Is There a Kiss ‘n Tell Story with CO/UAL?

I could not care less about the Tiger Woods stories running rampant through the news, but each time I read about Continental and United Airlines, I perk up. I know, it’s sick! As a Continental Platinum member, talks about how these two airlines interact are important to me. So I wonder …

United has many other airlines in their Star Alliance but all of the chatter in news reports and blogs is about their relationship with Continental, the airline who joined Star Alliance only six weeks ago. Both airlines announced enhancements to their frequent flyer programs beginning in mid-2010. If you have elite status on one airline, the other will honor it. Each will offer better seating, unlimited upgrades and the ability to accrue and redeem miles on the other’s flights. This could be in response to Delta's announcement about changes to their SkyMiles awards program, but what is significant is that these recent announcements have come from both airlines.

So why is it that we don’t hear United talking about similar programs with other Star Alliance members?  Why is it that each enhancement or new program includes only Continental, the newest and brightest Star Alliance member?

We have been treated to many joint statements and photo ops, watching reps from both airlines meeting together in public, smiling – holding hands as it were, but there is no public talk about marriage, i.e., merger, because it begs the question: Which airline would be the swallower, which one the swallowee?

Would a merger even be necessary if they continue working together this way? Are they strong enough to seriously compete against the Delta/Northwest giant as it is? Lots of questions, enough to make this soap opera endure for a while.

In the meantime, we will be treated to lots of these lovey dovey stories about the two airlines working together. Publicly, they sound like a wonderful relationship. Privately, they may be sharing a bedroom more than they tell us.

And you can bet this story will go on a lot longer than Tiger Woods.

Comments

  1. I think that Continental’s joining Star Alliance (http://www.unroadwarrior.com/2009/10/continental-welcome-to-star-alliance/) was the best thing that happened to Star Alliance. The ‘special’ relationship that UA and CO have created is the best thing that could have happened to both UA and CO. As a UA Premier I am surely looking forward to receiving equal status treatment on CO.
    While this relationship may be a great template for other airlines in star alliance to follow, I highly doubt that will ever happen. For one, this CO-UA relationship was an agreement between ‘equals’. Also the two airlines complement each other in several areas – in terms of their routes, hubs, etc. Other airlines within Star Alliance see some alliance members as ‘lesser’ partners or even competitors. I don’t think Singapore Airlines will ever see Turkish Airlines as an equal… nor does it need to.
    UA already has arrangements with US and LH that are beyond the basic Star Alliance relationship. But as you say in your article, the UA-CO pact is the closest one can get to a merger without having one.

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