Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Final elite flight on Continental

I have now flown what is very likely to be my final Elite flight with Continental Airlines. What began as an airline of convenience when living in New Jersey grew into an odd consumer-business relationship that extended well into my years in Boston. For a while, during my 8-10 annual cross-country flights, I went out of my way to fly Continental, racking up tons of flight segments and Elite qualifying miles to keep me on their ranks of Platinum (that name should ring a bell) for years. I was almost always taking four flights to get to and back from my destination, as the vast majority of Continental’s flights from Boston traveled to one of their hubs in Cleveland, Newark, or Houston.

Sometimes, there was no way around connecting to get somewhere from Boston (my five trips to McAllen, Texas for example). But, mainly I found myself heading to Los Angeles and Las Vegas the long way, with the sheer interest of inconveniencing myself to both take advantage of the benefits of my status, and maintain my status. It’s a dirty feedback loop – fly a lot, earn status, receive tons of bonus miles, fly a lot more (a bit more comfortably), and then they have you. Stop flying as much and lose status. So what do you do? Keep flying a lot, skipping the direct flights to keep it all with Continental.

I reached a point in 2006 where I made the conscious decision to begin my divorce with Continental. Nothing against them – they were good to me, and I think they are the best of the stogy legacy carriers. But my priorities changed. During my final year at my old job, I began flying more Delta and JetBlue non-stops, knowing that my Continental relationship had to end. Continental was a drug. I needed Delta and JetBlue rehab.

Time became more important to me. Avoiding connections and flying non-stop was my new main goal. For a while, when Delta was still flying their Song planes, I tried booking Song or JetBlue whenever possible – free live TV, more legroom, leather seats – flying Continental just to keep status and hope for upgrades was no longer a priority.

I still somehow managed 25,000 miles on Continental in 2006, so I again qualified for 2007 Elite status (albeit Silver). But, I took my current job in mid-2006, and my time on the road (thankfully) diminished significantly. Being a Road Warrior is fun for a while, but it eventually grows old.

Since Continental extends Elite status through February of the following calendar year, here I am, still a Silver Elite on Continental, but having flown my final Continental Elite flight, after my last jaunt through the Elite line at Logan, and my final walk down their blue Elite carpet.

While this likely won’t be my final Continental flight (I still have 275,000 miles to burn with them), it’s probably the last one where they view me as being one of their better customers.

That’s OK. Continental, it has been fun. Thanks for all of the upgrades, preboards, and exit row seats.

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