Saturday, August 23, 2008

Continental Airlines

Let me preface this entry by saying that I'm not a person who makes formal complaints. That is to say, I'm not one who does so with any regularity and in fact, it's rare. Even with all my travel, I've only once complained to American Airlines and I did so via email and was pleasently surprised when I received a small credit to my frequent flier account. However, in the past couple of months I've called in two complaints with Continental Airlines. I'm disappointed that I've ruined my reputation and am now an official complainer.

The first complaint was in response to the rudest flight attendant I've ever met in my life. You may remember Barbara from our trip to Mexico.

And my complaint from just yesterday was due to a complete break down in communication and technology both at the George Bush Houston Interncontinental airport and on Continental's website. I missed my flight by minutes.

I was scheduled for a 7:20 p.m. departure from Houston to Tulsa. I should have been home by 8:45 p.m. My boss and I arrived at the airport almost two hours early and after passing through security, we noticed the monitors showed a delayed departure of 8:20 p.m. Okay, no big deal. What's another hour? So we went to the Chili's to grab some food and drink and basically kill time. We checked the monitor with great regularity and at one point, it was delayed until 8:50 p.m. The website, via our BlackBerry, also quoted 8:50 p.m. A few minutes later, the terminal monitor switched back to 8:20 p.m. so at 7:50 p.m., we walked a short distance to our gate.

Oddly enough, the sign above the door at gate B73 read "Seattle 9:10 p.m.". What? We weren't going to Seattle. Did they switch gates on us? We approached the gate agent. "We're here for the 8:20 p.m. departure to Tulsa from gate 73". The gate agent replied "That aircraft has already left". We checked our watches. It was 7:55 p.m. "What do you mean it's departed? It's only 7:55 p.m. and the flight isn't supposed to leave until 8:20 p.m.". She replies, "Yes, it was delayed until 8:50 p.m. but apparently they resolved their issues and so they left. We called passenger names here at the gate and eventually filled the seats with standby passengers". Well that's freaking brilliant. The monitors lie, the website lies, and unless you're within a 30 foot radius of the gate, you can't hear the PA announcement. We told her that the technology lies. She told us never to trust the monitors. We boarded the last flight of the day and ended up arriving in Tulsa a little past 11:00 p.m. Did I mention that we had arrived at the Houston airport almost 2 hours early? And we weren't the only ones. I saw at least five other passengers who experienced the same thing. Who knows how many I didn't know about.

Worst part...I called Continental's 1-800-WE-CARE line yesterday. The punk who took my call listed quietly and didn't ask a single question when I finished my story. He simply said that he would log it and pass it onto the proper authorities. But he wasn't even typing or documenting my feedback the entire time. He didn't apologize for our inconvenience. So I asked him if he should gather some information from me in order to pass along the appropriate information like, the flight number, the airport I was at when their communication failed, my frequent flier number for starters. It wasn't until I prompted him that he got some real info from me and then his keyboard started making noise. I still wonder if he was just surfing the web because he sure didn't act like he gave a care. I guess I should be thankful that he spoke English.

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