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Furious at CO - But do I have a right to be?

Furious at CO - But do I have a right to be?

Old Jan 16, 08, 2:25 am
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Seattle, WA
Programs: CO Plat, AS MVPGold, Kimpton Inner Circle
Posts: 41
Furious at CO - But do I have a right to be?

Here are the facts. I'm going to be detailed and explicit, and therefore lengthy, since I know from past posts of this nature that somebody will invariably ask:

Girlfriend and I decided at somewhat the last minute (end of November) to spend Christmas in Key West instead of cold Seattle and use some miles. Only EasyPass was open, so decided to splurge on the miles and go F to Miami via IAH. (I know it's an absurd number of miles, but don't yell at me since that's not the point of this thread). Outbound was 12/22 redeye with return on 12/27. Outbound was uneventful.

Unfortunately on Christmas Eve I suffered a bad fall and ended up with a trimalleolar fracture on my left ankle and a severe sprain to my right. The ER doc told me that surgery was absolutely required with about a month of immobility after. Since staying in Key West for a month was not an option, the ER provided me with two aircast moon boots, crutches, a bunch of Percoset and a wishes for a safe flight.

Prior to departure on 12/27 I called CO and advised of my situation. Our seats back on the MIA-IAH (CO 391 - departure time 2:50)and IAH-SEA (CO 667 departure time 5:20) legs were respectively 1A/1B and 2A/2B. Connection time between flights was approximately 45 minutes, which I recognize is tight, but that's all that was available when I booked the flight.

The service in MIA was fine - a wheelchair was ready for me at curbside and they got me on board first and well situated and comfy in my seat. Departure from the gate was on time but we had approximately a 5-10 minute hold on the ground prior to wheels up. I have no idea what the reason for the slight ground hold was, but I presume it was traffic at IAH. Weather in both MIA and IAH was fine.

The beginning of the flight was OK but as we neared IAH and started initial descent I noticed that we definitely started to slow down and I began looking at my watch with consternation. The FA announced the connecting gate information and indicated that we would be flying into C-37 and Seattle was departing C-39 - right across from each other. During descent I got the attention of the FA and asked, as a longtime Plat flyer with some significant injuries, if there was anyway she could call into the flight deck and have the pilots call into ground ops to see if they could hold 667 for a couple of minutes so we could make our connection if it looked like we weren't going to make it. I have absolutely no idea whether A) this is even feasible and/or B) what CO's procedures are with regard to these type of requests. Nevertheless, the response of the FA was nonplussed, and basically said "that's not really up to us and there's nothing we can do" (I dont recall her exact words but that's pretty close.) I'm positive she didn't call the cockpit since I was sitting in 1B.

We were wheels down at 5:14 and at the gate at approximately 5:18/5:19. We were first off the plane, into a wheelchair, and not less than 45 seconds later at C-39. The door was closed and the next flight was showing on the board (Toronto). Asked the GA about Seattle and I think she said "there's coach". I let out an expletive (the F bomb), and she barked "go to Customer Service". I will state that I was pretty worked up at this point and had a bunch of Percoset and two glasses of wine coursing through me, so I probably seemed like a crazy man.

I pretty much lost it at Customer Service, and exhibited a-hole behaviour of which I am not proud. This included barging right up to the desk using the blue carpet and literally throwing the Plat card onto the desk. I will give the cs rep credit for not slapping me, and instead calling a RedCoat. At my girlfriend's insistent urging, I calmed down and the RC mentioned that it was a good thing, "since there are about 7 FBI agents around" and that it was only because I was a Plat that I wasn't being hauled away. After that exchange we jointly started assessing our options....

The later IAH-SEA flight had only one seat and the only option that he could come up with was IAH-LAX on CO (arriving 7:43) then LAX-SEA on AS (departing 9:15). Both in Coach. The LAX flight was departing at 6:05 at a gate adjacent to CS so we wheeled on over. The RC said that we was going to walk over with us to the gate to expedite, but he went back into the CS office and wasn't seen again. We waited till just before depature time to board and crutched it back to 28D (the equip was a 752, I think). We then proceeded to wait at the gate for approximately 50 minutes to wait for, you guessed it, connecting passengers (or at least that's how the delay was indicated by the FA in a cabin message). I was needless to say livid, but thankfully this was taking my mind off the waves of intense pain coming from my feet stuck under the cramped seat.

Departure from the gate was at approximately 6:50/7ish and, as expected, we didn't land at LAX till approximately 9. I will say that the head steward on the flight was extremely helpful and insisted that all passengers remain in their seats till I crawled off the plane (the few who didn't comply got yelled at, by me). The redcoat who was susposed to meet me at the gate wasn't there but thankfully the wheelchair was. We wheeled down to check-in and flagged down an agent who looked more competent then the others. She obviously surmised that we missed the 9:15 AS flight but, by a stroke of fortuity, determined that there was a redirected O.C.-SEA flight departing from LAX at 10:10. We wheeled over to T3 from T6 and managed to talk our way onto the redirected flight. This flight left at 11ish and we finally arrived at SEA at 1:30ish in the AM. Total transit time (excluding the drive from Key West to MIA) was 14 hours.

So, here's the deal:

Time has tempered my raw anger, but I'm still pretty pissed. What would have been an inconvienent, though managable travel situation (i.e. two travel legs, both in F) very quickly morphed into complete travel hell.

The question that I throw out is that I don't know whether I have a right to be pissed or if I have a valid complaint. I have no idea what CO's procedures are in terms of planes waiting for connecting passengers, but from my consumer perspective it seems somewhat arbitrary. If CO has actual procedures and well defined criteria for determining hold/release and the 5:15 door closure of 667 fufilled this criteria then, theoretically and as an experienced traveler, I logically have no complaint. But why does one plane get held for an hourfor connecting passengers and others don't. I know there are issues about gate availability, etc......but come on, it seems to me that ground ops just aren't thinking these things through....

I'm also annoyed and wounded on more of a intangible and personal level. I've been intensely loyal to CO because I think that they offer a superior product that fits my travel profile (125K a year plus all domestic buying last minute tickets on unrestricted Y or F fares). And I just like them, or more to the point I like the people who work for them. I don't "know the system" as well as others here, but generally I know what to do to maximize my return from my flying dollars without relying on the CO staff. But in this instance, when I really needed CO to come to come through for me, I feel as though they failed me, from the FA who didn't seem cognizant of my loyalty/status and sympathetic to my needs, to the RC who arrogantly warned me about the "FBI", to whatever ground ops personnel/procedures that are in place that, at least from my center-perspective and prejudiced view, don't seem to take into account the most important factor - that people need to get to where they are going....

Thanks for reading...thoughts and insights?
SEA-Risk is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 3:04 am
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I have read your post with great sympathy and respect for your honesty. You have clearly reprimanded yourself for your behaviour so there is little point in pouring salt in the wound.

Given your physical condition was known at MIA, I am surprised that IAH were not more sensitive to your condition. I do not know CO's operations but am again surprised that the crew had not notified CO at IAH of your condition. We do that as a matter of routine to ensure that Wheelchairs. unaccompanied minors, or anyone needing assistance are made known. I assume that is when the gate information comes thought although this may be delivered directly by computer I do not know.

It sounds as though they thought that you were arriving too late for the connection and someone slipped up big time. Even if the door were closed the GA could have got the aircraft back on stand even if it was still on push - I have seen this done in the US before.It is enitely possible that the aircraft had taxied by this stage - it may have gone early. It is possible that the Capt determined that the departure had to be immediate as if you were delayed it is not impossible that weather or other problems were causing delays and the Capt had to get off sharp to make his slot - again this is conjecture. Unfortunately you did not help matters by antagonising the GA - she could have sorted that out.

I think that OC were negligent in not attempting to be more helpful. You were an invalid and need assistance and this was known to them. However I am wondering if the ER Doctor in Key West gave you the one thing that you really needed and that was a letter describing your condition. I am somewhat surprised that Co did not request this to show the full nature of your disability and your fitness to travel. Had you had that I think that you would and should have been treated quite differently. Please excuse me - I do not doubt what you say, but you clearly do not react well in certain situations and I am wondering if the rush back to Seattle was your idea or the Doctors. When we are ill, we all want to go home but I am wondering if it might have been better if you had travelled another day later and given yourself plenty of time in IAH.

Yes I do think that you have cause for complaint against CO - but whilst it is a factor I do not think that status/loyalty are any match for your medical condition. I would write to Continental and enclose a copy of your Doctor's report for you will by now be consulting a Doctor. I think that you should - not just for yourself but for others who might also be in the same boat. I do hope that your operation is a success and that you will be a little more patient as a patient. I am a nurse - so that comes from the heart!!

Best of Luck
PUCCI GALORE is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 3:04 am
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My thoughts? Delays happen. Be glad that you got home without having to spend the night on an airport floor or in a roach motel. Yes -- it sucks.

As for why some aircraft are held and others aren't, holding an aircraft for one person will quite likely screw up the travel plans of someone else. After seeing the CO operations facility where all of this is planned and managed all I can say is that I trust their judgment with regard to what they need to do to make things run. Sometimes that means we'll miss connections. Sometimes that means they'll hold things for us. The decisions on such things are (from what I recall) made by people in Houston who can see the whole picture, not by the gate agents at the airport.

Regarding the redcoat -- if you give attitude you're likely to get attitude. Lashing out at the people who can help you isn't generally a good course of action. I see from the above that you know that.

The FAs are also under a variety of restrictions. I believe that after descent begins (or around then) they are not allowed to contact the cockpit about anything. If you asked around that time in the flight there was nothing they could do. Even if you'd have asked before, the flight crew generally doesn't get involved with passenger connections. I'm not sure what the official policy is, but I've seen people rebuffed before when they asked the crew to relay a "Hold the plane for me!" message as you attempted.
Xyzzy is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 6:22 am
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First off, sorry to hear about your injury and very tough travel day.

Long story short, CO has got nothing to be sorry about. Asking if the captain call and hold your connecting flight from the air? Just silly. They have much more important things to do, like, I don't know, FLY THE PLANE.

It seems that even though you did lose it at CS (as a Plat, I truly cannot put up with those that whip out their Plat card and throw it around) you were helped to the best of their ability - got you on the best next flight. What were you hoping for? A recall of the original flight back to IAH perhaps?

Quick question. Did the doctor in FLA actually prescribe the wine with the percoset?

Do you believe any other airline would've handled the situation better or worse? That's the operative question. If so, get a status match and switch. That's how I would show my dissatisfaction, walk with my cash. If not, I'd realize I just had a tough day of traveling.

"Wounded on a personal level" - come on.

Again, hope all works out well with the injury and you heal up quickly.

Last edited by fireworksboy; Jan 16, 08 at 6:29 am
fireworksboy is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 8:38 am
Join Date: Oct 2007
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I can totally relate to this situation as I ruptured an achilles tendon while on vacation in Florida (fortunately, it was the day before we were scheduled to go home). I was flying UA at the time, going MIA-ORD-LGA to get home, in coach the entire way and had to get from the C terminal to B in ORD to catch my connection.

While I definitely feel for you, the way I see it this one is on you. The mistake was made when you booked your ticket...to think you'll make a 45 minute connection in any airport is a huge risk, broken leg or not. Since you were splurging anyway, you should have found flights giving you at least 2 hours between flights and bought your way into the PC or had a meal with the extra time.

As far as getting upset and yelling, you should know that this will get you absolutely nowhere. The fact that you fly 125K miles per year doesnt give you the right to treat people like crap - in all likelihood, that's what they'll give you in return.

BTW - the kicker to my sob story about flying home from vacation and being on crutches...when we landed at LGA my parents picked my wife and I up and informed us that they had to put our dog to sleep while we were away.
Rebigulator is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 8:53 am
Join Date: Dec 2004
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Pilots are discouraged from using the OPS frequency for items such as connections. Reason being, CO has software in place specifically for that purpose. The agents know exactly who's connecting and where to. It would be redundant to call in. I've actually seen agents waiting at the podium for connectors to come off a late plane. They had their re-acommodations all printed out and just handed them to the PAX. With that in mind I will say, the fact that you were injured may have prompted me to at least ask the 'pit to call that fact in.

As far as holding planes, that decision is made at central operations, downtown Houston, not by airport ground staff. There are no definate set of rules but I'm sure they take all know factors into account.
pptp is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 9:31 am
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Stepping aside from the medial and personal issues (and thank you SEA-Risk for your emphasis on trasnperancy) I do think CO has an issue - and this is not the first (nor the last) it has come up.

When things run well, and in CO's case I would think the argument can be made that this occures the majority of the time, CO does well. The planes run on time, customers make connections, bags arrive at the destination and all's well. But when things take a turn for the worst CO is horrible at service recovery.

The first thing is the MIA-SEA issue.

You were on an easy pass F ticket and I find it hard to believe not a single FC seat existed on CO, NW, DL or even AS n/a s back to SEA. When calling in the agent should have been checked all the avaliable inventory on all the partners and alternate routings. While I don't know what happened w/r/t that phone call, I can sadly envision the agent seeing EasyPass and just simply changing the dates to come back one day sooner rather than fleecing through all the other options out there.

The late arrival into IAH.

While I am on the fence about holding the plane I do think if you were misconnected the agent should have already had in place an alternative plan for you for three main reasons:

1. You're a Plat
2. You've advised them of a medical injury
3. You're on an EasyPass reward

However neither of this seemed to have happened and when you did get to talk to someone who could help the attitude seemed more like "let's get this customer outta here" rather than "let's get this Plat back who's been injured...hmmmm...flights seem rather full but here are some alternatives that have at least one seat in F..."

In short if CO had found a better way to route the ticket back to SEA (such as the AS n/s or a partner routing) this would have never happened. Likewise if someone from CO had proactively met SEA-Risk at the gate to go over alternatives than I suspect much of the angst from the connection would have been avoided.

When CO things run smoothly at CO it's a great experience.

When things start to get off, CO's ability to respond to and deal with the situation sadly seems to deteriorate and lag behind that of their competitors.

I'd call CO back and request a refund of miles for the difference of F to Y...although they'd probably claim no refund was due as you were delayed to WX
J.Edward is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 9:49 am
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I agree that I would definitely ask for the difference in miles between F and Y. It's the least they could do and seems straightforward and obvious (which means it probably won't be done).

On another note, I give you huge kudos for telling the story with your own bad behavior in it. Too often, it seems like stories fall into the "me all good, Continental all bad" category and it took some good self analysis to put in your own bad behavior.
DawgmanOH is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 9:56 am
Join Date: Dec 2001
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Originally Posted by J.Edward View Post
3. You're on an EasyPass reward

I'd call CO back and request a refund of miles for the difference of F to Y...although they'd probably claim no refund was due as you were delayed to WX
1) not sure what number three has to do with it. please elaborate.

2) even if it was legitimately due to weather (WX?), if you were downgraded to coach you would still be entitled to a refund of the miles.
fly co to see the yanks is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 10:33 am
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Originally Posted by fly co to see the yanks View Post
1) not sure what number three has to do with it. please elaborate.
Review the quoted post - it's in there!
Originally Posted by fly co to see the yanks View Post
2) even if it was legitimately due to weather (WX?), if you were downgraded to coach you would still be entitled to a refund of the miles.
I would argue yes.

With an Easy Pass reward 45,000 ----> 25,000 nets 20,000 points - almost enough for a standard award or enough for a o/w domestic upgrade with a small bonus for the trouble.
J.Edward is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 11:55 am
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Originally Posted by J.Edward View Post
You were on an easy pass F ticket and I find it hard to believe not a single FC seat existed on CO, NW, DL or even AS n/a s back to SEA...Likewise if someone from CO had proactively met SEA-Risk at the gate to go over alternatives than I suspect much of the angst from the connection would have been avoided.
Again, kudos to you for admitting your bad behavior. Admitting that in the letter that you should be writing will go a long way in helping your case. The lack of proactivity is one thing, but I can't help but wonder if the (again, admitted) bad behavior made the F seats disappear. Is it wrong to make the seats disappear? Absolutely. But in the agent's mind, why should bad behavior be rewarded, status or no status?
ConciergeMike is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 12:08 pm
Join Date: Jul 2004
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That's an absurd number of miles!!! What is wrong with you??

just kidding.
rbrenton88 is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 12:24 pm
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: NJ, USA
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I have always found the folks in the Presidents Club very helpful - more than CS that often has a whole line of irate people to deal with
One of the reasons I keep a PClub membership
jerseygirl is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 1:21 pm
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Originally Posted by jerseygirl View Post
I have always found the folks in the Presidents Club very helpful - more than CS that often has a whole line of irate people to deal with
One of the reasons I keep a PClub membership
I've found the PC agents very pleasant. That does not necessarily mean helpful. Some are, but others are just polite but useless.
channa is offline  
Old Jan 16, 08, 1:26 pm
Join Date: May 2004
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I have to say that since the original flights were so close and your were in F in 1 A/B nonetheless, that waiting a couple of minutes should not have been a problem. As you describe it, It sounds like the IAH/SEA was last of the day, If that's true even more reason to hold.

Once on NW at DTW I was connecting to the last flight of the day in a smiliar situation (late and close by gates) I was in F and the firts person off the plane. There was a GA at the top of the jetway who called out are your Mr.OTRALOT? AS I answered in the affirmative, she said they are holding the plane for you and its two gates away.

I was in FC on that flight as well (all Elite ug's) so was able to hussle on down the jetway and sneak into my seat ASAP.

No that kind of service, although its not the norm, does leave a lasting warm and fuzzy!
otralot is offline  

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