Continental Takes Three Days And Counting To Fly Passenger From Texas to New Hampshire

Poor Ashley, all she wanted was to fly from Houston to Manchester to visit her friend for the weekend. She planned to leave on Thursday, but Continental apparently overbooked a whole mess of flights and could only get her to Detroit the next day. From there Continental planned to send her onto Manchester with Delta, but that didn’t work out either. After spending a night stuck in Detroit, Ashley made it to Atlanta, where Delta figured she would manage to catch one of their many flights to New England. Nope! Instead, things got much, much worse.

Ashley made it onto a flight to Boston, but ended up being being bumped and losing her cellphone. Last her friend heard, Ashley was in Charlotte, possibly thanks to AirTran? All her friend knows for certain is that Ashley was supposed to fly back to Houston from Manchester tomorrow. So much for the visit.

Ashley’s friend writes:

I’m hoping you guys can help me put some pressure on Continental. A friend of mine was supposed to be visiting me this weekend from Texas (I live in Massachusetts), but unfortunately, she booked a flight on Continental Airlines, who apparently decided that this was going to be Overbooking Week, and as a result, she’s been given a three-day-and-counting tour of the Major Airports of the United States. Here’s what happened.

I was supposed to pick my friend up at Manchester Airport on Thursday, June 17th at 4p. She was coming in from Houston, and not that it really matters, but it’s been over a year since I’ve seen her and before that it was even longer, so we were both really looking forward to the trip. She was going to stay until Monday the 21st at 1p.

I got a text from her on Thursday saying she’d been delayed. It happens, no big deal. Unfortunately, Continental had overbooked her flight, the next flight, the flight after that, so she wound up staying overnight in Houston. As far as I’m concerned, this is still in the “well, shit happens” category. However, the sun rose with the end of said category.

The next day they managed to get her out to Detroit, saying she would proceed to Manchester from there on Delta Airlines. She then spent the rest of the day (we’re now on Friday) trying to get on a Delta flight, which was complicated by the fact that she had to negotiate all of this through Continental. She missed all the flights out of Detroit and spent the night in the city at a less than ideal hotel (Text message sample: “apparently their idea of fixing this is to put people in a roach motel with people doing BBQ in the parking lot yes it is 12:36pm and there is BBQ”).

She got up at 5a the next day (Saturday) and headed back to the airport. After more negotiation, the Delta people (who were, it should be noted, the ONLY people sufficiently horrified by the situation, since the official Continental line was “what’s the big deal? This happens all the time.”) got her on a flight to Atlanta. She spent the day in Atlanta trying to get to basically any New England Airport, since by this time I had sent up the Twilight Bark for people willing to get her from anywhere she could get a flight to. She got on standby for a 6p flight to Boston, which she didn’t get on, and then was able to get on the 7p flight. Not so bad, weather delays, but nothing unmanageable. I got a text from her at 7:48p saying she was belted into her seat and would be staying there come hell or high water, though she did mention that Delta was already saying the flight was overbooked and was asking people to take a bump. Hooray! Progress!

After that I’m not sure what happened. I got a text at 12:20a from Ashley’s phone, which had been left in Atlanta. The nice Delta desk person was trying to figure out how to get the phone back to its owner, and they mentioned again that they were sorry about Ash’s flight troubles. They asked if I knew what flight she was on, and I told them the number I thought she was on. The response was “[Okay] but I am going to look up her name and try to track her down, because my colleague says he does not think she got on flight 2500 and got bumped to AirTran. It is because Continental Air double booked 15 flights out of Houston on Thursday and Friday and it’s causing massive problems.” I informed her that I would be very surprised if they had managed to pry her off the flight, but they said they would try to find out more.

At this point it’s 1a and I’m calling Boston and trying to call Continental, but of course Continental’s customer service line is not taking calls thanks to high call volume (side note: in what world is that a thing? I would love to opt out of taking calls from irate customers resulting from my epic screw ups). I emailed my phone and address to Ashley, hoping she’d be able to log on from whatever dimension she’d been shipped to, and sure enough she sent me an email at 2:42a saying she was in Charlotte, NC. That was the last I heard of her, and now I don’t know where she is, what she’s doing or what’s going on.

This is such a mess I don’t think Continental should get off the hook. I don’t know how to get ahold of a human who can do anything, and at this point there are three airlines involved so who the hell knows what’s going on. Any help would be much appreciated, but the least I’d like to see is some public shaming for Continental – 15 DOUBLE BOOKED flights!! What the hell is wrong with these people?? I’m pretty tolerant of the aviation industry but this is the most epic screw up I’ve ever heard in my life. Did I mention she’s supposed to be leaving tomorrow at 1p? It’s currently 4p here in Massachusetts, which is the three day delay mark on this extravaganza. Who runs a business this way?

Ashley’s friend has written in with the stunning conclusion:

I finally got a call yesterday (Sunday) at about 6p from Ashley saying she had made it back to Houston. She couldn’t get a couple extra days off work, so she just turned around rather than make it to New England just in time to turn around for her return flight. Houston is a Continental hub, so she went to talk to them about everything. The person she talked to tried pulling the This Happens All The Time card again, at which point Ashley said something like “first of all, it took you three and a half days to NOT get me to my destination and secondly I actually understand that you double booked 15 of your flights, so I hope that’s not your normal policy,” to which the Continental person got all “who told you that?” like someone had given out The Secrets. I guess they figured they’d just be able to stick with the Happens All The Time line…which is probably not wrong, since it’s not wildly unusual for Continental or ANY airline to overbook. They gave her three first class round trips via voucher (um, yay?). I encouraged her to go after them for MONEY, not travel vouchers, since she will not be flying Continental again. I think she probably will.

In the end, I think it’s a combo of relentless bad luck and airlines not doing enough to get her to her location. Continental just failed to identify the point where you need to just suck it up and get your person on a direct flight no matter who is operating it. Some politeness and sympathy from the staff probably would have been helpful as well. We’re rescheduling the visit and she plans to fly direct come hell or high prices