One of the biggest downsides of award redemption is that you don’t qualify for upgrades. Delta will offer it later this year, but only to Gold members and higher.
Continental just announced that they will allow for free upgrades for all Continental elite members who either have the Onepass Plus credit card (currently known as the Continental World Mastercard…I’m assuming that OnePass Plus will be the future name of the combined United Mileage Plus and Continental OnePass reward programs) or the Presidential Plus credit card.
Upgrades will be allowed on all current routes that provide free upgrades on paid tickets, not on BusinessFirst routes. So for Hawaii for example, the nonstop flights from Newark and Houston will not be eligible as they are BusinessFirst flights, but the flights from Los Angeles and Orange County to Honolulu or Maui will be eligible for free upgrades.
The upgrades will be prioritized according to elite level just after revenue tickets. So a Platinum on a paid ticket will be upgraded before a Platinum on an award ticket, who will be upgraded before a Gold on a paid ticket, etc. Platinum and Gold members on an award ticket will also be able to upgrade a companion on a paid or award ticket at the gate.
Time for the rest of the airlines to match!