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Denied companion upgrade POP-EWR despite FC not being full

Denied companion upgrade POP-EWR despite FC not being full

 
Old May 13, 09, 5:56 pm
  #1  
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Denied companion upgrade POP-EWR despite FC not being full

First time poster here, but had to sign up because I was so frustrated with my experience yesterday. On 5/8, my friend and I flew flight 512 EWR-POP. I put him on the standby list as my companion, and had no issues getting the upgrade. We flew back yesterday on flight 712 POP-EWR. Upon check in, I asked to put him on the companion upgrade list. The check in agent was confused and did not understand what I was referring to. I explained to her how as a Gold Elite member, I am allowed to put one companion on the upgrade standby list and he would be given a seat pending availability. She told me that the only way I could get him upgraded was if I used my own points. I knew this was completely false, and I explained to her again what the companion upgrade was for Gold and Platinum Elite members. She told me once again that I had to use miles. I gave one last attempt to explain the policy to her and gave up as I saw I was getting nowhere and decided instead to give it another attempt at the gate.

Upon arrival at the gate, there was no agent. About 30 minutes before boarding an agent shows up, however it was the same woman who checked me in. She shook her head immediately before I said a word and said “No, can’t do it”. I called the Elite Line on my OnePass card hoping for assistance. The person explained to me on the line that he understood my situation, knew they were in the wrong, but there was nothing he could do because it was only the reservation line. I asked him for another number to call, but said they could not do anything over the phone. I had to try to take care of it at the gate. Knowing this was no longer possible, I boarded the flight hoping that a flight attendant may possibly be able to help, but sure enough she said there was nothing she could do. The plane finished boarding and as expected, first class was not filled up.

I called up the WeCare line today. The first agent I spoke to took down my whole scenario as I explained it to him. Upon completion he told me that my complaint had been filed and Continental would make sure they would take the appropriate actions to retrain the personnel in Puerto Plata. I asked if I would get any sort of compensation for their mistake. He put me on hold for a few minutes. A different agent came back on the line and told me I would not be getting any sort of compensation because “the upgrade is complimentary”. I was more or less expecting a gesture of good faith from Continental to their most valued customers. I know there is no guarantee of an upgrade but there is an informally worded guarantee that there would be an upgrade pending availability. He told me that the workers at the airport messed up, but reiterated once again that since the upgrades are complimentary there would be no compensation. He gave me my complaint number and told me again that Continental would make sure that the Puerto Plata employees were properly trained. By the way, at no point did he nor the first agent even say “sorry for the inconvenience, but” or any sort of apology. I am also pretty disturbed that both the Elite Line phone and We Care agents I called pretty much said it was the employee’s fault at the airport and that she made an error. The employee was obviously untrained, however that is Continental’s responsibility, and the blame falls on the shoulders of the company as a whole.

I’ve already put together a complaint letter that I am going to send to corporate headquarters. Does anyone know the best address to send it to in order to have the most likely chance of a response?
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Old May 13, 09, 6:01 pm
  #2  
 
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The contract agents strike again! To the OP, this seems to be a common occurence at outstations staffed by contract employees. See here.

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Old May 13, 09, 6:43 pm
  #3  
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Send a PM (private message) to CO Insider with the details. He works for Continental and could look into the situation. He is very helpful.

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Old May 13, 09, 6:51 pm
  #4  
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Originally Posted by scrappy
He told me that the workers at the airport messed up...[but] there would be no compensation...at no point did he nor the first agent even say “sorry for the inconvenience, but” or any sort of apology.
Originally Posted by scrappy
both the Elite Line phone and We Care agents I called pretty much said it was the employee’s fault at the airport and that she made an error...the blame falls on the shoulders of the company as a whole.
Yeep.

Sounds like a simple apology from the agent and token goodwill gesture would have been all that was needed to smooth things over.

<shrug>

CO seems to stumble when the irregular happens and I wonder what happens to customers when they're unable to access a resource to escalate an issue.

Hopefully they'll be able to a) deal with the minor issue (no companion upgrade) and then b) take on the seemingly far larger challenge of address how to process and interact with those who've experienced an irregularity.

Last edited by J.Edward; May 14, 09 at 12:22 pm Reason: clarity
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Old May 13, 09, 7:17 pm
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/rant on

Stories like this really make me mad. We're loyal and provide VALUE to an airline in exchange for benefits which conveniently become "complimentary" and have NO VALUE when it best suits the airline.

How can a gate agent, contracted or not, not know that Golds and Plats get companion upgrades? Why do we know the rules better than COs own staff?

weDONTcare continually reaffirms that their department is designed to prevent fair treatment to those who need a little service recovery.

Did this nonsense go on during the Bethune era?

/rant off
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Old May 13, 09, 7:25 pm
  #6  
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Request compesation -- either a 1-way upgrade cert, or the equivalent amount of miles.

Better yet, tell them to treat this as a downgrade, and give him downgrade comp.
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Old May 13, 09, 7:26 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by channa View Post
Request compesation -- either a 1-way upgrade cert, or the equivalent amount of miles.

Better yet, tell them to treat this as a downgrade, and give him downgrade comp.
Or you could be a real pr!ck and dispute the charge with your credit card since you were denied benefits that you deserved...

Originally Posted by TommyC80 View Post
Stories like this really make me mad. We're loyal and provide VALUE to an airline in exchange for benefits which conveniently become "complimentary" and have NO VALUE when it best suits the airline.
+1

Originally Posted by TommyC80 View Post
Why do we know the rules better than COs own staff?
OT, but suiting to TommyC80's comment: I was on the phone today with a VERY NICE agent regarding original route credit. After talking about the "crazy itinerary" (it was a MR) and him thanking me for "flying just to fly during this economy", I explained that I've received ORC when WX cancelled segments of mine in the past. In addition to saying that he'd have a supervisor review it, he said, "You seem to know the rules very well. Have you considered working for us?"
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Old May 13, 09, 7:55 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by IAHtraveler View Post
Or you could be a real pr!ck and dispute the charge with your credit card since you were denied benefits that you deserved...
Negatory -- that course of action we be to send a DOT complaint to CO. But again, before going down that road I'd suggest you strongly consider brining the issue to CO's attention and seeing what they can do to remedy the situation.
Originally Posted by TommyC80
weDONTcare continually reaffirms that their department is designed to prevent fair treatment to those who need a little service recovery.
...and it's not even service recovery; it sounds like just a simple "I'm sorry" with some empathy would go a long, long way in smoothing out ruffled feathers.

<shrug>

Last edited by J.Edward; May 14, 09 at 12:22 pm Reason: clarity
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Old May 13, 09, 8:02 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by J.Edward View Post
Negatory -- that course of action we be to send a love note to CO via the DOT.
Good idea. If orchestrated correctly, it would really get the attention of upper management at CO!
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Old May 13, 09, 8:06 pm
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Originally Posted by J.Edward View Post
Negatory -- that course of action we be to send a love note to CO via the DOT.
Originally Posted by ContinentalFan View Post
Good idea. If orchestrated correctly, it would really get the attention of upper management at CO!
How much damage do these complaints cause? Would the DOT take a complaint about an issue like this seriously? I thought a DOT complaint would be more appropriate for a safety issue or blatant and extreme COC violation.

I've thought about doing this in the past on one or two occasions, but I figured it wasn't worth the effort.
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Old May 13, 09, 8:59 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by TommyC80 View Post
How much damage do these complaints cause?
The point of a DOT complaint, at least to me, is to produce change when all other methods have been exhausted. The DOT's role is to receive the complaint, then forward it to the airline and keep a public record of them. Likewise, the DOT complaint is aimed at service issues, not security and safety ones (there's another department for that.)

As far as response from the airline, the last DOT complaint I filed was against UA after being royally lied to by an agent. The next business day I had a direct follow up from HQ and the issue was resolved to my satisfaction. The airlines pay attention to them, IME and do take them seriously <shrug>

That said, in this particular case what I'd personally do is contact Scott, or maybe Martin Hand, Czar of the res centers, detail the issue (mainly the WeCare attitude and to a lesser extent, the poor training of the outstations) and ask for them to address the issue.
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Old May 13, 09, 9:20 pm
  #12  
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Originally Posted by TommyC80 View Post
How much damage do these complaints cause? Would the DOT take a complaint about an issue like this seriously? I thought a DOT complaint would be more appropriate for a safety issue or blatant and extreme COC violation.

I've thought about doing this in the past on one or two occasions, but I figured it wasn't worth the effort.
I've noticed a recurrent misunderstanding of what complaints to the DOT accomplish. The DOT simply compiles and publishes the complaints every month and "charges" them against a specific carrier. The process isn't meant to trigger any kind of regulatory action against an airline. The DOT claims that it could use information gained from the process for other, regulatory purposes--rule making; however, I think that claim is a stretch. The complaint mechanism is simply fodder for the news media.

Many media outlets cover the data published by the DOT and, if there's an interesting story, use the information as a basis for a story. For example, USA Today often covered DOT complaints in section B. At least once a year, the main news programs will comment on a spike in specific complaints.

I view the process as a way that frequent flyers could "communicate" with upper management at a given airline--it's the proverbial nuclear option. For example, say there was an orchestrated campaign to file hundreds of complaints to the DOT against a specific carrier in a given month and say that this flurry of complaints was accompanied by targeting messages to specific journalists that cover air travel, the ensuing publicity is guaranteed to get the attention of management--it's the proverbial David and Goliath story, the sort of story that, if handled correctly, could gain traction in the media.
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Old May 13, 09, 9:29 pm
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Originally Posted by J.Edward View Post
The point of a DOT complaint, at least to me, is to produce change when all other methods have been exhausted. The DOT's role is to receive the complaint, then forward it to the airline and keep a public record of them. Likewise, the DOT complaint is aimed at service issues, not security and safety ones (there's another department for that.)

As far as response from the airline, the last DOT complaint I filed was against UA after being royally lied to by an agent. The next business day I had a direct follow up from HQ and the issue was resolved to my satisfaction. The airlines pay attention to them, IME and do take them seriously <shrug>

That said, in this particular case what I'd personally do is contact Scott, or maybe Martin Hand, Czar of the res centers, detail the issue (mainly the WeCare attitude and to a lesser extent, the poor training of the outstations) and ask for them to address the issue.

J. Edward, I have had the exact same experience as you have had--though I was a little meaner. Surprised?

I can't speak about Continental today, because frankly Scott is around and, as I have said before, he heals all wounds. In 1997, I filed several complaints with the DOT against Continental in one month: I heard from Continental almost immediately. Continental has a DOT liaison and she contacted Mr. Bethune's office; I was contacted by one of his assistants.

Both DL and AA are sensitive to multiple DOT complaints from the same person in a given month: they too want to find out how to get the person complaining to contact the airline directly and to stop filing multiple complaints with the DOT. (I am sure the sensitivity level increased dramatically if the DOT liaison looked at the person's travel plans and saw 16 upcoming segments in the next thirty days!)
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Old May 13, 09, 9:30 pm
  #14  
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I've run into this myself. The agents in POP have needed to be retrained in this FOR YEARS. This is not new. CO has known about this issue for a long time. This is far from the first complaint about it. It's really rather pathetic that the situation has not been addressed already.
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Old May 13, 09, 9:33 pm
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I am dismayed by this story, and hope that it leads to sufficient compensation that the behind-the-scenes CO recriminations are blistering, e.g. "By screwing up like this you forced us to give up a paid FC SWU." Yeah, dream on. But the OP correctly ascertained a sure thing that was stolen by agent incompetence.

Yet this story is familiar.

I always travel with two copies of CO's Passenger of Size policy. If I ever need it and an agent disappears the first copy for his or her convenience, I'll maintain possession of the second copy while noting the theft of the first copy. Hopefully I can pull this off without arrest. This is called visualization; athletes do the same for every game. Athletes don't believe they're OCD for thinking such things through, and it took longer to type this than to carry out this preparation.

Anyone else afraid of contract agent bungling? Print out multiple copies for the trip of anything you're afraid a remote agent will get wrong. I'm serious.
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