Not that I ever had an old favorite airline, but I had a fairly good experience on Continental during our vacation to Hilton Head Island, SC.
We booked our flight from San Jose to Savannah using accumulated Northwest miles. Free flights are always good. We were surprised on first flight from San Jose to Houston to be fed actual real hot food! None of these snack boxes, it was a cheeseburger and a pretty good one. There was some salad on the side. Like we were in grade school, Anne and I traded and I got 2 cheeseburgers so she could get more salad. I wouldn’t give up my Skittles though. The second flight was uneventful and on-time. Stopping in Houston is a nice way to break up the flights. Four and five hour flights cross country suck when you have a connection.
On the return trip, things got better. The express jet flight from Savannah to Houston was quick. We had some extra room to strech out in the exit row. In Houston they overbooked the flight and started asking for volunteers on the San Jose flight. They would put us on a flight to San Francisco just an hour and a half later and give us both $300 vouchers. Sign us up! Just when the plane was scheduled to leave, they called us over and said they wouldn’t need us after all. Bummer. They did give us drink vouchers just for being on the list though.
We got on the plane and negotiated with some guy to get seats together for Anne and me. Just as we were getting settled, they called our names over the plane’s intercom. We got up and back up the ramp. They needed us after all because apparently they miscounted the number of people getting on the plane. So much for airport security.
They booked us on the San Francisco flight, gave us about $800 in vouchers – $600 for a future flight, $20 for a meal in the airport and an unlimited voucher for getting from San Francisco to San Jose since our bags were still going there. This is why I always carry things I absolutely need no matter what in my carry on bag.
Before the flight we walked down to the food court to spend our free money. They apparently don’t give change for vouchers so we had to spend it all in one place. When a salad, rice bowl and lemonade wasn’t enough, I grabbed a bag of chips and an apple turnover to leave us only 26 cents under $20.
The flight to San Francisco was late (apparently a “minor” problem occured where neither engine would start up!), but the plane wasn’t full. We got to stretch out with an empty seat between us. While we had just eaten, it didn’t seem right to skip a free meal during the flight. It was a tasty pizza with a side salad and M&Ms. Anne asked if she could have my M&Ms and I just gave her an evil eye.
The exit once we got on the ground was quick since we had no bags to pick up. We had trouble finding a cab that would accept our voucher though. Finally a nice cabbie said he would take it and called dispatch to make sure. He noted that because he was a San Francisco cab, he would charge 50% extra if he was not taking us to San Francisco. I had never heard of that before, but hey, unlimited voucher, what do I care?
He drove us all the way down to San Jose Airport and Anne ran out to grab the bags while I waited with the cab. Soon I saw her running down the hall from baggage claim to the ticket counters. That couldn’t have been good. Apparently our bags were there, but they were locked in the baggage office. They told us that the office would be open until 11. It was 10:30 and they were closed.
So, we took the cab home. Total fare with 50% extra and tip: $190! I hope they really meant unlimited. I called the Continental the next day, hoping they would just deliver our bags to us. They said they couldn’t do that because they weren’t filed as misrouted or something. If we had filed a claim immediately when we got off in San Francisco, they would have. Crap. We picked them up that night.
I look forward to flying Continental again, that is if they can afford to stay in business. Free meals and tossing out $800 in vouchers probably means they’ll file for Chapter 11 (for a 3rd time, suprisingly not after 2001 though) soon. I hear JetBlue is nice.