Courtesy Continental Airlines

If you travel, you’ve probably noticed the changes at the Continental ticket counter as they merge with United. Some airports are adopting the new “United” name earlier than others. One thing is clear — this merger is supposed to be seamless to the consumer but it can get downright confusing. On the upside, you can merge your miles so you may qualify for a free flight when you wouldn’t have otherwise.

In Cleveland, Continental is the only game in town so there’s not much of a difference other than your miles which I will get to in a minute. In Kansas City, it’s a whole different ballgame. United and Continental are in two different terminals. I didn’t realize this until we got on the rental car bus and the driver announced United as the first terminal. We had no idea if that was our stop. It wasn’t. The Continental gates were in a completely different terminal. I asked the friendly ticket agents and they told me the date to merge in Kansas City keeps getting pushed back. One reason is that they are doing some renovations to their new space, but how confusing for the consumer.

You should have seen the look on the face of one traveller when she got off a Continental plane and found out at the gate that she had to get on a bus and go to another terminal to get on her connecting United flight. I understand mergers are done in phases but it’s getting downright confusing.

Linking your frequent flier accounts isn’t always easy
Then, there’s the miles. Many changes are taking effect this quarter. By the end of this quarter, new Mileage Plus account numbers.  To deal with new technology, your number will become an eight character alpha-numeric number similar to the one already used by Continental. If you have a Continental account, it will be your new United number. Your old United number will be recognized for a short time.

The two carriers urge you to link your accounts to deal with the merger of frequent flier programs.   In June, I wrote about the problems I was having linking my accounts. Now, it’s January and crunch time and I still haven’t accomplished the linkage.  First, my addresses didn’t match even though they were the same. The abbreviations were off so the computer wouldn’t link the accounts.

Now, I can’t connect my accounts because of name variations. I use Jenn all the time. I’ve tried to get better about using my full name on airline tickets because they have gotten tougher with security now that you have to give your birthdate and such when you book a ticket. Still, I’ve never had trouble with just using Jenn. However, it’s giving me trouble linking my frequent flier accounts.

United has my full  name including middle initial and Continental has the shortened first name I use. I waited on hold for 35 minutes to get a Continental operator despite being told 10-15 minutes. Then, I was told to write a letter with my account number, account PIN, and a copy of my government issued ID to get my name corrected. That will take a month. What red tape!

At least the new airline, United had fast customer service. I waited less than five minutes to talk to someone and tried to get them to just change my name but they suggested because of security I use my full name and follow Continental’s advice.

If you have put off linking your accounts, act now! If you ever open another frequent flier account use your full name. You don’t need it for credit cards but you do to earn miles in this world of constant airline mergers.

Related links you may like:
Merging airlines can get confusing
Southwest acquires Air Tran – what this means for customers
Cashing in on frequent flier miles – how likely are you to get a seat
Continental OnePass coming to an end
Taxes and fees can ruin an apparent airfare deal