Deep In The Heart of Texas

It should have been no surprise that the Continental branch of the UAL/CO family (or “Legacy Continental,” as they’ve taken to calling themselves) would roll out the red carpet for us. Upon entering a hangar at IAH, we found a battery of executives waiting for us — the first public appearance of the joint management team since the merger was finalized barely 30 dayss ago. SVP of sales Dave Hilfman, chief revenue officer Jim Compton, and Mileage President Jeff Foland spoke briefly to the assembled “high-rollers,” (Hilfman’s words), and, as promised, didn’t an excellent job bobbing and weaving away from our specific questions about the fate of Economy Plus, settling on which classes of service to keep, and whether the top tier of the combined loyalty program will be set at 75K or 100K. “We know the number,” Foland told me, but he wasn’t saying. “We’ll be announcing it shortly.” There will be two programs through the end of 2011, with a new one (name TBD) to kick in in 2012. Foland said he didn’t foresee any major sticking points in “harmonizing” the two programs.

After a lunch consisting of sliders, chips, and of course, chocolate sundaes, Scott O’Leary hosted a trivia contest with 10,000 bonus miles on the line. The questions (all slam dunks, let’s face it):

1. Name 8 of the 10 combined UAL and CO hubs (won by mrpalert)

2. Name 10 Star Alliance carriers (won by ChrisW, who was booed off the stage when he kept going and named Korean by mistake)

3. Name 4 ways to enter both the Red Carpet and President’s Clubs (won by SEACarl)

4. Name 4 Star Gold benefits (won by Bernard)

5. Name 8 of the of the 10 published and semi-published tiers of UAL and CO elites.

6. Name 10 countries served by both UAL and CO

7. Name 10 aircraft types operated by both

Outward Bound

The Lufthansa lounge at JFK is a bit like heaven — it gets better as you ascend. Business class passengers are confined to the ground floor, with Star Gold members reside up a flight and First Class passengers sip single malts up top. The trio of Swiss passengers in our group were sentenced to Purgatory (i.e. the Swiss lounge in Terminal 4), prompting Pat to drop $2,800 for a gate pass (i.e. a fully refundable walkup ticket) to sneak in.

Early arrivals for tonight’s flight to Frankfurt were offered a tour of the higher levels — the rest of us snuck up every now and then for some tikka chicken masala and a cocktail. After several hours of sipping champagne, our hosts hailed our return nearly a year to the day and explained why Lufthansa was the launch customers for the Boeing 747-8i — which we will visit on the assembly in Everett near the end of the DO — because LH’s chairmen are historically engineers, and there’s nothing an engineer loves more than power. “We told Boeing years ago if you extend, renew, refurbish it, we will buy it,” and it did.

After welcoming remarks, Tommy took to the mike to “guarantee to we’re doing things in Frankfurt we didn’t do last year.”

“Sleep?!” came the hopeful reply.

“No, not sleeping!”

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