I'll never understand the airline industry. It seems like you pay so much money, hundreds of dollars, to basically be treated like one of hundreds of cows herded from one place to another. And every few hours, you get thrown a bag of peanuts. It's no wonder why so many people get sick from flying... you're barely ever offered the chance to eat a full meal while in the air, you're confined in a small amount of space for hours, the bathroom on the plane is usually filthy, and the whole thing has a special way of exhausting the hell out of people. I don't care what airline you're with or if you're in first class, the experience always feels like you're not getting enough for your money.
Only this last time took the cake ... my first and last time EVER flying with Continental Airlines. The plane, one of the smallest I've ever been on, was extremely noisy and so small that nearly every bag had to be checked. I prefer larger planes but sucked it up because we were planning to go from Baltimore BWI to Newark International, a flight that should only take less than hour, before heading to our honeymoon destination: Nova Scotia.
Too bad that never happened.
Not long before we were supposed to land in Newark, the pilot got on the intercom to tell us that the airport was closed because President Obama was visiting and that we would circle for another 20 minutes before finally landing. Twenty minutes turned into 45. Then, the pilot got back on again to tell us that we still couldn't land in Newark and we were running out of gas, so that we had to land at the Allentown, PA airport for probably about 20 or 30 minutes tops.
After sitting on the tarmac for almost three hours, we were finally on our way to Newark International. Again, we were told we'd land in 20 minutes and landed about an hour later, almost six hours after leaving BWI and with another three or so hours to go.
While trying to decide if we wanted to keep going after feeling as though we could not trust the pilots, we found out that the airline had no idea where our bags were. We thought to ask when we got off the plane because we weren't sure if we had missed our connecting flight, and regardless didn't want to go on since it took so long to go such a short distance and the pilots seemed to be clueless as to what time-frames actually meant the whole time.
We were told to go from one department to another, each time rudely asked why we were asking the airline representative why we were in their specific department. We had never been to the airport before, so trying to find one place after another was beyond stressful and then after being greeted so poorly by customer service representatives, our moods just went completely out the window. Why even bother trying to go anywhere, let alone our honeymoon, when the people you gave so much money to help you get there don't value your patronage or your property?
We waited for almost two hours to fetch our baggage that never came. Exhausted, famished and disappointed, we took the tram to the car rental place, got the keys to a Chevy something-or-other, and drove the three or so hours back to Baltimore. Fourteen hours total to get absolutely no where.
The next day, we spent hours fighting on the phone with the airline. After looking into the Passenger Bill of Rights and talking with informed sources, I realized that what had happened was THE biggest airline screw-up I had ever experienced. President Obama had announced that he was coming to Newark earlier that week, it was all over CNN and other national news. It was obvious that the airline's employees at the airport and over the phone have no pride for the airline at all, or the customer service would've been better. There's so much more to say here, but this blog post is becoming too long.
After four phone calls and almost a week later, our bags were sent back to us and we were finally able to resolve the issue. The good part about all this is that we still will get to Nova Scotia ... the five-star hotel we were going to stay at was more than understanding and completely flexible about our need to postpone. We also were able to stay at an AMAZING place in the Poconos, which I'll post about later.
For now, I just wanted to tell my "why I won't fly Continental story" so that other people won't be as inconvenienced and frustrated as we were. Or so others don't have what is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, like a honeymoon, ruined.
My father, aunt and uncle, and many other people I know have had the same outlook on the airline and will never fly with them again either. It's crazy that in this economy that such a large company, a global airline, seems to take the general public for granted.
Carrie Oleynik is a writer based in Baltimore, Md.
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