Update: See the comments for basic info on Alitalia and the start of the new rates to Israel.
Continental Airlines is in the lengthy process of switching airline alliances. It is the biggest airline to ever switch alliances.
Star Alliance is a much larger alliance than Skyteam or OneWorld, and has many extremely attractive partners to redeem miles on.
Unfortunately the switch doesn’t bode too well for fans of the only domestic airline to still offer free food on domestic flights, here are some of the changes Continental will be implementing to prepare for a closer relationship with the dirt of the domestic aviation industry, United and USAirways.
-Elimination of the 500 mile minimum flight earnings. Continental joins United and USAir, the domestic Star Alliance carriers, in eliminating the minimum mileage earnings on short flights. This takes effect for tickets booked on or after 11/15/08 for travel on or after 01/01/09.
-Reduction of elite bonus miles in line with United starting for travel on 03/01/09 (USAirways was recently the first and only airline to completely eliminate elite bonus miles). Platinum members will now earn 200% of flown base miles instead of 225%. Gold members continue to earn 200%. Silver members will now earn 125% instead of 150%.
-First checked bag will go from being free to matching the new industry standard $15/each way for tickets booked on or after 09/05/08 for travel on or after 10/07/08. Elite members and their companions will continue to get 2 free checked bags per person.
-Mileage tickets to/from the US and Tel Aviv will go from 70,000 in coach and 100,000 in businessfirst to 90,000 in coach and 120,000 in businessfirst. (Yay for Starwood and the Alitalia /Continental workaround!)