Continental Shift

Continental Shift

“No one likes change but babies in diapers,” says literary critic Barbara Johnson. And change in the frequent flyer world is often met with whining and a tear or two. With this in mind, Continental Airlines recently went straight to the heart of frequent flyers to deliver some bad news to their members and to give them a chance to voice their opinion about the changes. Continental’s “CO Insider” Scott O’Leary started a FlyerTalk thread outlining upcoming changes to the OnePass frequent flyer program. It takes guts to go directly to your most frequent flyers with changes you know they won’t be terribly happy about so we tip our hat to Scott and the folks at Continental, but the news is indeed not good. Members can say goodbye to online booking bonus miles and will have to shell out more miles for some awards, among other changes.

Effective Dec. 1, 2007, members with a U.S. address will no longer receive 500 bonus miles for online bookings at (those outside the U.S. will continue to earn the bonus). Continental is not alone with this decision, Delta, Northwest and US Airways have eliminated online bonuses. United, American and ATA continue to offer bonus miles when booking online.

Standard Rewards will be renamed “SaverPass” awards — the name will be the only change, there will be no changes to availability.

Continental Airlines and OnePass now reserves the right to change any aspect of the OnePass program at any time with 30 days advance notice to active members (previously, 60 days advance notice was required).

Mileage requirements for first class award travel within or between the 48 contiguous U.S., Alaska and Canada will increase for the first time in over a decade to 50,000 miles from 45,000 for SaverPass awards and to 100,000 miles from 90,000 for EasyPass awards. With the increase, OnePass now matches the US Airways Dividend Miles award chart for these two awards. United Mileage Plus also requires 50,000 for its restricted first class award. Other major U.S. airlines continue to offer these awards for 45,000 and 90,000 miles, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they follow the lead of US Airways and Continental and up the mileage.

The mileage requirement for some international EasyPass BusinessFirst awards will also increase. Awards between North America and the following regions will change: Asia (series 4) will increase to 300,000 miles from 250,000; India/Africa/Middle East (series 10) will increase to 300,000 miles from 250,000; Southern South America (series 5a) will increase to 250,000 miles from 180,000. The biggest jump is for awards to Southern South America where the 70,000-mile difference represents a 40 percent increase. Southern South America includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. In comparison, American Airlines has a 250,000-mile award for southern South America at their highest fare class, but the rest of the “Big Six” offer awards to this part of the world at lower amounts.

The award changes will apply to redemptions made after Feb. 1, 2008. Tickets issued before Feb. 1, 2008, will be honored at the lower award amounts, regardless of travel dates, so be sure to book an award soon if you have plans to redeem for any of the awards that are changing. Other award flights on Continental remain at the same redemption levels.

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