Continental Airlines: Review of a Customer Service Experience

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.

So …

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.

Since you’ve heard tale of lungomare love and bare boobs on the beach, you know we eventually made a purchase, thus ensuring young Cole a summer he’d never forget.

Here’s a quick recap of how that happened.

Sunday, May 2: I looked on 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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3 Responses
  1. Bonnie Alaska

    Continental has been our airline of choice during the past 8 years whenever we weren’t able to fly mileage with BA. Unfortunately with the merger the schedule changed and to fly from Milan to Anchorage necessitated a stop over in Bogota, Columbia!!! You can’t be serious can you?! Fly from Milan to Anchorage via Bogota? we ended up with American with whom I will never fly again. I hope Continental resumes the flight schedule which worked so wonderfully for so many years.

    Ouch! 🙁 Hopefully they will get that worked out … I *hate* losing good flight connections.

  2. I have been flying Continental more years (decades) than I can count. They are THE airline of choice. Back in the good old days, I can’t tell you how many frequent flier trips I was able to cash in – it’s much harder now but that’s the worst thing I can say about them. Always accommodating. Even when I fly to London, I book as a codeshare Continental passenger – that’s how loyal I am 🙂

    Atta girl!

  3. Ok boys and gals I need your help I am livid and want to make this issue heard not just by me but by others who have had similar experiences in hopes to change something! I had the worst time with Continental Airlines several times and this was the straw that broke my back. I have gone ahead and made a Facebook group please join and help me make this bad company understand that they are declining greatly and need to improve now or just get out of the air please. Share your bad experiences in the group and maybe someone someday will listen or read our group!
    Thank you for anyone who reads this and helps in this fight to make big companies like Continental Airlines know that we pay them to provide a service for us and not to bite the hand that feeds you!
    From their business ethics to a majority not all but most of their employees and flight staff I have met have been nothing but rude and curt. Help me make a change please!

    here is the Facebook group :

    again thank you to anyone who takes this seriously as I do it just is not right!

    I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience with them. Good luck in getting it all taken care of.

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