Continental Confuses California With NYC?

[Update: Several commenters have pointed out that “Ontario, CA” actually refers to Ontario, California, which is near L.A. And to be fair to the OP, we’re the ones who misinterpreted Ontario, not her. We’ve updated the post. Also, check out Fly Girl’s insider explanation as to what likely happened.]
Continental canceled one leg of Lesley’s flight from NYC to California without notice—she only discovered it when she went online to check that everything was okay this morning. What’s worse, however, is the alternative flight plan they proposed, which would have her going from NYC to Houston to California and immediately back to Houston to NYC again, depositing her 20+ hours later in Newark, New Jersey—where we presume a gang of Continental employees will be waiting for Lesley at the gate to beat the crap out of her with confiscated water bottles. East Coast hates West Coast, Lesley!

Here’s a head’s up – Continental has canceled dozens of flights going into and out of Houston (IAH)…but they haven’t told anyone. They canceled my outbound flight to California through Houston (which, fine, understandable), but didn’t send me so much as an email or phone call, like most carriers do. It wasn’t until I tried to check this morning that I was met with their proposed new flight plan (see attached.) It’s sad and hilarious at the same time. Needless to say, I’ve rebooked since then.

I’d have been in trouble at the airport if I hadn’t tried to check in this morning, so just a warning to anyone trying to fly across the country today – the airlines, particularly Continental, are doing their usual awesome job at handling the situation. I’m not so much upset about changing my plans, it’s the total lack of communication from Continental and the completely useless “solution” they tried to offer.

(Photo: FlyGuy92586)


Edit Your Comment

  1. emmpee9 says:

    I’m a little confused. Where in California was the OP trying to go to?


  2. zentex says:

    Continental hates California, decided Canadia is a better alternative, changes it’s mind and feels you should go home and thank them for saving your life.

    …that is the only logical explanation.

  3. Veeber says:

    There’s an airport in LA called Ontario []

  4. Fishy007 says:

    Ontario is in California. ‘Ontario’ is a little too vague when referring to an entire province that’s around the size of Texas. Airport code would have been YYZ for Toronto.

  5. floraposte says:

    Other people have covered the “it is in fact California” thing, but I still don’t get why those flights are leaving Houston when others aren’t, and why, once she got to California, they sent her back to New Jersey rather than just saying “Hurrah, you’re here!” (or sending her up to SFO or whatever).

  6. dorianh49 says:

    Yeah, it’s confusing because, ONT, CA looks like Ontario, Canada when it’s actually Ontario, California. Ontario is a city in San Bernardino County near Rancho Cucamonga. It’s near the borders of Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.

  7. MyLud says:

    Yeah, this is confusing. Looks like she wanted to get to Ontario, and they canceled her outbound flight, postponing her a day — sending her to Ontario on the day she needs to return from Ontario.

    Obviously, it’s a bone-headed mistake by Continental, but I imagine they’re scrambling pretty hard right now, in all fairness. Leslie’s right, though — communication should be happening.

    I hope Leslie gets to Ontario OK. Enjoy Ontario Mills, Leslie!

    Oh, yeah, my theory means the headline to this post is wrong, too…

  8. alexcassidy says:

    Email Larry Kellner, that’ll apparently get you somewhere =P

  9. deadandy says:

    I imagine the OP is going to feel a bit sheepish when it becomes clear that they actually were sending her to California.

  10. MercuryPDX says:

    Love how this is hot on the heels of “Continental’s CEO Fixes Your Frequent Flyer Miles” story.

    Maybe they found some kind of wormhole in space/time?

    Also… I know that the NY airport cluster is tight, but if I book out of LGA and they return me back to EWR, I’d be pissed.

  11. Stitchopoulis says:

    It’s confusing, especially when CA could be Canada, or California. That’s why I prefer to use IATA identifiers rather than FAA. KONT is necessarily and unambiguously not in Canada, as the K prefix indicates, and you likewise know that CYOO is taking you into Canada.

    They are in the process of renaming the airport LA/Ontario international airport to alleviate confusion, but it hasn’t made it to tickets yet apparently.

  12. Fly Girl says:

    Well, there’s a simple explanation for this and it’s that Continental had a schedule change. They’re not going to call and tell people their flights have been cancelled/modified until their NEW itinerary has been rebooked and it looks like the OP caught CO in the act of modifying the record, before they could confirm the new itinerary and contact her.

    When a schedule change occurs, the computer will auto-suggest new flights for any flights that no longer work (connect times are no longer valid, etc…) and then those bookings get queued to an actual human employee who, by hand, will look at the old booking, the changes, and the suggested NEW booking and rebook the itinerary.

    Until those changes are confirmed, there will be multiple segments in a record. (The old segment, the new segment, the proposed itinerary, etc…) When the OP pulled up her booking, what she saw was a live record that was being worked on.

    Obviously CO had a schedule change. Obviously the computer had suggested a NEW leg to replace the old leg that didn’t work any more. Obviously a human hadn’t confirmed the new schedule yet, therefore there were multiple segments and the itinerary didn’t work anymore. Had she not stumbled across her work-in-progess itinerary, the OP would have gotten at LEAST an email notification (if not a phone call) to inform her of the new itinerary.

    This = not news. ALL airlines (yes, even Southwest) change their schedules several times a year. When that happens, itineraries have to be modified. It’s no big deal.

    As a side note, schedule changes can (and DO) happen at anytime. Meaning that they can happen the day before your flight. If that happens, the airline will probably NOT contact you to tell you about the change. If you don’t reconfirm your schedule, and you miss your flight… That’s technically on you. MOST airlines will be flexible with people, but there’s a reason that when you buy a ticket it says that you must reconfirm your flights prior to departure– it’s to absolve the airline of responsibility if there is a schedule change and you don’t make your flights.

    Just something to keep in mind– always reconfirm your flights the day before departure.

  13. Ein2015 says:

    I wonder if this has anything to do with a giant hurricane about to pummel Houston? (Serious question.)

    • emmpee9 says:

      @Ein2015: Almost certainly. I would expect CO to be changing around their schedule to limit their exposure to the storm as much as possible (which is quite a task, considering that Houston is one of CO’s largest hubs).

  14. Fly Girl says:

    Oh, and like other people have stated– there’s no such thing as an Ontario, Canada airport. If someone is flying to Ontario, it’s ALWAYS in California. It would be like asking someone to send you to Montana. Uh, okay, but WHERE?! So, again, this is a non-issue. The OP was flying from Newark, NJ (EWR) to Ontario, CA (ONT) via Houston, TX (CO’s hub – IAH) and there was a schedule change. When the OP saw her itinerary, it was live and hadn’t been modified yet. Now it’s fixed and she’s on her way to California. End of story.

  15. windycity says:

    I didn’t see in the OP’s post that she ever thought Continental was sending her to Canada. What I DO see is that Continental is attempting to fly her into California on September 15 at 10:46 pm with a departure from California also on September 15 at 11:35am. Perhaps Continental owns a time machine that we don’t know about?

  16. emmpee9 says:

    For those curious about how Continental is handling the Hurricane:



  17. Lucky225 says:

    I love ONT, I lived near Ontario California my whole life, this isn’t the first time it’s caused mass confusion. =).

  18. Yurei says:

    That Ontario, CA is very confusing, but the ccalifornia correction is correct. If I hadn’t flown out of an airport in Ontario before I might’ve been highly confused myself to see Ontario, CA on a flight plan. Ontario is a province in Canada though, not a city and doesn’t have an airport simply named “Ontario CA” to my knowledge.

    There’s the Toronto Island Airport for instance,(or whatever they call it, which isn’t even located in Toronto…) and it’s code is YYZ, of all things. Plus there’s several other major airports in the surrounding area. I hope she nevers sees London labeled on her itinerary like that, she’ll have to find out if they mean England or Ontario, Canada. Durn you, silly airport codes…

  19. BurntToast says:

    I wonder if the OP knows that there is a hurricane headed to Houston? :P

  20. DrJimmy says:

    I don’t ordinarily defend airlines, but Continental’s home base is IAH; it’s pretty much dead smack in Hurricane Ike’s path, as are thousands of Continental Airlines’ (and subcontractors’) employees.

    To their credit, almost everyone here in the path of Ike is taking the threat seriously. This response is light-years removed from 2005, when half of Houston tried to escape Hurricane Rita all at once. That was a Millenium-class clusterphuque, just weeks AFTER Katrina flooded New Orleans.

    Lesley, I feel for you with your travel woes. I’m hoping Continental will own up and do the right thing by you. I’m optimistic about this; Continental shares a state, and many competing routes, with Southwest Airlines.

  21. FlyingMonkey says:

    Continental isn’t just canceling/rescheduling some flights in and out of Houston this weekend. As of 2pm CST, Bush Intercontinental was stopping ALL flights.

    “On Friday, September 12, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. local time all airlines will cease commercial flight operations in and out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and will not resume until further notice. No airline service is presently expected to operate at IAH on Saturday, September 13, 2008.” – []

  22. annelise13 says:

    In Continental’s defense (at least for part of this), I was notified by email last night that the flight I was supposed to take tomorrow (Saturday) has been cancelled due to the Houston airport closing at noon today and remaining closed all day tomorrow. The flight cancellation was perfectly understandable and the email gave me a phone number and a weblink to change my flight plans.

    Unfortunately, the phone number repeatedly disconnected me and when I got to the point where I was booking a flight via the link the website errored out and told me to call the number. I eventually managed to wind my way through the phone tree to a human being who was awesome and able to hook me up with a flight late tonight, but Continental definitely has some technical issues to work on.

  23. I mapped it out in spread sheet and unless they have time machines and teleporters then its impossible.

    On Sunday it flys her from NY to TX.
    Then on Monday it flys her from CA to TX then straight from TX to NJ and while still flying from TX to CA.

  24. BurntToast says:

    I’m wondering when the OP’s original departure times were? It looks like they might have changed the flight out to the 14th/15th but not the flight back to NJ (the 15th). She says she’s supposed to fly out today… I wonder if her return flight back was supposed to be on the 15th?

  25. BurntToast says:

    Yah, there’s something not right here… 4hr 7min + 3hr 31min + 3hr 11min + 3hr 40min =/= 7hr55min.

    I would bet that her return date was supposed to be the 15th and Continental didn’t change that, just the first flights out. They probably rescheduled her flight to Ontario to AFTER the hurricane passes through and didn’t change her return flights because it’s also after the hurricane’s arrival.

    Worse comes to worse, she gets to the airport and winds up getting face-to-face service with a Continental ticket agent to make her alternate flights and would have fixed the whole return flight issue.

    Maybe she shouldn’t have been so quick to jump onto the Consumerist when she’s the one that wasn’t paying attention to the details. With two days of flights completely canceled, I don’t blame Continental if their notification system is a little slow right now.

  26. BurntToast says:

    Actually… 3hr 11min + 1hr 4min (layover) + 3hr 40min = 7hr 55min.

    Yah, the ONT to IAH then IAH to EWR is a completely separate flight itinerary. That’s probably her original return flights but she made it seem like Continental was being moronic, when it was her.

    The system probably automatically rescheduled her flights out because of the hurricane but didn’t reschedule her return flights because they were after her rescheduled flight out. Either that or it just gave her the first available return flights back after her rescheduled flights out as a temporary measure… again, this is something that can easily be fixed at the airport when she arrived.

    … but again, she jumped the gun and instead went to the Consumerist. Nice.

  27. sassbrown74 says:

    I have heard of numerous examples of people booking San Jose thinking they were going to Costa Rica (and vice versa, I imagine).

    Within the past couple of years there was a news report of a couple from Britain who were trying to get to Sydney, Australia and actually found themselves in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Apparently the transfer to a turboprop in Halifax didn’t tip them off. Me thinks that travel agent didn’t get repeat business.

    • Hyman Decent says:

      @drgmobile: Sometime ago, a guy at LAX had a ticket for a flight to Oakland. I guess he was late and in a rush because when he thought he heard final boarding for his flight, he wound up on a flight to Auckland, New Zealand. Of course, he didn’t have a passport on him or enough clothes for such a trip. The Kiwis saw the opportunity for some publicity and gave him a vacation.

      • TheRealAbsurdist says:

        @Hyman Decent: [citation needed]

        As in how he got onto an Auckland flight with an Oakland ticket and no passport? Because every international flight I’ve ever taken (lots) has checked passports when you check in (and marked the ticket) and then again when you board the flight.

  28. HanselKolles says:

    Oh god, thanks for posting this. I’m booked to Puerto Vallarta in a
    week and a half via Houston on Continental metal, and I just checked my
    reservation to find it is TOTALLY FUBAR.

    I booked:

    DSM->IAH-PVR arriving at 12:43 p.m.
    PVR->MEX->IAH->DSM arriving at 4:23 p.m.

    Now I’m on:
    DSM->IAH->MEX->PVR arriving at 11:15 p.m. (!)
    PVR->MEX->DTW->MSP->DSM arriving at 11:45 p.m.(!)

    I never would have booked these flights, an additional stop has been
    added to both parts of the trip, and now I have to go clear to Detroit
    to get home from Mexico! And I just lost an entire afternoon from my
    vacation in Puerto Vallarta…

    Have called Northwest twice (I booked these using frequent flier miles
    through them) and am just getting disconnected when I get put on hold.

  29. i am so freaking confused.

  30. TWinter says:

    Hmmmmm. I don’t get why everyone is going on and on about Ontario. The real problem seems to be that the return flight leaves before the outbound flight arrives.

    I would think that computers would be programed to prevent such things, but obviously they aren’t.

  31. johnnya2 says:

    Another example of people getting stupid over a non-issue. I suppose you airline haters are going to say this is not weather related. A major hurricane pummeled Houston and Continental is trying to sort out when and where fliers will be going to and from. A computer does not know the purpose or length of your trip. Maybe you need to be in Ontario for a business meeting and time is important. I am betting the original return flight is still on the record, and CO is just trying to get them the first part of their trip there.