Continental Airlines Complaint - Overbooking flights and "restricting" tickets
HOUSTON, TEXAS -- I was very excited about the trip I had planned to LA. I had recently had a baby and it was my first break away from all the hard work that goes with a newborn and to be a part of my best friend’s wedding. I booked a flight on Continental to LAX which departed at 5:55 p.m.
At 4:26 p.m., I checked in online and was issued an eticket boarding pass. When I checked in, my advance seat assignment was no longer available and the Continental system would not allow me to select a new seat assignment. Instead, my boarding pass listed, “check in at gate”. Unfortunately, I left my eticket boarding pass on the printer. Little did I know this would prevent me from attending my best friend’s rehearsal dinner.
At 5:20, I walked up to the Continental skycap with my small roller bag and asked if there was still time to check my bag . He stated it wouldn’t be a problem checking my bag, but that I wouldn’t be getting on the flight because my ticket was “restricted”. I asked why and he said you better talk to an agent.
After unsuccessfully trying to reprint my boarding pass at the kiosk, I waited in line for a Continental ticketing agent who stated that my ticket was “restricted”. When I asked why she said I did not check in properly. I explained that I did, that it would surely be reflected in the system, and that I simply needed a reprint of my eticket boarding pass so I could continue through security to the boarding area for my seat assignment. She restated that no, because I had not been assigned a seat, my check in was incomplete and I was “restricted” from the flight. After a pointless conversation trying to understand why my ticket was “restricted” when I was issued a boarding pass an hour earlier, I implored if there were any other alternatives. She reluctantly picked up the phone, called the gate agent, and asked if they could lift the restriction. I was told no.
I then walked over to a “red coat” supervisor (Kathryn) and explained my frustration with the situation. She looked at her watch and asked me if I thought I could still make it to the gate. I became hopeful. She then tried to reprint a boarding ticket but explained that she was “locked out” because it was 15 minutes prior to departure. After another non-productive discussion trying to understand why I was being penalized for checking in online an hour and a half before the flight, she told me that the next flight at 7:15 was oversold by 15 and that she could put me at the bottom of the list. I asked why I couldn’t be put at the top of the standby list because I was still unclear what terms of my ticket I had not met that they could arbitrarily “restrict” me from flying on the full fare ticket I had paid for . She said no, that it was Continental’s policy not to put passengers ahead on the standby list – that I would be placed on the list according to the current time, approximately 5:50 (versus the original time I had checked in at 4:26). I was finally given a reprint of a boarding pass so I could continue through security.
Instead of interrupting a gate agent with my predicament, I proceeded over to the Continental Customer Service booth. I explained the entire situation to a very unsympathetic woman who reiterated that they could not give me priority on the standby list (or credit for the original 4:26 check in time that I had) and that I would have to go at the bottom of the list. I was on the verge of tears when the woman next to her, Ximena, asked if she could maybe help. She called a Beverly and confirmed for me that all my information was in their system – that I had checked in online at 4:26, that I was not issued a seat because the flight was oversold and that I tried to get a reprint of my boarding pass 30 minutes prior to departure. She then called the gate agent working the 7:15 flight and asked, “Can you squeeze one in on #47?” The answer was no, there was nothing Continental could do for me and I was relegated to missing my best friend’s rehearsal dinner.
By the time I made it over to the gate for the 7:15 flight , I heard a couple of names called on the standby list and the gate was locked down for departure. I waited several minutes and then explained my saga to another “red coat” supervisor who was working gate E20. She admitted that she could not state a specific term or policy I did not meet that justified my ticket being “restricted”. She also stated that she was “surprised” the first agent did not just override the restriction and issue me a boarding pass so I could pass through security and on over to the boarding area. My point exactly. I asked if Continental would issue me a voucher for my horrible travel experience and devastation that I had now missed a very special event in my life. She said that only the people on Continental’s “Customer Care” phone line could do that.
Ironically, my husband (at home with our children and my printed boarding pass in his hand) had already been on the phone for at least an hour with “Customer Care” who told him that Continental was justified in restricting my ticket and that I was not entitled to a voucher or any sort of compensation from them. In complete contradiction with the gate agent, they also stated that only “red coat” supervisors could issue travel vouchers if there was a problem with my travel plans.
Needless to say, the whole experience was horrible and I was devastated I had missed a very important event. When I tell this story at dinner parties and such, people always ask, “So did Continental send you a letter apologizing … a travel voucher … some air miles?” And the answer is no, they never even acknowledged the complaint. What stellar “Customer Care”.
It’s too bad United Airlines does not have a bigger presence in Houston because a few weeks later I went to check in for a United Airlines flight at one of their kiosks and the message was simple and honest, “We cannot give you a seat assignment at this time because this flight is oversold. We are requesting volunteers to make alternate travel arrangements. Please see a gate agent if you are interested.” Besides all the heartache of my travel experience with Continental, I was especially insulted by how dishonest they were with me. If you have a choice to fly, fly with an honest airline.