Holly Hegeman reports that Graham Atkinson will “not be staying with the “new” United.”
Though United’s Jeff Foland will run the combined loyalty program in his place.
This seems like a strange move to me, they’re cleaning house at the top but leaving a United person in place.
I still expect that program to be called Mileage Plus, it’s the name that the larger pool of members are identified with. And I assume they inherit the Mileage Plus architecture. So at least initially more features of the United program than the Continental one, though I fully expect changes between now and the day the switch is flipped to merge membership lists.
First, I assume that some time after the United-Continental transaction closes, but before the programs themselves combine, that there will be a way to move miles back-and-forth between the two programs. US Airways-America West did this. Delta-Northwest did this. It will be expected.
Second, once that happens members will have a window in which they can take advantage of the best of both programs — United offers one-way awards, Continental more generous routing rules (a stopover and an open jaw rather htan just one or the other on awards between geographic regions). And of course Continental doesn’t ‘block’ award inventory.
Third, Starnet blocking has to go away. During a period where members can move miles back and forth they can use miles without blocking by moving the points to Continental. Putting the Continental folks in charge, given that they haven’t engaged in blocking of partner awards, suggests that they might not with a combined program. And United’s own blocking has been much, much lighter than any time in years since early May. I had never seen United allow booking of Thai premium class seats between Europe and Bangkok, and I can regularly access Lufthansa’s transatlantic award inventory, something that was nearly impossible at end of April.
Fourth, we’ll get to keep United’s one-way awards, but also get United’s expiring miles. We’ll probably get United’s award routing rules, as well. That’s all a trade which is worthwhile if we lose the blocking of award inventory, though I’d love to keep Continental routing rules.
I do worry somewhat about Jeff Foland in particular running the loyalty program. As Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales for United he’s in charge of customer contact centers (so their offshare call center implementation) and eCommerce (united.bomb).
These are certainly “interesting times” that Continental and United loyalty members live in.