Come & Fly Our "Friendly" Skies

I recently went on vacation.  It was nice as this is the first time in my adult life that I have been able to go on vacation and still get paid for it.  I get three weeks paid vacation at my place of employment and I have to tell you that it feels really nice making a paycheck while sitting on the beach.  And on this said vacation I was forced to take a multitude of airplanes to get to my destination.  I went from Indianapolis, Indiana to Houston, Texas.  Then, I traveled straight south from Houston to Managua, Nicaragua.  The rest of the trip was made possible by an air-conditioned taxi.  And trust me, when it is ninety degrees outside and the humidity is over 90%, you will appreciate every second you are behind an air vent.

When I was searching for plane tickets, and having been to Nicaragua before, I knew that Continental was the cheapest round trip ticket that I was going to be able to find.  We actually ended up finding tickets right at $500.  Having flown Continental time and time again I had nothing to worry about but crying babies and clogged toilets.

Once we made it to our destination, I was given the chance to relax and enjoy the sunshine.  Having been unplugged from the world of Twitter and CNN for the first half of the trip, I caved somewhere around Tuesday and started using the Internet again.  And boy did it feel good.  When I logged onto Yahoo! To check the latest world news I was shocked to find that dozens of people were injured in a plane accident not two days after we had landed.  A flight leaving from Brazil (the country, not the city) and headed toward Houston had dropped over 10,000 feet due to unanticipated turbulence.  With the fasten seatbelt sign on for the duration of the flight, there were still passengers out of their seats stretching, checking something in his or her luggage, or simply using the restroom.  46 people were injured on this flight, and thank God that none of them died, and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Miami.  This flight was operated by none other than Continental Airlines.

Then, just when I think that this was bad enough for the folks at Continental, they have made the headlines yet again.  This time, though, they did not even get the plane off the ground.  Passengers on flight 2816 were simply taking a two and a half hour flight from Houston (do you see a trend somewhere in here) to Minneapolis when bad weather struck.  One thing after another continued to cause a delay and after nearly ten hours of being stuck in this insanely small bi-plane, the forty-seven passengers were starting to get irritated.  There were crying babies (see, I told you babies cried on airplanes) and the single toilet on the aircraft was beginning to smell as if the handle was broken.

The airline, no surprise, is not answering too many questions about this event.  They are, however, offering sincere apologies and travel vouchers to the folks on board that flight.  And after a twelve-hour hold up inside a plane the size of your kitchen table, I think they need to be offering up something a little more than that.

With all of this said and done, it actually does not surprise me what so ever that the airline is not taking a ton of responsibility in this.  For instance, on my first flight, from Indianapolis to Houston all I wanted was a nap.  I had slept only a few hours the night before and had been up most of the night throwing up due to what I later learned was a simple stomach bug.  (This bug lasted almost two weeks.  But it is gone now and I m back to normal.)  So when we got on the flight I threw my headphones on and asked the first stewardess that I saw for a pillow.  There were three seats in our row and only one pillow and one blanket.  I did not need the blanket, as I am always hot, but all I wanted was something to rest my head on.  What follows is a direct account of what happened on that early Wednesday morning.

“Hi, is there any way that I can get a second pillow please,” I said to the lovely stewardess as she walked past my seat.”

“No, only one pillow per row,” said the rude, I did not get my morning cup of Joe, flight attendant.  I politely responded with what I hoped would get me a stuffed bag of feathers.

“Are you sure there are no more?  I really would like a pillow.”  I had a gleam in my eye and a nap in my future.  I was again denied the pillow.

This is what happened on that initial flight to Houston.  It continued on with one rude attendant after another.  Every one that I came across was inconsiderate and it made me feel like I was putting them out by asking for a simple request.  I broke the headphones on the second flight, from Houston to Managua, and asked for a second pair.  They tried to charge me $5 for a second set of free headphones.  The list really does go on and on.

On the way home from Managua they showed a short film from the President and CEO of Continental Airlines, Mr. Larry Kellner.  He stated in his little thirty-second speech that “customer service rained supreme” and that “if you need anything while on this flight do not hesitate to ask one of our highly trained and courteous staff members.”  He must have been talking about another flight because all of the people that we came across were anything but courteous.

So seeing two stories in the headlines and having had the experience that I did with my recent trip down south, I will think twice about booking a flight with this airline again and I highly suggest that you do the same.  For a company that has a motto, “Work Hard.  Fly Right,” they might want to take some time to rebrand themselves.  “Hardly Work.  Unsafe Flight,” might be more appropriate.