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The New United Boosts Mexico and China, Adds Frequent Flier Reciprocity

Yesterday, the new United continued tweaking its offerings with three announcements on Mexico, China, and frequent flier reciprocity. While I’m sure there are going to be a few big announcements over the next few months, I imagine we’ll see a lot more small ones like these as the two airlines march toward one. I’m certainly not planning to write about these things every time they happen, but I thought yesterday’s were particularly interesting.

More Mexico
One of the announcements was a compilation of a bunch of moves being made in Mexico, some done before the merger and some new. Here’s what’sUnited Expands Mexico happening.

  • LAX to Leon daily on a Continental 737-500
  • Cancun to Austin, San Antonio, and Raleigh/Durham Saturday-only during winter season on Continental 737-700s
  • LAX to Mexico City goes from daily to three times daily on United
  • Chicago to Mexico City goes from Saturday-only to twice daily on United
  • San Francisco to Mexico City goes from daily to twice daily on United
  • Denver to Mexico City new daily service during the winter holiday season

One of these stands out like a sore thumb. I mean, Raleigh/Durham to Cancun? Delta is already flying that as a Saturday-only service, so is there really enough demand for two? There has to be something behind the scenes there. But the rest make a lot of sense on the surface.

All the Mexico City flying is a result of the perfect storm. When Mexicana shut down, it left a vacuum for more flights between Mexico and the US. But then the FAA declared Mexico a Category 2 country which meant that Mexican carriers could no longer add service until the country fixes the problem. That left huge opportunity for US carriers, and most of them have been beefing up service to fill the void.

I also really like the LAX-Leon flight. I could never figure out why United refused to look at more LAX-Mexico flying, but if anyone can do it, it’s Continental. This has to be the brainchild of the Continental guys, and I imagine we’ll see more like it. At least, I hope that’s the case.

Fighting American in Shanghai
Glad to see the stiff competition between United and American hasn’t disappeared with the Continental merger. It’s just moved to China. For years, China Eastern has been the only airline flying LAX to Shanghai nonstop. American has had its code on that flight for a long time as well. But now China Eastern is going to join SkyTeamUnited American Fight and Delta will be the airline’s US-based partner. So American had to decide what to do. It apparently saw enough opportunity on the route to apply for service on its own. The DOT approved the application almost instantly.

But now, United isn’t happy about that and has applied for service itself. Great, what a waste. There was nothing stopping United from asking for this before, but it’s like the little kid that wants what his brother has. This flight would not only divert connections from the current San Francisco flight, but it would also flood the market with a lot of seats, if approved. (Is there even another frequency available in the bilateral agreement?) Either way, I don’t like this move.

Economy Plus for All
Lastly, OnePass and MileagePlus got even closer by implementing further reciprocal benefits for elite members in both programs. As of now, Continental elites can sit in Economy Plus on United and United elites can sit in the preferred seats on Continental. They can also get upgrades on either airline. In other words, it really doesn’t matter which program you’re in at this point. The benefits are virtually identical, though the final merger into a single program won’t come until next year sometime.

[Original photos via Rep Gingrey and Flickr user *clairity*]

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