Two conversations with Continental, one Sunday evening with a supervisor at Logan Airport, one Monday afternoon with a corporate customer relations representative:
Conversation #1, Sunday evening:
Yesterday, while we were in the midst of trying to get my daughter from Newark to Cleveland, a Continental supervisor at Logan Airport called and left her name and number on our voicemail, saying she would try to reach us again later if she didn’t hear from us.
Several hours later, after our daughter was safe with her grandparents in Cleveland, the supervisor still hadn’t called, so I called her.
She was extremely apologetic and acknowledged that many different things had gone wrong. She also confirmed, when I asked if I was correct, that both the Cleveland-bound flight crew and the Newark-bound flight crew violated FAA regulations by failing to confirm that the correct number of passengers was on-board before taking off.
I told her that I didn’t want to embarrass her by going over her head, but I really felt like I needed to speak to someone at Continental’s corporate HQ about what occurred. I asked her to contact corporate Monday morning, brief someone in a position of authority on the details, and have that person contact me to discuss the situation further.
She informed me that she didn’t come into work until noon on Monday, but that as soon as she got into work, she would contact the corporate customer relations department, fill someone there in, and have them contact me.
Now, as far as I am concerned, this was an opportunity for someone at Continental to prove that they took what happened to my daughter seriously, an opportunity which they squandered. It seems to me that losing a child for several hours is not a “We’ll contact you tomorrow afternoon” type of event, but rather an “I’ve already contacted our corporate damage control department about this terrible incident and I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them later tonight” type of event. But I bit my tongue and said a call tomorrow afternoon would just have to do.
Conversation #2, Monday afternoon:
Shortly after noon on Monday, the Continental representative did indeed call me and leave a voicemail message, in which she apologized for what happened, said that she was investigating the incident, and said that it would take 7-10 days to reach any conclusions about how it happened or what would be done to prevent it in the future. I was busy with all of the reporters interviewing me, so I wasn’t able to call back for several hours. I called back and left a message on her voicemail as soon as I could, and she called back and we spoke a little while later.
She was very professional, and she did exactly what she needed to do — she apologized profusely, she let me vent at her, and she kept apologizing and acknowledging that my anger was perfectly legitimate. She did not try to defend Continental over what happened, which clearly would have been ludicrous.
I told her that the offer to refund the $75 unaccompanied minor fee was an insult, and that at a minimum I expected Continental to refund the full price of my daughter’s ticket and to fly my in-laws and daughter back to Boston in two weeks in first class, to give them a nice experience to make up for the terrible experience they put us all through yesterday. I made it clear that I felt this was the minimum Continental could do to “make us whole” after what had happened, and that it would be an awful good idea for them to come up with something more than that to make us feel like they were making an effort to go above and beyond.
I also told her that I didn’t think waiting until a day after the incident to contact me about it was in any way reasonable. I told her that when I hadn’t heard anything from Continental by Sunday night, I sent out tips to all of the local news media, and I told her that four of them had already interviewed me with a fifth scheduled for later that afternoon. I therefore suggested to her that (a) “7-10 days” was probably not a good time-frame for reaching some sort of resolution to this issue, and “before 5pm tonight” was probably a better idea, and (b) it might be a good idea for her to escalate this incident from the “make pissed off customers happy” department for which she worked to the “get out in front of PR disasters and get them cleaned up ASAP” department which I was sure existed somewhere within the company.
She gave noncommittal responses to all of this (but, again, she did not try to defend Continental, nor did she call my demands or suggestions unreasonable) and told me I’d be hearing back from her as soon as she had something more to tell me. We’ll see.