Continental enhances travel for full fare passengers

Continental Airlines had the frequent flyer world waiting with baited breath for a ‘big announcement’. In the end, it wasn’t big news at all. It was some small and nearly costless service improvements for full fare flyers that don’t really do alot to make Continental more attractive than its competitors. A disappointment, really.

Continental’s offerings are:

  • Full fare passengers will be able to upgrade if there’s space available after elites have been upgraded.

  • But that won’t happen most of the time, so they won’t be given a middle seat in coach. Well, not really. They’ll be given an aisle seat or window seat if one is available, which is how things work already. The enhancement is that when a full fare passenger is stuck in a middle seat, they’ll get 1000 frequent flyer miles.

  • Full fare passengers get priority baggage handling. Which just amounts to priority baggage tags, which any elite will tell you is meaningless domestically.

  • Full fare passengers will get to use elite security lines where available and where permitted.

The only real benefit is priority security and boarding a la Continental elites. And I understand that Continental is creating separate boarding lanes at many gates and airports for elites and full fare passengers to use so if they don’t board first they can cut the cue.

But this really is very little, and does little to make Continental competitively superior to United and American. Both United and American offer complimentary upgrades to full fare passengers. In United’s case, those upgrades are available 24 hours in advance rather than simply at the gate. And both United and American offer more legroom in coach — American throughout the cabin and United in their economy plus section that’s available to elites and full fare passengers.

In essence, no big deal.

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, 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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