In fact, I jest about airline names. The word is that the merged airline will be called Delta. I favor this for purely sentimental reasons: I like the vintage Fly Delta Jets sign at the Atlanta airport.
And the speculation is that a merged Continental – United airline would be called United. But the AP, citing an industry analyst, says that "Wall Street prefers Continental’s management team."
So do I. When it comes to how the airlines have treated economy class passengers over these many lean years, United and Continental stand at almost opposite ends of the spectrum.
United stuffs passengers into some of the most cramped seats in the industry unless they pay extra for more leg room. It also has taken a fair amount of criticism for cuts in customer service and recently announced a fee for checking a second bag on domestic flights. (More on the bag fee tomorrow).
Continental seems to have tried to maintain better standards, and is the only remaining airline among the Big Six that includes food in any of its domestic coach fares.
That might help explain why, among the Big Six airlines, Continental had the lowest rate of consumer complaints filed against it and United had the highest, according to the latest Air Travel Consumer Report. (Several low-cost carriers, including Southwest, scored even better.)
Of course, as the Big Six airlines merge down to the Big Four, there’s no reason to think that the plight of the coach class traveler will improve. But let’s at least hope that the more humane practices toward passengers and employees will prevail.