Apr 042012

As most of you probably know, United and Continental officially merged for all purposes a few weeks back – and there’s been more than a little drama since.  Everyone’s talking about insane drama with bitter flight crews, gate agents, computer foul-ups, missed upgrades, and the list goes on and on.  The short of it is, nobody seems terribly happy with what’s happened post-merger.

Fortunately, my experience in the last month has been different, so I thought I’d share 10 things I’ve found positive about the merger in the last month:

1)  The 1K line – lots of people have been complaining about long hold times, angry agents, etc.  But, I’ve found little to no hold time, agents are very friendly as long as you’re understanding that they’re on a learning curve with the new computer systems, and pretty much business as usual.  So far, this is a wash.

2)  Crews – in fairness, I have yet to fly mainline since the merger.  I’ve been doing lots of commuting on ERJs (mainly ExpressJet) and the crews have been fabulous.  Friendly, understanding, and kind.  No gripe at all here, and 1A on the ERJ-145 might as well be first class with its legroom for a 1 hour flight.

3)  Smisek – everyone is complaining about his smug and insincere welcome videos.  Again, I haven’t noticed, because I’ve been flying express where his mug isn’t omnipresent.  I guess that’s one good thing about ERJs!

4)  Seating – again, when there’s no first class on the plane, there’s nothing to get upset about.  I’ve been routinely booking less than a week out, and almost always get my preferred seat!

5)  Airfares – absolutely no complaint.  For the bookings I’ve made in the last couple months they’ve been completely in-line with my expectations, and I even picked up a couple of amazing last-minute eSavers.  Can’t complain here at all!

6)  Reward Tickets – again, no complaints.  I’ve booked a couple of last-minute award tickets, and found availability to be at least as good if not better than before the merger.  I’ll reserve judgement, but still no complaints.

7)  Upgrades – I will reserve judgement here.  I have a couple of B fares booked to Europe and Asia, both of which appear empty but the upgrade won’t clear.  If they do eventually I’ll chalk it up to the desire to be profitable – which I like as a stockholder.  However, the ability to not confirm any upgrades in advance is a definite minus of the new combined programme.

8] Compensation – this is one area I’ve seen a major decline.  I had a flight yesterday that was many hours late, and so far, have yet to hear from United with any sort of apology or compensation.   The old United would have proactively e-mailed and offered something.

9)  Destinations – who are we kidding – this is a major win.  Combining United and Coninental has probably doubled our available destinations, and I don’t think anyone would complain about this one.  I know it’s been a major plus for me so far.

10)  Catering – despite only flying ERJs since the merger, there’s been a major decline here.  No snacks at all, two of my last 4 segments they haven’t loaded ice OR alcohol on the plane…it just seems disorganized and like “it’s short so why should we care.”  That might be the case, but I know lots of folks pay $500+ one way for these segments, so that will leave a very bitter taste.

As someone who usually does lots of transoceanic, but lately has been doing lots of very high fare cross-border fares that’s my take on the last month.  Would love to hear from others!

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