United Airlines and Continental Airlines have been in the midst of merging the two airlines into one brand name, United Continental Holdings, beginning in 2010. For travel agents, this means watching for updates, notifying passengers about schedule changes and flight updates, and working through the technical side of air and vacation package reservations.
United Continental Holdings has started another phase of the merger, combining United Vacations and Continental Airlines Vacations. United Vacations is the new name for the combined brand, as of September 17, 2011.
Some enhancements of the new tour operator merger will be:
- Reciprocal benefits with MileagePlus program.
- More destination choices.
- Additional flights to choose from.
- Lowest available airfares offered for Continental and United Airlines.
Another change from the merger will be adding 11,000 iPads to all pilots, eliminating paper flight manuals, and adding aeronautical navigational charts with an iPad app. All should be set in place by the end of 2011. The conventional flight manual and paperwork previously has used over 12,000 sheet of paper per pilot, and often weighs at least 38 pounds. The iPad weighs about a pound and a half. Therefore this helps the environment, using less paper, and is more efficient for pilots. Imagine flipping through sheets of thousands of paperwork to find information, when instead a pilot can use a touch screen and almost instantly find the necessary information. This may help with on time performance and airline safety.
United Continental Holdings has arranged assembly of their first of 50, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, in early 2012. They will be the first North American airline to take possession of the new aircraft. There will be 26 flat beds seats in BusinessFirst, 63 extra leg room seats in Economy Plus seats, and 120 seats in economy. The aircraft is made to fly at faster speeds, run more efficiently, and fly longer routes. Benefits for customers will include controlled humidity, larger windows, reduced cabin pressure, and larger overhead storage.
United and Continental are working to relocate and combine airport gates bringing the two together to be easier and convenient for passengers. Many of the airports allow passengers to check in for either airline at the airport kiosks. United’s logo has changed, with the United name and the Continental blue globe in the new logo. Both airlines will continue to sell their own tickets until the middle of 2012.
Other updates and future plans with the merger include:
- A combined reservation system, by March 2012.
- Details of the new mileage program will be announced in early, 2012, but United Mileage Plus® has been announced as the combined program name.
- New apps for mobile services for the combined airlines are already in place.
- Elite members of each airline can receive upgrade rewards on either airline.
- Continental flights will also offer Economy Plus, beginning in 2012.
- The legal part of the merger has been completed.
- With the merger, the combined airlines will fly to 181 countries, with more than 21,000 flights per day.
Integration of the airlines will keep travel agents busy, answering questions for travelers, phasing out the Continental flights with United Continental Holdings, Inc. There should be plenty of schedule changes and technical issues to go along with the merger in the future for agents. Travel agents lived through the merger of Delta and Northwest, so they should be able to handle this merger just as well.