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Continental Is Latest Airline to Bash Frequent Flyers

The dreary litany of new and increased frequent flyer program fees continues. The latest airline to join the bad news parade: Continental.

Beginning on August 17, members of Continental’s OnePass program will pay higher fees for three types of program-related services, as follows:

1. Rush fees

Award tickets issued for travel within four to 14 days will incur a $75 fee, up from $50 currently. In fact, that same $75 fee will apply to all tickets issued within 20 days of the departure date. So whereas currently no rush charge applies for tickets issued 14 or more days in advance, program members will now have to book 21 or more days out to avoid the fees.

2. Change or redeposit fees

The current $50 fee to change an award or to redeposit miles will triple, to $150.

3. Upgrade co-pay fees

Unlike most other airlines, Continental already requires a cash co-payment when redeeming miles to upgrade from coach to BusinessFirst. The co-pay amount varies according to the type of coach ticket being upgraded, currently ranging from no surcharge for Y and H fares (expensive, unrestricted coach fares) to a surcharge of $450 for the cheapest coach fares. The new surcharges will be higher, typically increasing by $50 over current amounts.

With the exception of the upgrade co-payment, the newly increased fees are more or less in line with the levels charged by other carriers. So Continental can’t be singled out as either the best or the worst of the lot.

Indeed, that’s been the airlines’ strategy lately: an ongoing series of small changes, designed to raise as few hackles as possible. But death by a thousand cuts—as consumers experience the devaluations—is still death.

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