onepass ends dec. 31
"United Continental Holdings Introduces 2012 Mileageplus Loyalty Program [!!!!!!]"
Such was the declaration atop a press release Wednesday morning attempting to vaguely address the biggest question on everyone's minds since the merger was announced: What the dickens is going to happen to my frequent flyer miles?
Well, a program has been put in place for 2012 that will include four levels of member status for frequent flyers with access to the usual goods — upgrades, checked baggage allowances, line-skipping, etc. Also beginning in 2012, customers with eligible Chase OnePass (Continental) credit cards will have access to the same award redemptions.
But as of now, you can't use any of your frequent flyer miles — OnePass for Continental, Mileage Plus for United — to book flights on the other airline. I know this painfully well, because my 57-year-old father has never operated a computer, and I act as his travel secretary (as well as his administrative assistant and professional keeper of correspondence).
Continental's OnePass program doesn't officially end until Dec. 31, so until then, consider your frequent flyer miles for Continental and United separate entities. (In the first quarter of 2012, United will automatically enroll OnePass members into the new combined MileagePlus program and essentially transfer over any remaining miles, giving each new account a balance equal to whatever balance was leftover in the OnePass account.)
It seems fair-ish enough, but if you've flown recently and had any sort of hold-up, you know that United/Continental Customer Service has already merged. Frequent flyer miles = separate. Customer Service (the folks you talk to about frequent flyer problems) = merged. Not the most effective.
Also sucky? The new MileagePlus miles will expire in 18 months, unlike the old OnePass miles that you could keep forever. The miles will only expire if your account is inactive, but that does mean you have to keep using your United/Continental credit card and buying stuff to keep from losing the miles if you don't fly.
It's not all bad, but none of the perks take place for another few months. Among the things to look forward to: United/Continental is merging its Million Miler-type programs and extending spousal benefits to people who've earned a million or more frequent flyer miles.
At the beginning of the year, Continental and United will each determine their members' lifetime earnings based on the miles they've earned since joining the respective programs. Travelers who have accounts with both airlines will have their miles pooled, and people who are found to have earned a million miles or more can extend premier benefits to their spouse or significant other.
Hey Justin Ross Lee, can I get a date?