Monday, May 3, 2010

After a 21 hour flight on South African Airlines, I was at the mercy of UAL’s Star Alliance

Continental and United are already thought to be generating revenue synergies because they are both Star Alliance Network partners but I can only deduct that they are already collaborating to defraud their passengers because I flew on a CAL airlines first class ticket last week and they made me fly economy on the United Airlines portion from IAD to IAH. It was a ticket I booked several months in advance and was sure that there were plenty of available seats in first but it turned out that United released them to their own frequent flyer passengers and not to me, even though I should have been on the top of the wait list because I was holding an international first class ticket. I did not appreciate that there was no wait-list when I arrived after flying 21 hours from Johannesburg and then was squashed into economy for another 4 hours! United upgraded their elite frequent flyer members that had not paid for first class tickets, instead of my first class ticket. So if they don’t know how to play fair now, I don’t see the merger helping the passengers.
They are calling the deal a "merger", but United shareholders will hold a majority stake, the airline will be based in United's hometown of Chicago and it will be called United. The Chicago Tribune newspaper headline claimed it will give Chicago a lift. Houstonians will loose jobs and a lot of money has gone into Intercontinental airport pandering to Continental Airlines.
United and Continental will displace Delta as the World's Largest Airline.
LESS COMPETITION MEANS HIGHTER PRICES.- There are now only 3 major players:

South African Airways fly direct flights from the USA to South Africa without stopping to refuel but on the return flight they have to stop in Dakar, Senegal because it’s takes more fuel to fly into the head-wind against the direction of the jet stream. They only served us a coin sized quiche in first class during that 9 hour flight from North Africa apart from the breakfast served one hour before landing. Most airlines have candy and snacks available to both first and economy class passengers but I did appreciate the bottles of water that are readily available on SAA. I try not to drink water on Continental airlines because they always decanter the water in first class and serve it in those dubious looking steel jugs. I don’t trust any water that I can’t see coming out of a sealed bottle. I’ve learnt this the hard way. I once spent a few days, in a hotel bathroom in Dakar Senegal! The Continental flight attendants know this travel tip so they all clutch a large bottle of sealed water as they disembark for their lay over breaks. Forget the duty free, I would pay big bucks for those bottles!

Continental Airlines said that traffic in April fell 2.6% and capacity decreased 3.2% compared with the same month a year ago, but most airlines are seeing an increase so book your flight before prices go up.
I wonder if the new carrier will change the Continental planes to United's spacious Economy Plus seating. United does not provide meals but Continental has also been fazing them out on short flights.
It turned out to be a pleasant flight on United because the Economy Plus seats offer more space than first class in Europe on many airlines. Susie, the United flight attendant with a great sense of humor also made me feel that the merger may not be a bad idea.