United/Continental Merger Has Mysteriously Moved Cities Closer Together

There are a lot of things that happen when airlines merge — planes get repainted, airport gates get redecorated, frequent flier programs get combined. But there’s an interesting phenomenon occurring in the wake of the union between United and Continental — cities are suddenly no longer as far apart as they used to be.

Consumerist reader Erik noticed that his flights between Denver and Los Angeles are now listed as three miles shorter than they had been previously, and he’s not the only one who has noticed the issue.

Over at this thread on the FlyerTalk.com forum, there is a lot of chatter about airports that are now no longer as far apart as they were before the two airlines finalized their merger on March 3.

For example, the trip between San Francisco and Houston is now listed as four miles shorter than it had been. New York’s JFK airport is now nine miles closer to Los Angeles International. The gap between Newark International and Hong Kong International is now 14 miles less. And there are many, many more examples cited by travelers.

Some, if not all, of these differences may appear to be negligible, but considering the sheer number of people that fly the nation’s largest airline every day, the number of frequent flier miles that are not being accrued works in United’s favor. Passengers pay the same price for a ticket while reaping slightly less reward.

We’ve written to United to see if anyone has an explanation or comment on the shorter listed distances, and we’ll update if we hear anything back from the airline.