One year has passed since the day United and Continental officially tied the knot and what a year it has been. I predicted in a blog post late on March 2, 2012 that the transition would be bumpy and indeed it was–that first week of post-merger travel was a nightmare for many, including me. But now a year has gone by and the dust has settled. Have things changed for the better?
I would be lying if I said I don’t constantly long for the days of pre-merger legacy United Airlines. It seems most legacy Continental flyers also miss their old carrier. Perhaps most indicative of the post-merger changes that has raised the ire of many elites is the new upgrade system, which is opaque and sadly very unfriendly to those accustomed to complimentary upgrades.
For example, my flight to Philadelphia tonight appeared like this yesterday afternoon, as it has for several days–
Four seats in first class remaining with two in (R) class, indicating upgrade inventory. In the legacy United days, space in R class, then NF class, would have resulted in immediate upgrade clearance for the two at the top of the waitlist. Sadly, not anymore, where the system clears complimentary upgrades on the basis of some supposedly intelligent algorithm. In other words, not when the upgrade can be sold for a few hundred bucks to a non-elite.
I’m sure I will be flying in coach tonight and I have a confession to make–I have not received one complimentary upgrade this year on a transcon flight. I fly from SFO-PHL at least twice a month on Sunday nights and EWR-LAX on Wednesdays or Thursdays. You would think that having flown over 30,000 miles already this year I would have received at least one complimentary upgrade as a 1K flyer. Nope, not even one.
But all of this is just a long introduction to say that times have changed and we are likely never going back. That’s the story of this merger and the consolidation of the airline industry. So don’t take this post as a gripe post–of course I long for the past but longing for the past is frankly a waste of time. My schedule doesn’t allow me to fly through Denver and Chicago in order to increase my chances at getting a complimentary upgrade, but even on those shorter routes I have failed.
So going forward, as we enter the second year of United’s merger, we can only hope for more transparency and a more customer-friendly outlook. It saddens me that my expectations are so low, but in this era of consolidation, I believe that is about the best we can expect. In other words, I am about ready to write off complimentary upgrades, because I do not think American Airlines is going to be much better once their merger with US Airways is complete.
I’ve got a lot of United flying coming up–even with the photo issue still unresolved–and my hope is that the next year will be calmer than the last, with good service and consistent product, even if it is behind the curtain. Maybe even a few pleasant surprises along the way…