Now that I have several Continental Airlines flights in both first class & coach under my belt, I’ve developed a list of service-related items I’d like to see in the combined carrier. These are in no particular order and are only comparing Continental and United Airlines on domestic flights.
- Boarding Process: United. Continental’s procedure offers boarding to first class and active duty service members first, followed by all passengers entitled to elite access. I think they board then by row number after that, but I have always been in the first or second group. United further divides the elite tiers and allows Global Services and 1Ks to board ahead of Premier Executives who board ahead of Premiers, etc. While I don’t see many flights in coach, I’m down with United’s process in sectioning the elites to ensure someone who flies 89,000 miles annually boards ahead of someone who flies just 26,000.
- Pre-departure beverages in First Class: Continental. While boarding is still in process, the flight attendants on Continental swim up and down the aisle taking full drink orders for first class passengers. You have your beverage of choice generally longer while sitting at the gate on Continental vs. the usual water or orange juice offering on United. Sometimes I’ve been turned down on United when asking for a coke, etc. The horror!
- Table Linens in First Class: United. Really no comparison here as Continental doesn’t put a linen down on the tray before your meal. Is it absolutely necessary? Probably not, but it offers a touch more class and might keep the tray from sliding in turbulence.
- Meals in First Class: Continental. I believe Continental operates their own catering company, but whoever does it is winning this category in my opinion. Maybe I’m just absolutely tired of United’s meals (except the newer chicken & pasta salad snack!), but both the lunches and dinners I’ve had on Continental have tasted better, and seem plated with more care by the flight attendants. Why does Continental win lunch flights especially? Two words… Angus cheeseburger.
- Prioritizing meal choices in First Class: United. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but Continental doesn’t seem to prioritize meals by status, but rather from front to back of the first class cabin. Not earth shattering, but I appreciate always getting my first choice as a 1K on United.
- First Class seats: United. Admittedly United did just recently refresh the seating on the domestic fleet to all leather, but they just seem to be firmer and more comfortable. While the headrest sits uncomfortably low against your shoulders for takeoff/landing, it pivots and shapes more securely than Continental’s. I dare say the leather is higher quality, too.
- Nuts in First Class: United. Not other passengers, no, but rather the edible kind like cashews, almonds and the like. United serves them warm (most of the time) in a ceramic ramekin, whereas Continental gives a pre-packaged bag of nuts (like what you used to get in coach).
- In–Flight Entertainment: Continental. While not on 100% of the fleet, Continental’s live DirecTV offering 95+ channels absolutely wins hands down. United’s entertainment isn’t bad, per se, but if you fly with any frequency in the same month you often have nothing new to watch.
- Glassware/Stemware in First Class: United. How petty of me, I know, but I prefer United’s glassware. The bowls are larger for all types of glasses on United, and the wine glasses (now) provide proper stems. Nothing wrong with Continentals, so this is just a matter of personal preference. I also have a collection of airline glassware, so perhaps I’m a bit snooty in this area.
- Hot towel service in First Class: Continental. Again rather petty, but Continental’s towels are more like durable wash cloths vs. United’s one-use throw away 5-thread count mini-towelettes that practically disintegrate when using.
- Meal offering in Coach: Continental. Okay, they’re actually very similar now, but Continental still offers four snack boxes, plus that Angus cheeseburger is offered for sale, so I have to go with the meat. I may be in the minority, but United’s snack boxes are trying too hard to be fancier thereby increasing the price points and likely net proceeds.
- Economy class seats: Continental. Continental’s seats in coach feel more comfortable to my rump and seem to have more padding overall. Also, the headrest is more substantial and actually contorts & shapes better than their first class model.
- Boeing 737s/Airbus A320s: Okay, there can’t be a comparison here as United no longer has 737s and Continental never had A320s, but I’m an Airbus guy. They seem quieter and roomier from the inside, and from the outside I prefer the overall appearance of the A320. The 737 sits too low to the ground and the engine cowling shape is abnormal for my strange & dorky aesthetic taste.
So, what do you think… what would you like to see in the combined carrier?