Reciprocal Upgrades Coming for United and Continental Elites and UA to Keep Regional Upgrades for 1Ks

Great news today for top-tier United flyers.

First, 1K members will continue to earn confirmed regional upgrades. Details here:

1K® members will continue to earn Regional Upgrades

Sometimes no change is good news. After our last announcement, we heard from our 1K members how much they value their Regional Upgrades. To thank them for their ongoing loyalty, we’ve decided to continue issuing Regional Upgrades to 1Ks, even after the Unlimited Domestic Upgrades program launches.

Second, United elite members will receive reciprocal upgrades on Continental! I predicted over a month ago that this was coming, and am very excited about the prospect of continuing to ride up front on CO (now that NW reciprocal upgrades are gone).

Upgrade order will be like this:

For travel on Continental, upgrades will clear in this order:

  1. Continental Platinum Elite

  2. United Global Services

  3. United 1K

  4. Continental Gold Elite

  5. United Premier Executive

  6. Continental Silver Elite

  7. United Premier

For travel on United, upgrades will clear in this order:

  1. United Global Services

  2. United 1K

  3. United Premier Executive

  4. Continental Platinum Elite

  5. Continental Gold Elite

  6. United Premier

  7. Continental Silver Elite

Continental elite members will have access to United’s Economy Plus and United elite members will have access to preferred seating on Continental, including the ability for Premier Exectuives and above to pre-reserve exit row seats.

As a top-tier elite on UA, I am ecstatic about these changes. While the changes won’t necessarily increase my loyalty to UA, they will certainly increase my loyalty to Star Alliance. We shall see if this further cooperation between United and Continental means a merger down the road.

My next question is what about US Airways? I have a feeling they will try (or have already tried) to be part of the reciprocal upgrade program. US Air's shrinking route map and poor domestic service, especially in First Class, would make such a partnership a lot more attractive to US flyers than to UA or CO flyers. For that reason, I do not expect any announcements regarding US elite upgrades. I can't say that I would be opposed to US joining the party though: I am based in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future, so I do sometimes fly on US Airways simply because of their extensive presence and attractive scheduling/pricing ex-PHL.

But I have a feeling there may be a Premier Executive and certainly a Premier revolt on UA if US flyers were added to the mix. With unlimited domestic upgrades for CO and UA elites, I do feel sorry for Premiers. At least they will have Economy Plus. (unless the CO elites get it first!)

Two thumbs up to UA for acquiescing to 1K demands and changing their mind on phasing out confirmed regional upgrades. I also congratulate both UA and CO on their continued integration and look forward to a lot of flying on Continental in 2010!



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