Monday, July 05, 2004

Continental Airlines: Where Passing The Buck Is Easier Than Refunding One

Hey - do you know what’s a highly underrated form of exciting entertainment? No? Well, try sitting on a mammoth plane, in the middle of a runway in Newark, New Jersey, not moving, behind 10 other mammoth planes, for 2 ½ hours because “Air Traffic Control� said so. This exercise is doubly exciting if you have a connecting flight, of which you were originally concerned how you would kill time in the airport waiting for, but now are hoping is filled with passengers looking around desperately at an empty seat, and saying things like, “Where the heck is Mike Kenny?� and “Don’t even think of taking off without Mike Kenny, Mr. Pilot!�

Unfortunately for me, that hope was futile, and I missed my connecting flight by a whopping five minutes, thanks to Continental Airlines, whose motto is, “Don’t Blame Us. We Already Have Your Money.� In retrospect, I probably should have steered clear of traveling on an airline with such a motto, but I was desperate to get to Phoenix, Arizona, where my wife was graduating from Graduate school, which is a lot of graduating for one girl to handle. She needed my help.

So there I was, in Houston’s renowned “Bush Airport,� with my friend Derrick, and nowhere to turn, except in the general direction of Continental Airlines customer service. Or a bar. We chose the latter.

After we refueled, we discovered through a customer service rep, that no more flights to Phoenix were going out that night, and that we would have to wait until the next morning to depart. I could sense the obvious concern of my wife, through the cell phone, as she insisted that I “do something about it,� although, she was unaware that I had accidentally left my plane AND my pilot’s license back at the house.

When it became obvious that we would need to stay at a hotel that night, I naively figured that Continental Airlines may be able to help us out in the matter, since, by all accounts, it was not OUR fault that our prior flight had sat on the runway longer than the “Lord of the Rings� trilogy. I was unaware however, that it was not Continental Airline’s fault either, and any blame should be directed at Air Traffic Control, who apparently do a horrible job of controlling air traffic. Then, upon further investigation, I was informed that there was actually “some kind of storm� coming from the west which caused the delay. So, as I deducted from my dealings with Continental Airlines customer service, it was actually God’s fault that we missed our connection. And God is not in the business of giving out free hotel rooms.

So, we booked a hotel (a Quality Inn, which, in their best interest, would be better off changing their name to simply “Inn�), went to a Bennigan’s in Houston (which was amazingly similar to the Bennigan’s on Rt. 1 in New Brunswick, New Jersey - “A little taste of home,� I thought), and went to a local bar for a drink. When our cab never showed up at the bar to take us back to the hotel, some random girl named Emily, after confirming we were “not psychos,� drove us back, thus providing the best service we had witnessed all day. Emily, as it turned out, did not work for Continental Airlines.

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