Merging airlines cause customer confusion

If you’re looking for flights, you have many options. In a few months, you’ll likely have less as United and Continental finish their merger and Air Tran and Southwest move forward with their plans.  While nothing is finalized, it certainly appears that way to the customer until you need help.

The Air Tran – Southwest deal moved one step closer Thursday as shareholders for Air Tran’s parent company approved the acquisition of Air Tran by Southwest.

The Department of Justice is still reviewing the merger, but it’s unlikely there will be major hurdles as the DOJ approved the Continental and United merger.

Southwest expects the deal will close in the second quarter of this year, which is anytime in the next few months.

If you’ve flown United or Continental lately, you know how confusing it can be. While in Mexico, we looked at the monitor for our flight and it said “United.” We didn’t see a Continental counter, so we lined up at United and waited to get our ticket. The line moved slowly. Thirty minutes later, the clerk asked what city we were flying through? I told him it was a direct flight and he said there weren’t any direct flights. I knew this wasn’t a communication gap between his native Spanish and my native English, but a communication mishap because of the pending merger.

We left the line and began scanning the lobby for a Continental counter, and eventually found it at the end of the lobby right near security. This line was even longer. An hour later, we finally had our tickets. When we arrived at the gate, it said “United.”  I’ve even seen the change on the airplanes.

While the two airlines are separate in terms of customer service, they certainly look United to the customer.  Don’t let looks deceive you as Air Tran and Southwest are one step closer to following in United and Continental’s footsteps.