Continental Airlines Tweaks Frequent Flier Program

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Just like death and taxes, anytime you see a headline like this one, you know exactly what the “tweak” is all about. Tweaks to frequent flier programs have become commonplace the past couple of years. What this translates to are booking fees, fewer points, smaller usage windows, and generally a poor customer experience. My wife and I have always been travelers. We’ve been lucky enough to see many fantastic places. I don’t fly a million miles per year, but I have had a couple of 75-100,000 mile years. My conclusion is that “frequent flier” miles aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

I fly American Airlines almost exclusively.  I think I am one of about three people in the world who actually likes American.  I like the experience, the people, and it doesn’t hurt that I fly out of the American home base at DFW airport.  I am Platinum status with American.  Would you like to know the benefit of that status that I wouldn’t want to live without?  I like that I can board the plane first.  Yep, that’s about it; I can board the plane first.  This perk means a lot to me.  I hate waiting in the long line getting on the plane.  I hate watching people try and stuff their giant bags in the carry on space.  I also hate for my bag to be in a different row than me.

Last summer we tried to book a vacation with our miles to somewhere with sand and ocean.  I tried about a thousand different ways to get to anywhere.  I finally gave up on the effort.  What’s the point in taking a stress-free vacation when you have to make 4 stops that take 15 hours to get to when it would take about 4 hours direct?  I ended up redeeming for first-class tickets to Las Vegas.  My reward for my loyalty in spurning other airlines for my travel dime (and trust me that isn’t always easy with a corporate travel account)?  I was able to pay a booking fee to go along with the tickets.  That’s fine I suppose, but I wouldn’t call it a fantastic benefit.  Way to go airlines, in this difficult time…

Here are the “highlights” of the new Continental changes.

  • The addition of a $75 fee to book a reward ticket within 21 days of travel, beginning Dec. 15.  Reward tickets booked more than 21 days in advance will continue to be free, Continental said.
  • Continental said some mileage requirements for reward travel will change for travel booked beginning Oct. 27, although coach tickets would continue to be available at 20,000 miles.
  • Beginning Dec. 15, Continental will charge $75 for non-elite frequent fliers to book a ticket less than 21 days in advance, as well as to redeposit miles or change a reservation.  The fee is $25 for Gold Elite members, $50 for Silver Elite and no charge for Platinum Elite. Generally, Elite fliers are those who fly more than 25,000 miles per year.
  • Continental also increased the number of miles travelers with certain types of fares will earn beginning Jan. 1.

Here’s the link to the full article.

It’s a great thing to be a road warrior.  I’ve tried hard to find some upside here.  I don’t think I am doing too well, but here goes.

  1. No stressful planning of future vacations
  2. Business travel spending continues to drop
  3. Soon there may not be any airlines left — problem solved
  4. You could donate your miles to charity

It’s not much, but there is some upside.

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