I spoke again today with the Continental customer service representative who has been handling this issue.
She apologized again, assured me again that the airline takes what happened very seriously, assured me that the issue is being handled at the highest levels of senior management, and assured me that a full investigation was being conducted, including interviewing every employee at every airport who had anything to do with my daughter, and approriate steps would be taken to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.
She said that Continental is going to refund my daughter’s entire fare and fly her back to Boston in first class for free. They are also going to refund the round-trip tickets that my in-laws bought to fly to Boston with M and then back to Cleveland, and replace them with first-class tickets as well (note: they had already planned this trip before what happened on Sunday). Finally, they are giving my wife, my daughter and I “Silver Elite” status in their frequent-flyer program, OnePass, until the end of the current program year, which apparently is next February.
I doubt we’re going to be flying much between now and then, so the frequent-flyer upgrade doesn’t really mean all that much, but it’s nice that they offered something extra.
The real question is, when they’re done with the investigation they claim to be doing and they’ve taken whatever corrective action they decide to take, are they going to release any information about what they learned and what was done? I sure hope so.
Hmm, I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t really argue with you on this. I know that my first reaction was to applaud you for not being so litigious. It was really when I heard there were two identical cases in two days that I started thinking otherwise.
Isn’t the usual standard that if you and your family were distraught over them misplacing your kid, and your kid was upset over being in the wrong city, there is a loosely quantifiable emotional distress aspect that can mean real money? I’m not saying to take them to the cleaners, and of course these days the airlines don’t have much left to clean, but a real number and not a nominal $1 …?
the only thing that will get their attention is a set of lawsuits.
Such a lawsuit would be frivolous. There were not sufficient, measurable damages to anyone involved to justify the awardng of substantial compensatory or punitive damages.
In the absence of such damages, such a lawsuit would be of the “I’m only suing for $1 in damages, just for the sake of getting the defendant into court and forcing them to change their ways” variety. If I were rich, perhaps I would consider such a thing. But somebody would have to pay the lawyer, and simply put, I don’t have the money.
I heard that not only was there this case of not following the protocol with the boarding, but there was another kid misrouted only a day before Jonathan’s.
The comment here is right: the penalty needs to be stiff enough to deter them. That’s why, while I think their first class seats and elite status are nice, the only thing that will get their attention is a set of lawsuits.
Sounds like Continental is doing the right thing by you, Jik. Now let’s hope they do the right thing in investigating how it happened and making sure it never happens again.
As someone who as a child was regularly sent to spend summers with both sets of grandparents via the unaccompanied minor programs of years past, this story sent shivers up and down my spine, because I can easily imagine being my 10-year-old self and ending up halfway across the country from my intended destination, surrounded by strangers and what sounds like some way the hell too inattentive (and/or stupid and lazy) airline employees. I would certainly not have considered it a “minor inconvenience,” nor would have my family.
The point in this entire exercise, which many people seem to be missing, is that the penalty Continental needs to pay – whether it’s to the family involved, or to the FAA in the form of a fine – should be substantial enough that they never do something like this again.
I’m not going to get into a laundry list of the untoward things that could’ve happened to this little girl while she was being treated like a piece of luggage by the airline, but the fact that all parties lucked out and nothing *did* happen doesn’t excuse the negligence of every single employee involved, nor should it absolve them of the responsibility to address the chain of f-ups that created the situation in the first place.
Let’s just say this isn’t the first time something has happened with an unaccompanied minor. I just received my confirmation of delivery for the letter I sent to the COO, and CEO of Continental for the treatment my 12 yr old daughter received last week – and it wasn’t Expressjet either. They didn’t lose her…, but people just don’t care and don’t do their jobs.
Here is the letter I sent – it’s pretty self explanatory.
P.O. Box 4607
Houston, TX, 77210
Re: Flight 1544, IAH to CLE, Gate E22, June 7, 2009
I find myself, unfortunately, having to write to you with regard to the inexcusable behavior of two Continental employees.
My twelve year old step daughter was a passenger yesterday on the flight noted above. She was flying to Cleveland as an unaccompanied minor to spend the summer with her father. As is necessary my wife checked her in and proceeded to the gate with her to wait until she was boarded. At the podium, the gate agent acknowledged the check in, and asked them to take a seat, that they would be called when it was time to board. We are very well versed in these procedures, as we go through the process a few times a year, and have for several years.
When the time came to load the plane, the gate agent loaded first class, and then loaded the Elite passengers, before my wife realized what was happening. My wife then approached the podium and asked as to why the unaccompanied minors had not been loaded first, as is the norm. She was told “we didn’t know where you were sitting”, to which my wife told them all they had to do was page them to approach the podium. The gate agent then told them to wait, that they would put my daughter on last. When the time came to take my daughter down the jetway to the plane, the gate agent then told them that they would have to check the carry on, as there would be no space. My wife refused to have it checked as we always have my daughter carry her bag on to make things easier on both ends. The bag fits in the overhead and we have done this every time before. The gate agent then said it would be up to the flight attendants to deal with it when my daughter got on the plane.
Once on the plane, the flight attendant found some overhead space and told my daughter to stow her bag. When my twelve year old daughter said she couldn’t reach, the flight attendant replied “if you can’t put your bag up there you should have checked it.” Then proceeded to ask for volunteers to help the child with her bag. Once that was done, she put my daughter, not in the window seat that we booked, but two rows up in a middle seat. My twelve year old daughter is, as some children sometimes are, a little shy, and hates being the center of attention. She is quiet and relatively reserved. To be paraded down the aisle of a full plane and then embarrassed and made to feel helpless in front of everyone is absolutely appalling. And then to top it off she is made to sit in a middle seat instead of the window seat we booked for her, which is entirely inexcusable.
And for all this inexcusable behavior we have the privilege of paying an additional charge of 75.00 each way.
Upon finding out about this travesty, I immediately drove back to IAH and contacted customer service, asking to speak to a red coat. I spoke to Gilbert G. and he was very apologetic. He listened intently, said there wasn’t much he could do from there, but made a notation on the reservation record, and gave me the 800 We Care2 number. He asked that I call the number, and ask to be refunded my unaccompanied minor fee as we certainly had not received the service we paid for. He said that Continental needed to hear about such matters. I asked if there was any way I could find out the names of the employees that worked gate E22, and flight 1544, but he advised there was no way he could.
This morning I called the We Care number and spoke to Miss Johnson. She listened to me repeat the entire story once more, and was very apologetic. She opened a case – ID No. 4085935 and proceeded to refund the unaccompanied minor fee for the appropriate flight of the reservation. She was very efficient. Again I asked if there was any way I could find out the names of the employees in question, but again she said there was no way even she could find out.
I firmly believe that should the gate agent in question have done her job correctly and loaded the UM’s first as is the norm, most of this would have been avoided. However, it probably would not have eliminated the poor attitude of the flight attendant.
As a complete aside apparently there were further problems on this flight with another UM fourteen year old girl. I can’t speak to the details however.
As a current platinum Elite One Pass member, and an elite member with Continental for the past eight years, as well as several years with other airlines, I see and hear all kinds of things to and from gate agents and flight attendants, not all good, and not all bad, I am no stranger to this industry. Most of the time I am disgusted at what the average traveler thinks they can and should be able to get away with on any flight. Most of the time the gate agents and flight attendants deal with them all very well. But when children are involved, and the parents pay extra to have them taken care of on a flight by your employees, there is no place for this atrocious behavior.
My intent with this letter is nothing more than to make you aware of the situation and make sure the employees are reprimanded accordingly. Mr. Kellner stated earlier this year that the “more than 42,000 co-workers are the reason for our success”, and “They have shown once again that they are the best team in the airline industry.” If the employees in question in this situation are the type of employees Continental are so proud of, Continental’s winning ways are not long for this world.
Nice to see they did the right thing. All it took for them “to see the light” was a little (OK, huge amount) of pressure from the media. The Internet really does empower consumers.
There is nothing like a first class seat by the way. I won’t pay for em, but when they give me one it is a treat. (I am just too cheap to pay. Besides, the whole plane gets there at the same time, right?)