Continental Airlines is an utter and complete failure.

Posted: March 20, 2011 in news, twitter
Tags: , , , , ,

It is a blessing that in general one only comes across a company that is a complete and utter failure in customer relations on a few rare occasions during one’s lifetime.

Now seems to one of those moments for me.

let me explain; last year I flew with Continental Airlines from Shannon (Ireland) to Fort Lauderdale (USA) on my way to do charity work in Haiti. I obviously also flew back with them three weeks later. No big issues during the flight. However when I unpacked my luggage the next day I noticed that several items were missing from it. Most notable was my missing netbook. A few smaller items were also missing. All had obviously been stolen from my luggage while it was being transported by Continental Airlines from Florida to Ireland. After I was finished having a big hissy fir over this I pulled up the Continental Airlines website to see if they could advice me on what action to take. There were no clear instructions so I decided to email them. Oh by the way Continental, your website is a user nightmare. I listed what flights I was on, dates, times and missing contents, I hit sent and waited, and waited and waited…..

I’ll keep it brief-ish but it took 6 months and a lot of chasing up from my side until they issued me with a travel certificate for $2000 as compensation. Which was great but I had no plans to travel any time soon and as we needed more funds for our charity work in Haiti I decided that it might be worth selling the voucher and using the proceeds in Haiti. So I put a message up on twitter offering “1 Continental Airlines Travel Voucher” up for sale. I got a few replies but then someone pointed out to me that the voucher was non-transferable. Strange but hey rules are rules. So I withdrew it from sale. I also called Continental Airlines customer service to check this and was told that yes indeed I could not sell it but as I still had the voucher and it was obviously not sold it was still valid. I even gave the person on the other end of the phone the certificate number and she confirmed that it was still valid.

Roll on 3 weeks ago. I had decided that I was going to go back to Haiti to do a few more weeks of work to kick of a few new rebuilding & development projects there. As I still had the Continental Airlines voucher it was logical that I would fly with them. So I went online and booked the flight with no problems. Or so I thought. My booking was accepted and I received a confirmation email. However three days later I received an email notifying me that the voucher had been voided and that I could not use it to pay for this flight.

I contacted Continentals customer service department for clarification but all they could tell me was that the voucher had been voided in November 2010. For further details I had to email their “Corporate Security” department. I duly sent of an email to request clarification and several days passed by before I received a reply. The reply was 2 lines long:

Last November you attempted to sell your ETC on twitter. The terms and conditions clearly state that any sale or attempt to sell will result in the ETC being void.

The ETC will not be reinstated.

Ignoring the T&C’s for a moment this reply is not exactly a great display of social skills or an awareness of customer service principles. I obviously didn’t accept this and have been emailing with Continental Airlines on a daily basis for the last two weeks. That means really that i email them every day but that Continental might reply once every 5-6 days. I have outlines how I obviously haven’t sold the voucher, how I checked last year after I withdrew the voucher from sales and was told it was still valid, how they cannot reasonably enforce legislation like this on something that is compensation for items stolen from my luggage while it was in the custody of Continental Airlines.
All to no avail so far. After I brought this situation to the attention of a few other people in Continental Airlines I received an email stating that they were willing to reinstate the voucher to the cost of the ticket I had booked ($625). As this was less that 1/3 of the original value I replied and called the offer not acceptable.
Oddly enough within 10 minutes of them making the above offer I also received a notification that they had tried to retract the email containing the offer. Strange.
Anyway, their reply to my refusal was short, even shorter than their previous emails:

We will not be reinstating the voucher

At that point I was just too busy with preparations for my trip and needed to just have a flight booked so I emailed that in light of this time pressure I was willing to accept their original offer (of covering the cost of just one return ticket). Within 12 hours I received the following reply:

Once you declined and threatened legal action, the offer ceased to be available.

The above is not a quote from the email, it is the actual whole content of the email.
At this stage I am really wondering if I am emailing with a big mainframe computer spitting out answers. “Computer says no” comes to mind. It takes Continental Airlines 6 months to settle a simple claim for items stolen while in their custody, they then void said compensation on an argument of questionable legal validity and what most infuriating; their emails are typed by someone possessing the social skills of a brick.
I also find it “interesting” that they managed to pick up the one tweet offering the voucher for sale but the @continental twitter account has so far failed to reply to at least 2 dozen tweets that I have sent them in the last 3 weeks. It clearly shows where their priorities lie. Same for their Facebook page. Lots of messages but no replies. Continental obviously does not give a damn about its customers.
Because I am under time pressure I am now forced to pay for a ticket. This is $700 odd that I won’t be able to spend on aid projects in Haiti. Way to go Continental Airlines! I obviously will not be flying continental.
Lastly this game is not over. I will not let this rest until Continental Airlines comes up with an acceptable offer. Until such time I will make this issue as public as possible as well as taking the applicable legal steps. In the long run this will cost Continental Airlines a lot more than the cost of a $2000 travel voucher. The choice is theirs.
  1. Chris Green says:

    Irony – The Google ad below your post for the continental OnePass Card…….

    • Eric Mason says:

      I too have had a crappy experience with Continental as they are busy amalgamating with United airlines very soon they will not give a united continental about their customers

  2. evertb says:

    @Chris Where?

  3. Chris Green says:

    @evertb Either it went away after comments went up, or the ads were disabled. I knew I should’ve grabbed a screen shot while it was there. 🙂

  4. Brooke says:

    Very ironic. I saw the ad too.

    It says:

    Ads by Google

    Continental OnePass® Card
    Get $50 Back, Up to 30K Bonus Miles & 1st Checked Bag Fee Waived-Apply!

  5. Paul Byrne says:

    In my experience its best to avoid the customer care department and go straight to the CEO. I had an issue with Fed Ex that went on, like this, for months but a letter to their UK and US Executives had it resolved in no time

  6. Paddy Ryan says:

    eh….wait a minute….WHAT….I’ve read this and don’t know what the hell is going on….

    You had a voucher cause basically their staff stole your netbook and other stuff….so continential stole ur voucher because you tried to “sell” the voucher they gave you to buy back the stuff that they stole, but the won’t let you use the voucher because you wanted to sell it….hmmm

    I say screw the bastards

  7. evertb says:

    It’s been two days since I posted this and nearly 4 weeks since the start of my saga with Continental Airlines.
    I have not received a single reply from them; not by email, via Twitter or Facebook.
    I did however manage to get hold of the CEO’s email address and have sent him a long email.
    Let’s see what happens…

    • Paul Byrne says:

      Fingers crossed going to the top will solve it. I think only at the top do they have the investment in the company to actually go beyond the default response

  8. rachel says:

    Do you have the CEO’s email,… this happened to my mother yesterday.

  9. stelli says:

    what happened with continental??? I am so curious!

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