Today’s letter to Continental

By | June 30, 2009

I just sent this letter to my contact at Continental:

Ms. [named elided],

Continental’s response to the incident that happened to my daughter, and to another little girl a day before my daughter, and to who knows how many other children who didn’t make the news, is inadequate.

“Reinforcing procedures” does not fix anything.  “Reinforcing procedures” is a cop-out which means, “We aren’t going to change anything, we know that it’s going to keep happening, and we don’t care, because we expect that most of the time it won’t make the news, and when it does, our PR flacks will be able to weather the storm for a few days, after which it’ll blow over and we’ll be back to business as usual.”

I have decades of experience in root cause analysis and process engineering.  I can assure from a position of expertise you that there is no doubt whatsoever that it’s going to happen again if you don’t change your procedures.  However, if you don’t believe me, perhaps you’ll believe the case study on this incident done by a process engineering consultant just down the road from you in Houston.  Maybe someone at Continental should give him a call and hire him for a few days to help you do the right thing!

There are a number of simple, trivial changes that Continental could make to its policies and procedures which would make it virtually impossible for an incident like this to recur (see, for example, the ones my wife came up with off the top of her head).  But of course, changes cost money, and if there’s anything huge corporations like Continental are good at, it’s finding rationalizations for not spending money!  Continental is choosing saving money over protecting the safety and security of its passengers and our nation’s airports.  This is simply unacceptable.

I’m not just going to go away.  I will continue to fight to ensure that what happened to my daughter will never happen to anyone else’s child. For example:

  • I will do my best to convince those who represent me in Washington that if Continental is unwilling to voluntarily do the right thing to ensure safety and security, the government must step in and compel them to do so (see, for example, this letter I sent this morning to Sen. John Kerry’s office).
  • I will use all of the media contacts I collected while the local and national media were covering this incident, to get the word out that Continental does not intend to do anything substantial to prevent recurrences.  Yes, most of them will probably shrug their shoulders and do nothing, but you never know who might decide there’s a story that needs to be told.
  • I will continue to publicize this incident, and Continental’s response to it, on my blog, which gets thousands of hits per day.

In light of this, I sincerely hope that Continental reconsiders its decision not to make changes to prevent incidents such as this one from recurring.

Please understand that the ire in this letter is directed not at you, but rather at the people at Continental who make the policies you are are responsible for communicating to customers.  I know that you are just doing your job, and I appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Kamens

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