United, Continental loyalty programs to remain active through merger process

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United Airlines and Continental Airlines promised customers “the industry's leading frequent flyer program, offering vast opportunities for customers to earn and redeem miles” when announcing their May 3 merger.

On the merger's dedicated microsite, the companies said that miles for both Continental's OnePass and United's MilesPlus programs will be valid until the merger closes. Consumers can gain miles with purchases made with the programs' credit cards until the deal closes, according to the merger site. In a presentation for investors, the companies promised a “vast array of travel and retail partners for earning and redemption” as part of a program.

Both United and Continental declined to comment when reached by DMNews.

Mark Johnson, president and CEO of Loyalty 360, a loyalty marketing industry group, says that it might be too early to predict what type of loyalty program will emerge from the deal.

However, there is precedent for the two companies to merge their different styles, he said.

“It would be a great opportunity to create a customer-centric loyalty program,” said Johnson. “Continental has been more restrictive, while United has traditionally been one of the least restrictive airlines when it comes to point structures. But Delta and Northwestern did a good job of bringing two cultures together.”

The deal is expected to close at the end of this year.

The combined company, like its predecessors, will be a member of Star Alliance, which allows access to frequent-flyer and airport lounge benefits with 26 other airlines.

The name of the merged organization will be United Airlines, but its logo will incorporate Continental's grid-globe. The marketing campaign for the announcement uses the tagline, “Let's fly together.”

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