Continental is Liberated from Skyteam, Star Will Be Much Better for Onepass Members

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.

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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  1. Gary —

    With Continental’s entry into Star, which of the three U.S. programs do you think is the best for earning miles with an eye toward premium-class international redemption?

    Continental has a history of award stinginess, United has Starnet blocking, and US Airways has neither, but for some reason strikes me as the least stable/trustworthy program of the three.

    I’m trying to figure out my earning plan for 2010, and can’t decide among the three carriers. (I’ve got comparable balances in all three, status on none for next year, and a travel pattern that is so erratic that I’ll either end next year with either 15K EQMs or 50+K EQMs in one program.)

  2. @Craig, depends on the award you want. Obviously not United because of blocking. Continental is stingy with awards on their own metal, but who cares? You have access to the whole Star Alliance, and that’s all you need the miles for anyway. Their routing rules will likely be much tougher than US Airways’ e.g. I imagine US-Asia will be via the Pacific only,. So whether you go Continental or US Airways depends on what you want to redeem FOR. And of course their award charts are a bit different.

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