I’m not quite sure how this was decided, but yesterday was “Customer Day One” for the combined Continental and United.. That doesn’t really make sense to me, because not much actually seemed to change and there’s plenty of work left to do. Let’s review where we stand.
Better Website Integration
Work has apparently been done which will allow customers on either the Continental or United website to shop for flights and check flight status on each other’s website. This, of course, is a temporary fix until there is only one website. I would think the day that one website is used is closer to being “day one” of the merged airline than this.
Renaming Elite Benefits to Premier Access
Just as Delta has done with Sky Priority, United is putting its suite of elite/premium cabin benefits under the name Premier Access. I suppose that means the new United will be keeping the “Premier” terminology used by the old United for its elite program, but the offerings don’t seem to be much different than what elites got before – just a different name. They’ll still get priority check-in, priority security, priority boarding, and priority baggage handling. I’m not sure if the last one is a new benefit, but in general, this is mostly a branding move. But there’s a catch.
Premier Access will become available to elite travelers at all of our airports over the next several months. In airports where Premier Access is not yet in place, eligible customers have access to United’s premium airport services and Continental’s EliteAccess benefits.
So this really isn’t available throughout the system and it’s going to take months.
Mileage Plus and OnePass Grow Closer
It’s being announced now that members in both programs can move miles back and forth at will and elite members will receive similar treatment. This has been out there for awhile, I believe. It’s also another temporary step until there is a single mileage program later this year if not beyond.
Check-in Times and Boarding Are Standardized
Check-in times should now be standardized throughout the two airlines, and boarding is as well. (There are a bunch of other policies that have been standardized as well.) The Continental boarding method which gives priority to military members, then elites/premium passengers, and lastly families has won the day. The rest of the boarding process will be be rows starting in the back. There appears to be some standardized lounge benefits as well including free wifi and booze, but I think that happened months ago.
Standardized Food, Sort Of
Meals (including buy-on-board) will now be the same regardless of whether you’re flying Continental or United. But not everything is perfect right now. Beverages won’t be standardized until the end of the summer. But you coffee drinkers can rejoice. Get ready for “a flavorful new custom blend.” Whew, and here I was worried it would be flavorless.
New Airport Branding
Yesterday, the signage for the new United went up at Chicago/O’Hare. (I wonder if they caught the ages old logo in the tunnel on the way to the El.) The tulip is dead, but it’s only dead in Chicago. San Francisco and Washington/Dulles are next, and the rest will take months. So, the Chicago people can see some real change but elsewhere, not yet.
Twitter and Facebook Join the Merger
Separate Twitter accounts and Facebook pages are gone. Now it’s just @United on Twitter (much better than the character-wasting @UnitedAirlines that was previously used). And there’s a new Facebook page as well.
So that’s customer day one? It just seems like another day of progress along the road, but it’s not a major change for most people. I’m not trying to diminish the number of changes made so far. It’s a daunting task that is very difficult, but I have no clue why they’re calling it Customer Day One with so much more to do.