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Continental Offers Online Booking Bonus, Again

When, earlier this year, Delta brought back mileage bonuses for bookings made on its website—500 miles for bookings made by May 31—it was a decidedly deja vu experience. For years, such bonuses had been such a fixture of travel life that many flyers had come to take them for granted. But they turned out to be anything but permanent: American was the last major airline to end its online booking bonus, on April 1, 2008.

Continental was the only airline to match Delta's latest promotion, and both offers lapsed with no indication that any further bonuses were on the horizon.

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It's deja vu all over again. And this time, Continental is the leader rather than a follower, offering members of its OnePass program 500 bonus miles for online bookings charged to a MasterCard, through August 31. The bonus may be earned up to four times, for a total of 2,000 miles. (Any MasterCard qualifies the user for the promotion, incidentally, not just the OnePass-affiliated MasterCard.)

Will this promotion be matched by other airlines? Likely not, for two reasons. First, by restricting the offer to holders of a particular credit card, and limiting it to four bookings, Continental has softened its competitive impact, reducing the likelihood of a countermove by other carriers. Second, and more generally, the airlines as a group just haven't been very promotionally inclined lately.

So while I do expect we'll see more short-term booking bonuses in the future—simply because they're a tested tactic in the airlines' marketing arsenals—for now, this back-to-the-future bonus is only available from Continental.

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