Continental-United merger offers integrated products and extended reach

CONTINENTAL Airlines’ (CO) merger with United Airlines (UA), which was completed on March 3, sees the consolidation of both carriers’ fleets, products, services and policies to create a streamlined customer experience.

The new entity, branded as United Airlines but with updated livery and logo, will offer passenger services with a common check-in process, ancillary product portfolio and frequent flyer programme under UA’s MileagePlus.

The airline has also revamped its international, longhaul premium products by introducing United Global First (first class) and United BusinessFirst (business class). In 2Q2012, the longhaul first-class product will feature new amenities such as an expanded in-flight menu, upgraded bedding and branded skincare products.

In Hong Kong, UA and CO package tours sold under the United Vacations and Continental Airlines Holidays banners, and managed by Jetour Holidays and Travel Resources respectively, will be integrated over the next few months. A tender will be issued in April/May to select a single vendor to sell all the packages under a new brand banner within the United Vacations portfolio.

Simon Wo, general manager, Jetour Holiday (China) said: “We have handled the packages for UA (in Hong Kong) for the last five years. Our contract will end later this month, but I believe it will be extended to June after the tender result is completed. We will definitely go for the tender bidding.”

“So far, the merger has gone smoothly without any glitches. In fact, the merger means expanded networks. Now we can fly to Hawaii via Guam,” he added.

Tommy Tam, owner, Arrow Travel Hong Kong, said: “We haven’t heard of any troubles from other travel experts about the UA/CO ticketing. It’s so far, so good.”

With the additional planes from the merger, UA is planning to invest US$550 million on various aircraft upgrades, including adding flat-bed seats, economy seats with extra legroom, and WiFi connectivity and streaming in-flight video capabilities by mid-2012. Up to 24 new aircraft, including five Boeing 787 Dreamliners, are scheduled for delivery this year.

UA also intends to hold trade seminars in April to update travel experts about its new reservations system.

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