16 Hours with Continental
(Or how not to fly)
On how it took 16 hours to fly from Houston,Tx to Corpus Christi,Tx and back.
Welcome, sit back, and get ready to hear one of the most incredible tales of mix-ups, suffering, and resolve to get from one city to the next and back via Continental. This is a true story and should be a part of any company's talks about customers.
The story begins with me and a friend in Corpus Christi wanting to get together. I didn't have the fare for a plane ticket and was going to drive down. He thought he could find a good fare on a plane ticket and said he'd find one and pay for the trip. A few hours went by and then he called me back. It seemed that Continental had a flight which left Hobby Airport and flew to Corpus Christi. The fare was only $60.00 round trip so I couldn't complain. My friend paid the money and I began making my plans. My wife was going to be out of town at the time too so everything seemed just perfect for making the trip. (ie: No other engagements - not that I was trying to do something behind my wife's back! :-) )
7:00am:So the weekend came and I made ready to fly to Corpus Christi. Only I also had the beginnings of the flu to contend with. Usually people do not fly when they have the flu because their sinuses clog up from the flu and when the pressure decreases in the plane as you go up people have actually had strokes from the pressure build-up within their skulls. But this was, presently, only a mild headache, tiredness, and no clogging of the sinuses. So I made ready to go.
I had been told by the person over the phone at Continental that I was supposed to show up at Hobby at 8:30am to board a plane to make the journey. I arrived at 7:30am. An hour before the flight was supposed to leave. I walked into Hobby Airport's ticket area and - no Continental. The booth was closed. Looking around I found a security guard and asked them what was going on. "No one's there yet." they said.
"I know that," I said, "but where are they? I have a plane to catch at 8:30am."
He only shrugged. I went and looked around at the other ticket areas to make sure no one from Continental was talking with people in another area. No such luck. By this time it was 8:00am. As I returned to the ticket counter a Continental person showed up. After talking with them for a few minutes they opened up the counter, typed in my name, looked at me, and said "You're supposed to be at Intercontinental Airport."
"What?" I said loudly. "I was told to come to Hobby."
"We dont' fly to Corpus from Hobby," the man said. "You must have heard wrong."
"Mister," I replied, "Hobby doesn't sound anything like Intercontinental Airport. I didn't hear wrong. What can I do about this?"
"Nothing," he said while shaking his head.
"That's impossible. There has to be something I can do." I said.
"Mmmmmm... Ah. I tell you what - call this number," he said handing me a card. "Call this number and they might be able to help you."
"What is it?" I said.
"The main phone number for Continental."
"Ok," I said and looked around.
"The phones are over there. It's a 1-800 number so you don't need money."
I thanked him and went over to the phone. After dialing the number an operator came on and we talked. She checked my reservation, said it was indeed for Intercontinental Airport (which, by the way, is all the way on the other side of Houston from Hobby. About an hour's drive.). Then she graciously began re-routing my flight to get me to Corpus Christi from Hobby. After about fifteen minutes of hearing her typing away and scheduling everything I had a way to get to Corpus Christi. I thanked her profusely and headed back over to the ticket counter. There the person directed me on how to find the first plane. "First plane?" I thought, "I must have misheard him."
Travelling down the ramp to the pass-through point and then....where? I couldn't find the section for my plane. I looked and looked and then - oh! There it is??? It's a set of stairs leading down. I go down them and find myself on the tarmac. Or very close to it. A few rows of chairs stuck together with a double glass door leading directly out and onto the tarmac was all there was. I set everything down, sat down, and looked at my new set of tickets. The plane wasn't scheduled to come in until noon. It was now almost 9:00am. My head was beginning to hurt a bit so I took some medicine, put my arms through the straps of my luggage, and slept.
11:45am:A rush of people come down the stairs. Suddenly there are thirty or forty people in the same room as me. A prop plane rolls up outside and people begin disembarking. My head is stuffed up a bit and I'm really tired. My neck has a crink in it from sleeping in the chair. Everyone who has gotten off of the plane leaves. A man comes in, takes my ticket as well as four other people's tickets, we board, and are given the normal seatbelt/seat cushion talk. Then the engines start up. I find out the hard way that I'm sitting next to an engine. My seat begins to vibrate. Then I can't hear myself think. Then there is nothing but the roar of the engines. Up we go, my head feeling like its going to explode. I'm trying to pop my ears but when I do they hurt worse than before.
When we land, I can't hear. People are motioning for me to get off of the plane so I guess it's time to leave. A lady outside is saying something to me but I don't know what. So I have to stop and ask her to yell. I hear this whisper which says something about going up the stairs. Ok, I'll go up the stairs. Up we go and around to the other side of Intercontinental Airport. I get it now - first stop in the flight. Around we go and up to the counter where the next flight should be. The man mumbles something to me. I tell him to speak up because I can't hear. He does so. Everyone looks. I sigh. The plane is delayed by two hours. It's noon. By this time I could have driven to Corpus Christi and be having lunch there. But no. I'm at the airport so I eat a burger and fries. I sit down and read the book I'd brought, sleep a bit more, and then wake up to find I can hear again.
1:45pm:The plane has been delayed. Again. I look at my watch. "Maybe I should just go home," I think and then decide not to. I've already made it this far - I might as well go all the way I think. Then I settle back down and go to sleep again.
3:50pm:The plane has arrived. We get on and begin flying. Only we are headed straight west. Corpus Christi is southwest of Houston. After about ten minutes the plane takes a sudden swing to the south. I guess the pilot remembered he wasn't going to San Antonio and turned to go to Corpus Christi. It takes us about thirty minutes to make it, but at last we land in Corpus Christi's airport. By this time I've got a fever of 103 and I'm so tired I can barely make it out of the airport. But I'm there. The time is now almost 5:00pm after getting my bags. I've spent ten hours either on planes or waiting for planes. In the same time frame I could have driving to Corpus Christi and back to Houston as well as had a two hour meal (or lunch and dinner).
The return trip
2:45pm: Thinking that the trip down was a fluke I'm looking forwards to the return trip since I do like flying. My friends come to the airport with me. I check in, we get a little to drink, and then it is time for my flight so we say goodbye and they leave. It is then that the nightmare continued. After walking the concourse to where the plane was supposed to be waiting I'm told that the plane is delayed for two hours. "Not again," I think.
4:50pm: After waiting two hours a plane from Houston does arrive. "Thank goodness," I think. Then, to my horror I'm not allowed to board. It seems that there are a lot of people who were supposed to get onto a plane which was supposed to leave before the one I was supposed to leave on. That plane didn't show up either. So I have to watch while others board and the plane leaves. When was the next flight? In two hours.
6:50pm: Another plane has appeared and we are loaded onto it. I grateful just to be able to get onto a plane to fly. The engines start up, it looks like the plane is about to roll back, and then a voice comes on over the intercom. "Your attention ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry, but the pilots are going to have to shut down the engines again because the intercom for the passengers isn't working."
I look at the person sitting next to me and say "Excuse me, but if the intercom for the passengers isn't working why did she use the intercom to talk to us?" He shrugs. I look out the window and see one of those electric carts come rolling up to the engine next to me. The guy jumps off of it and runs over to the engine with a drill in his hand. The drill has a ratchet end on it and he begins taking off bolts. He opens a flap and begins to work on something. I point this out to the person sitting next to me. "Intercom problems eh?" I say. "Why doesn't this give me a good feeling?" The lights go out in the cabin and then come back on. The guy outside closes the flap, puts the bolts back on, gets in his vehicle, and leaves.
We back out, go out to the tarmac, and sit, and sit, and sit. Suddenly, one of those absolutely huge, mutli-storied, continent hopping planes comes up beside
us. The wing from that plane passes over our wing, the jet goes out onto the take-off area. I watch as this gigantic plane takes off. Then we get in line to do so. We fly back to Houston's Intercontinental Airport.
7:30pm: We disembark from the plane directly into a bus. The bus takes us at breakneck speeds across Intercontinental Airport's tarmac to another entrance. The bus driver yells out "Anyone going to Hobby stay on the bus." After everyone else gets off I say I'm going to Hobby. The driver asks me my name. "We've been looking for you." he said.
"Well," I say, "I've been trying to get here." The driver doesn't respond and instead jerks the bus into motion. Off across the tarmac again we go. Right up next door to the prop plane which had ferried me over from Hobby. I'm put back into the plane, my luggage stored under the plane. At least - I thought it was. It was another painful journey back to Hobby. Only this time someone gave me ear plugs. So I wasn't deaf by the time I got back. I go inside, try to get my luggage only to find its lost. I just nod knowlingly, give them my name, address, and phone number, get some money out of the teller machine so I can get my truck out of hock in the parking area, go home, and go to bed. The time is now 9:00pm.
The luggage showed up the next day.
There were ten hours lost on Saturday and six hours on Sunday for a grand total of sixteen hours. In sixteen hours I could have driven back and forth between Houston and Corpus Christi twice. I now only drive to Corpus Christi. I won't fly there and I don't take Continental.