August 14, 2007

Passengers Revolt (a bit) on a Continental Flight

This really, really, really has been a terrible summer to fly.  A Continental Airlines flight from Caracas to Newark was re-routed to Baltimore because of bad weather.  Once there, it sat on the tarmac for 5 hours, where the plane (as we've heard in other cases) became disgusting.  The passengers started to get angry, then began drumming in unison on the overhead bins, leading the pilots to call the police.  The police arrived and got the passengers off the plane, which is exactly what they wanted.

Continental barely (if at all) apologized, instead insisting that they had "chips, pretzels and water" available (as if this was an acceptable response for keeping people in a tin can for 5 hours).  I have no idea why airlines repeatedly try to defend themselves in these situations -- it doesn't matter why it happened, passengers find it unacceptable to be essentially held hostage for hours on end.  Claiming there were pretzels available makes no one feel better.

August 14, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (3)

June 21, 2007

Sewage Grounds Stinky Continental Flight

Passengers on a Continental flight from Amsterdam to Newark last week said that service stunk - literally.

A problem with the toilets caused the flight to stop in Shannon, Ireland, overnight as mechanics tried to fix the issue.  The flight re-departed the next day, but the plumbing backed up again,  leaving only 1 toilet working for the 200 people.  To me the best part was that flight attendants were telling people not to eat or drink anything as they were doing their meal service.

June 21, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

June 12, 2007

Continental Flight Attendant Has 50 Years of Service

I know this is just a press release, but it's pretty amazing nonetheless:  a Continental flight attendant named Norma Heape will have her 50th anniversary with the airline this week, on a flight from Newark to Hong Kong.  Pretty incredible when you consider all the upheaval in the industry (and that she'd still want to do the job after that long).  Crazy.

June 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 29, 2007

Student Kicked Off Flight for Coughing

A 16 year old high school student who was on a class trip from Hawaii was kicked off a Continental Airlines flight from Newark to Hawaii because she was coughing.  I wish there was more to it than that, but it actually appears that the student has some sort of coughing spell, and the pilot had her removed from the plane.  I'm guessing that staff at Continental were a bit on edge after the weird virus scare a flight from Hong Kong earlier in the week.  The student, who was travelling with a group of 40 students, was left behind in New York with a teacher.  At least they didn't leave the 16 year old alone.  Continental says they will handle the matter internally.

March 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 27, 2007

Passengers on Continental Airlines Flight Not as Ill As Reported

A Continental Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Newark was held at the gate for 2 hours after arriving because several passengers reportedly had "flu-like" symptoms.  Earlier reports suggested that the flight was like a scene out of Airplane with a huge number of ill passengers ("We had a choice of steak or fish.  Yes, I remember.  I had the lasagna.").  However, it turns out just 7 passengers felt ill and were "normal," according to the Centers for Disease Control.  The plane's passengers have now been released.

The initial concerns arose after it was determined that the sick passengers were part of a group of 80 people flying on the plane who had been on a river cruise.  Nothing to see here, please disperse.

March 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 30, 2007

Did a Passenger Help Land a 757?

Remember that Continental Airlines flight that had an emergency landing after its pilot died in the cockpit?  According to this article, a passenger (who flies Cessnas) helped to land the plane.  Well, "helped" is probably going a bit far.  He sat in the cockpit and helped with the radio and checklists.  The best part, though, is that the co-pilot who was landing the plane had gotten on the PA and asked if there was a pilot on board.  Which sounds like a scene from Airplane, but actually happened.  Oddly, nobody freaked. 

January 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 22, 2007

Continental Pilot Dies Mid-Flight

A Continental Airlines pilot died mid-flight on the way to Puerto Vallarta from Houston on Saturday.  The co-pilot took over and landed the plane without incident at McAllen's airport.  The flight continued on to Puerto Vallarta with a new crew.

January 22, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2006

Continental Says No to Cockfighting

Continental Airlines is taking a brave stand against, um, cockfighting.  Yes, the Houston-based carrier has decided that the only reason they have been flying so many adult roosters to Guam is because people are using them to fight other roosters.  Because of that, they've decided that they will no longer ship live adult poultry.  Because they will be used in cockfights.  Don't worry, shareholders -- the airline said the cock-ban will have minimal impact on revenue.

December 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 22, 2006

Only 25,000 Continental Miles for a Free Ticket to Cologne, Germany

Continental has a great deal on award travel to Cologne, Germany:  Book by November 30 and it's only 25,000 miles for a round trip ticket - half the normal amount.  Fly by March 15, when it's a bit less miserable than it will be in January.

November 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2006

Continental Takes Aim at JetBlue, Others

Continental's president Jeff Smisek gave a rather candid speech yesterday at an investor conference where he pretty much bashed everyone he could think of.  The article has the details, but he noted that Continental did not "follow our competitors in a race to the bottom to achieve a crappy product."  Knocking JetBlue, he added, "They are a low-cost carrier, they are also an extremely low-RASM carrier, and their customers don't pay them a penny to watch those I Love Lucy reruns. ... It is a wasted investment in my mind."

He also didn't hold back from criticizing partner airlines, saying that Delta's international expansion will cause them to "lose their shirts." 


May 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3)

April 18, 2006

Continental Snipes at Delta in Ads

Quick note:  in the New York Times this morning, Continental Airlines has an ad that reads: "Only one airline flies nonstop to the most cities in Europe from the New York area.  And it ain't Delta."  Delta's been touting their huge increase in New York flights lately.  Well, it looks like their SkyTeam partnership does not mean the end of competition.  That's a good thing...

April 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

The End of Loyalty; Or Continental, I Hardly Knew Ye

Longtime readers know that I try not to bore you with details of my own travel life.  I'm aware that you probably don't care.  But I'll share a little story because I think it makes a larger point:

I booked a ticket with Continental earlier this week, and immediately after I purchased it online, I realized that I forgot to give them a discount code I had.  I called the airline, they told me to cancel the reservation and re-book it.  No problem.  I cancelled, but when I went to re-book, the fare had jumped $100.  Keep in mind, this whole thing happened in the course of 5 minutes.  I called Continental back and, long story short, they refused to adjust the fare.

Here's my point:   Airlines have created frequent flyer programs under the guise of "building loyalty."  These programs have been successful, in that customers become beholden to them in their quest for a free ticket.  I have been as guilty as anyone -- I felt an odd sense of loyalty to Continental, in part because "elite status" afforded a handful of benefits, but primarily because I felt there was a tacit agreement  I'll fly ridiculous connections through Houston in exchange for being treated well. 

But that's not really correct, and that's the point of my story:  having a handful of (dwindling) benefits prescribed by the company doesn't build loyalty.  Being treated fairly even though it's NOT in the handbook is what builds loyalty.  Continental could've recognized that my situation was a bit unique---THEY told me to cancel the ticket under the assumption that the fare wouldn't disappear in 5 minutes.  But they chose to go by the book: "Sir, fares can change at any minute.  We won't change the fare" is what I was told.  I kept saying to the person on the phone that I understand the rule, but I was hoping the uniqueness of the situation warranted a different answer.  It did not.

And that's when it hit me that Continental (and most companies---I hate to pick on them) truly didn't care.  That all of the ridiuclous connections I've taken, and higher fares I've paid, and less legroom I've suffered instead of flying JetBlue didn't matter.  Rules were rules.  Which is fine -- now I know where I stand.  They owe me nothing, I owe them nothing.  We're seeing other people.  I'll be flying JetBlue and United a whole lot more now, even knowing that they probably don't care either.  Airlines aren't building loyalty, they're buying us off with points.  And once I realized that I'm just being played -- I'm just being bought off -- I was liberated.  I'll collect points with Continental and whoever else, but I'll stop kidding myself about being treated well in return.  There ya go.

To end on a positive note, a few years back I was flying to New York from Columbus on America West.  I had a connecting flight on another airline to continue on to Washington, DC.  My America West flight was delayed, and I explained to the America West customer service person that I had a connection in New York that I was going miss because of the delay.  Despite the rules of the fare, she changed my ticket and put me on a nonstop to Washington.  THAT'S how you build loyalty.

March 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (7)

February 27, 2006

Airlines Try to Make Fare Advertisements More Confusing

Legacy airlines are pushing a proposal that would make it more difficult to compare fares.  I know you'll be shocked by this, but a number of airlines (United, American, Delta, Continental and Northwest) want to be able to exclude fuel surcharges from the fares that they advertise.  Currently, the fares they advertise must include all of the revenue that they get to keep (and excludes certain taxes and other fees)  Why is that a big deal?  Because airlines could then publish $3 fares from New York to London, and tack on a so-called $275 "fuel surcharge."  This is nonsense.  Let the Department of Transportation know that you won't stand for this crap.  (Or more likely that you will stand for it because let's be honest, they're not going to listen to you).

February 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 24, 2006

Venezuela May Cancel Flights from US

Venezuela's government has announced (sorry, Spanish only...too lazy to translate) that they have cancelled all of Delta's and Continental's flights from the US to Caracas beginning March 1.  Most of American Airlines' flights are affected as well (though not the flights from Puerto Rico).  As you may know, the US is in a bit of a pissing match with the Venezuelan government over oh-so-many issues.  This probably stems from the US refusing to allow Venezuelan airlines to fly to the US on safety grounds.  The affected airlines are still showing the flights as available after March 1st, so the governments may be negotiating.

February 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3)