel purchases in early you will still accrue the minimum mileage.

Meanwhile, Continental is increasing the mileage requirements for award tickets to Israel.

But here’s the killer: Continental is reducing elite bonus miles from 125% to 100% for Platinums and from 50% to 25% for Silvers. Platinums and Gold elites will both be earning 100% mileage bonuses going forward. At least Continental hasn’t made the suicidal change that US Airways announced, ending elite bonuses altogether! This will hurt Continental elites for sure, but Continental was already quite generous on these bonuses relative to other carriers. (Then again, it was the extra generous bonuses that made the frequent need to spend extra mileage for seat availability somewhat more palatable — Continental prints tons of mileage, and tends to offer relative difficulty in securing award seats on its own planes.)

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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Comments

  1. Publicly traded companies will often dump bad news late Friday afternoons to try and minimize immediate movement on their stock, as well. They are also hoping less people read Saturday newspapers and it blows over my Monday. Not as effective any more give the rise of the Internet!

  2. Convenient excuse. Air Canada and British Midland both offer mileage minimums… US Airways, a domestic partner of United’s, offers (4) tiers of elite membership an NO elite bonus miles… There’s no inherent reason that these policies need to be aligned. Besides, Continental’s release of premium class award seats has hardly been aligned…

  3. Point of inquiry. I frequently fly Continental and Delta. Right now, I have been registering my ff miles to each airline according to which flight I am taking. My hometown is a Continental hub and I would like to use them more often, but I am not an elite member yet. I am a Delta gold member, but worry that my status will lower because I fly Continental so often. Would it better off to register all my points with one airline over the other? Does one airline offer more benefits than the other? What’s your advice?

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