Just wanted to let you guys know about an absurd situation my wife and I encountered when trying to check in for a flight from Newark, NJ to Cancun on Friday Dec 14, 2007:
My wife (a South Korean citizen and non-immigrant to the U.S.) was initially denied check-in due to the fact that their “computer” stated that she was required to have a Visa to enter Mexico. We quickly informed the attendant (Donna [redacted]) that the Republic of Korea aka South Korea aka NOT North Korea, is a treaty nation with Mexico and that tourist Visa’s for minimal stays are not required.
Instead of an expected, “we apologize for the confusion and we’ll look into it”, we received a lecture on how the PASSENGERS are usually wrong in cases like this and that we should just go home. If we were completely spineless we might have listened but after bringing in three more Continental attendants to assist, all of whom looked at the same ‘holy computer’ and stated that my wife needed a Visa, we were moved to a supervisor’s counter and the process of deciphering the ‘Countries Requiring/Not Requiring Visa’ list took another 20 minutes. (I think a list of known UN countries in alphabetical order is probably less than 300 so a quick scan in my book would take about 20 seconds). After some quiet side conversations where we overheard the discussion about the “Democratic People Republic of Korea” (NK) and the “Republic of Korea” (SK) I reminded the Continental rep not to confuse North and South Korea (again). I (again) was told to ‘tone it down’. After about another five minutes we were handed our passports back with two boarding passes without a word – no apology, no ‘enjoy your flight’.
To add to the wonder of it all, Continental dedicates an entire section of check-in counters for travel to tourist destinations in the Caribbean at Newark’s Terminal C. Why they also don’t dedicate employees with a passing knowledge of countries in the world for their INTERNATIONAL check in agents is beyond me. I guess that’s asking for too much behind courtesy and professionalism for their front-facing customer service reps.
We think you should forward your complaint to Continental’s executive customer service team, and the Department of Transportation as well. It’s a good thing you stood your ground and refused to be bossed around, but other travelers might not be so self-confident in the face of Continental’s rude employees.