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Airlines plan to combine miles

Tue., May 4, 2010

United-Continental duo may be reality by 2011

United Airlines’ agreement Sunday to acquire Continental Airlines, creating the world’s largest carrier, appears to be a good one for business travelers.

United and Continental combined fly to 370 locations and have hubs in Houston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. They also fly to major cities such as Beijing, Tokyo, Rome and Munich.

The top executives of the new airline say that ample competition in its major markets will make boosting ticket prices for leisure travelers tough to do. Time will tell.

Here are some questions and answers about how the combination of the two airlines will impact travelers.

Q.So, will I be flying on United or Continental planes in the future?

A.The planes will carry the United name, but they’ll have the Continental globe logo on the tail, and Continental’s blue color scheme.

Q.What happens to my frequent flier miles?

A.The airlines say they will merge Continental’s OnePass miles program with United’s Mileage Plus. They haven’t detailed their plans. Frequent fliers for United can already redeem on Continental, and vice-versa.

Q.Does this mean the airlines have combined? Can I use my United ticket on Continental?

A.Whoa, that plane is still at the gate. The two airlines will operate separately until the deal closes. They’re hoping that happens by the end of the year. They have an existing code-share agreement that allows them to sell tickets on each other’s flights. That hasn’t changed.

Q.This airline would be huge. Will it have a monopoly in some cities?

A.On a few routes, yes. Right now United and Continental have the only nonstops from Cleveland to Denver, and from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. J.P. Morgan counted 11 overlapping routes that would be left with just one or two carriers. On most routes, there is competition from other airlines, many of them discounters. Continental and United said they have no overlap on international routes.

Q.I have a Chase credit card that earns United or Continental miles. What will happen to those cards?

A.It’s a good bet the cards will be integrated after the merger.

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