In an effort to draw more high-fare paying customers, Continental Airlines announced in late September that customers sitting in the cheap seats will no longer be able to trade in miles to upgrade to First-Class seats. Beginning on Jan. 1, Continental’s Non-Elite (that’s worth repeating – Non-Elite) OnePass members who use a series O award to travel on the least expensive fares (T, Q and V class) will no longer be able to use miles to upgrade.
Mark Bergsrud, vice president of marketing for Continental, said the change is consistent with other airlines and though it is expected to lead to an increase in outstanding mileage liability, the airline is expecting the cost to be offset by the additional high fares being sold.
“If you buy low (fares) and want to use miles to sit up front, it isn’t going to happen,” Bergsrud told Inside Flyer.
Don’t expect to waitlist your way up front either. OnePass members will no longer be able to do that on series O upgrade rewards.
Bergsrud said he knows these changes will be met with some resistance, but ultimately should draw elite-level customers to the airline. “We are hoping to attract more elite buyers into our programs as opposed to someone else,” Bergsrud said.
Getting into step with American Airlines, Continental has also announced change fees on award tickets. Fees range from $20 to $75, depending on the type of transaction, and in keeping with its emphasis on elite-level service, Continental is charging less to Platinum, Gold and Silver members than Non-Elite members.