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Continental.com is one of the better airline sites for booking awards – it shows a decent amount of partner availability and it can put together some pretty robust, complicated trips. Historically, my three biggest gripes with it were 1) That it will sneakily book you into the wrong cabin of service 2) That international first class is not searchable and 3) Not all Star Alliance partners are shown.
Well, this past weekend two of those concerns were addressed by some pretty nifty updates to the award booking tool at continental.com. Issues with the “sneaky” award pricing are now resolved by a “Mixed Cabin” icon that alerts the user to double-check that their cabins requested are indeed what’s included. The second change is the addition of international first class, which on one hand will make award searches easier, but harder because I’m sure more people will book these awards, thus reducing availability for those of us who are “in the know.” However, I think these changes are a big step forward for frequent flyers and I hope the other airlines take notice. American and US Airways are awful at showing partner award availability (in fact, they pretty much don’t at all) and Delta has a lot of things to work out from an IT perspective as well as with showing more partner availability online (I would LOVE to get back the nwa.com functionality of booking Korean Airline awards!).
While Continental definitely leads the pack, they still could improve the Star Alliance availability by adding Swiss, Turkish, TAM, Singapore and South African availability. And for those of you with US Airways, United or any other Star Alliance miles – you can use Continental.com to search for Star Alliance awards and then call your carrier to get them booked. All Saver Pass awards should be bookable using any Star Alliance miles. And for anyone with United miles, you can switch them to your Continental account instantly (and vice versa) for free using this method.
What are your thoughts on these enhancements? Is it selfish of me to be upset that first class awards are now showing online for all to book?