Continental exited Skyteam last night. Or as I prefer to think about it, they were liberated.
That’s because on Tuesday they join the Star Alliance.
Continental has always been known to be stingy in offering award inventory. And this was a huge deal, because their partners were known to be the stingiest as well. Skyteam award inventory isn’t nearly as generous as Star or oneworld counterparts. Just try booking more than one business class seat at the same time on the same flights between the U.S. and Asia.
Going forward I still expect Continental to manage its own award inventory in a similar way. After all, Continental offers relatively small international premium cabins and employs a strategy to actually sell those seats (at a discount) rather than offering them for redemption. Continental is also known to hold back their premium class award inventory, it often seems to become available much closer to departure than with their counterparts.
But now it doesn’t matter. Continental offers a decent domestic product (though I’ll still take United for economy plus, service issues aside legroom matters more to me in coach, I do find their crews to be generally good and food better up front). Now you can fly Continental, credit miles to Continental, and redeem those miles on Star Alliance partners.
Whereas there didn’t used to be premium international redemption options for first class on many airlines (Qantas being an exception, but early last year they increased the price of US-Autralia Qantas First Class awards from 135,000 miles to 285,000), now there’s a myriad of international premium class options like ANA, Asiana, Lufthansa, Swiss, Thai…
Their new award chart is pretty good and they made several other positive changes in advance of joining Star: offering full elite qualifying credit on discount airfares, and eliminating Saturday night stay requirements on award tickets.
Indeed, Continental has been liberated, or at least Onepass members have had their miles liberated.