With my Auntie Adventures a not-so fading memory, I now have time to go through my “draft” folder here at My Bella Vita and pull out some posts that are a long time coming. Reviewing a recent customer service experience I had with Continental Airlines is one of those posts.
Continental Airlines has long been my carrier of choice. They were there for my first flight-which I still have the cocktail napkin to prove, carried me safely to and from my local airport in Beaumont, Texas and have allowed me cash in a *free* international flight-when I most needed it-with my frequent flyer miles.
Overall, it’s been a good run.
I was surprised earlier this year when I had trouble booking my nephew’s flight from Texas. No, It wasn’t a simple shop and select purchase. He was flying with me from Texas, then returning to Texas with friends a month later. We’d already purchased our tickets, thus, it looked like poor Cole was an unattended minor, flying solo.
It was a tough booking.
Here’s a quick recap of how that happened.
Sunday, May 2: I looked on Continental.com and found a round-trip ticket for Cole for $850. I tried to purchase the ticket, but since it appeared he was unaccompanied, the system tried to charge me additional fees. I emailed customer service using their online form.
Tuesday, May 4: When I hadn’t received a response from Continental, I rechecked their site, found the price was slightly higher and resent a message via their contact form.
Thursday, May 6: I woke up Thursday morning to an empty Inbox, checked Continental’s website and found that the price for Cole’s ticket had skyrocketed to $3,103.00, plus tax.
I immediately began searching for a “real, live, breathing person” … as I was almost certain that even in the airline industry, they do exist and quickly found that Traveler’s Best Friend, Christopher Elliott, had it covered. I discovered a cheat sheet, of sorts, with a snippet about Continental, some important email addresses and tips on who and how to approach them.
Using all of my freelance writing know-how, I drafted the sweetest, kindest email possible, addressed it to both the Director and Staff VP of Customer Care, told them about my difficulties booking the ticket, how I’d tried to reach them for several days and about the prohibitively-expensive price increase.
I told them I understood how busy they were-they’d just announced the United merger a few days earlier-and stressed how much I enjoyed flying with Continental. I included my OnePass number and confirmation numbers from my previous contact form attempts.
A couple of hours later, I received a response from the Staff VP, indicating he had read my email and telling me a Sr. Customer Service Manager would contact me that day.
That afternoon-Italy time-I received an email from Diane, a customer service manager, saying she’d used my OnePass contact information to reach me and had left a message at my home in Texas. She listed times when she was available and implied we’d be able to resolve the issue.
I immediately returned her call.
She was friendly, understanding and interested in my unique situation … in short, she was everything an airline’s customer service manager should be. She even allowed me a “grace period” to book Cole’s connecting flights (on a different airline) so I could ensure all of our tickets would match up accordingly.
A few days later we booked his flight and a day or two after that, she sent a follow-up message confirming receipt of his e-ticket.
I was impressed.
Lately, air travelers are met with increased fees, decreased services, intolerance, impatience, unkindness … a blatant lack of appreciation. Continental’s actions set the tone for my nephew’s sun-kissed summer and without them, he would have had the same ‘ole southeast Texas experience he’s had every year. So, Diane, Martin and the rest of Continental’s customer service team … thank you.
Or, as Cole would say … grascia mille!
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