Continental announced some major changes today that brings their program closely in line with United. These changes mostly affect their top tier flyers. Big things to note:
1) System-wide Upgrades can no longer be used on cheap fare classes S, T, K, L and G in BusinessFirst markets
2) You now need 120 segments, instead of 100, in order to reach top tier.
3) Members will earn two Regional Upgrades after completing 75,000 EQMs or 90 EQPs. Two additional Regional Upgrades will be issued for every additional 25,000 EQMs or 30 EQPs. Regional Upgrades, valid for upgrades to First Class, can be confirmed as early as the time of booking. This is a positive for Continental flyers, but a negative for most United flyers who got 8 regional upgrades a year for flying 10,000 miles a quarter. Now they need to wait until they hit 75,000 EQMs and will only earn 8 CR1s if they hit 150,000 EQMs.
4) United/Continental is confirming their elite program in 2012 will have 4 levels: 25,000, 50,000, 75,000, 100,000
5) The merged airline is moving towards the Continental style “higher fare for upgrade” model, which is probably going to be more profitable in the long-run
6) Not a peep was mentioned about Economy Plus. I wouldn’t be surprised if Economy Plus is eliminated in order to pack more seats on the plane and instead elites are guaranteed exit rows/bulkheads, which is what most airlines do.
Overall, my feeling is that most United/Continental flyers will be negatively benefited by these changes. A few uber-flyers may see a nominal change in the amount of regional upgrades, but for the most part, flyers will have to fly and pay more to get the upgrades they have become accustomed to getting.