Will the United-Continental Partnership Mean Red Carpet Club Improvements?

One Mile at a Time expects full lounge reciprocity between United and Continental, and predicts that’ll mean free drinks in United’s Red Carpet Clubs.

I believe lounge reciprocity makes sense and will happen, I’ve predicted it in the past. But I’m going to part company on the free drinks.

The assumption is reasonable, “If United and Continental have lounge reciprocity, doesn’t United have to offer a quality product closer to par with Continental’s?”

However, if they do have lounge reciprocity, it doesn’t really matter what the United product looks like. People will either buy the lounge membership of the program they’re associated with (lazy consumers) or go with the lower price. Either way, they have access to United’s lounges, whatever those lounges provide.

Besides, if United was going to improve amenities the rational thing to have done would have been to announce the improvements at the same time as the hefty $100 price increase! It makes no sense to raise price and then later offer new amenities. The only way to explain this would be stupidity (which I really can’t bet against).

While it’s certainly possible that United could provide cocktails free of charge in their lounges (and I haven’t spoken with United about — I suppose I really should at least make a call to sniff around before making baseless predictions), I never bet on a product improvement from United, at least given current management.

They launch initiatives to great fanfare and then scale back or delay. The new business class retrofit has gone slowly, and where’s the enhanced soft product we were promised – especially the improved meals? How well has p.s. service between New York-JFK and San Frnacisco/Los Angeles been sustained? (Hint: very very badly.)

So I agree on lounge reciprocity, and hope to be proven wrong but would bet against free drinks in Red Carpet Clubs.

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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