Continental Airlines Complaint - "Carry On" Traveler Beware
Last month (May 2010) I was scheduled (had purchased a ticket and checked in online a day prior) to fly from Buffalo to Denver via Newark. This was a return flight and, while not happy with the Newark connection, I booked that flight because of cost and scheduling factors. I arrived at the airport over an hour before departure, noted that the flight was on time (monitor in the ticketing area) and, since I was carrying on and had checked in online, went directly to the gate. I chose a seat near the desk and noted that the gate signage indicated the flight was still "on time"; I noted the time as being @1 hour before departure.
Approximately a half hour before the original departure, an agent announced that the flight was delayed due to weather into Newark but that he'd "checked all connections" and we (scheduled passengers) would be fine. I had about 2 hours in Newark so wasn't concerned - at this point.
20 minutes or so later I overheard a passenger talking to the gate agent (I was sitting close enough to hear the conversation) regarding her concerns about making her connection and thought I'd better check -just to be safe. Imagine my surprise when I approached the gate agent, handed over my boarding pass and was informed that they had "put" me on a US Air flight - that had left 20 minutes before - without notifying me. When I asked why they hadn't (notified me), the gate agent told me (repeatedly) that it was because I hadn't checked in at the airport or the desk. (While I was waiting to be rebooked, I heard several passengers being paged for the flight I no longer had a seat on - they'd given it away when they "adjusted" my itinerary - and witnessed them hold the plane for a passenger they had paged repeatedly, who was sitting 50 feet away but had earphones on and took his time gathering his carry on items...but they couldn't page me when they changed my flight?!?!?)
I was eventually (the next day) booked on a Delta flight that, due to weather and plane safety issues, went from Buffalo to Detroit to Charlotte to Atlanta to Denver. My "next" day of travel started at 8:30 am EDT and ended the next day at 1:15 am MDT.
I eventually spoke with a Continental representative (I: tried using their website but was - conveniently?- foiled by a faulty link that wouldn't let me verify my email address and so couldn't be assigned a case number; called and talked to someone who advised me to send a fax; sent a fax; emailed and got a "canned" response; finally got a case number; got a voice mail from someone whom I played phone tag with for a couple of weeks....) and, after explaining what happened, was told that Continental wasn't "responsible" because I didn't notify them (at the airport) that I was there. It didn't matter that I had checked in and had a boarding pass because "a lot of people make reservations and don't show up" and Continental apparently won't page anyone that hasn't made their presence known. According to the representative I spoke with it specifically states in Continental's Contract of Carriage that passengers have to notify the airline that they are in the airport - or all bets - and reservations - are off! Note: the Contract of Carriage DOES NOT say that; it states that the passenger must have checked in AND have a boarding pass AND be present at the gate (15 minutes before departure).
Moral of the story: it may not be" required" but you'd better make an airline representative aware of your presence - or really enjoy sleeping in an airport!