Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Continental Airlines...Sucks!!!

Not everything American is cool and Continetal airlines is one of them. Flight delays are acceptable sometimes, not like this one which you're gonna read on.

My flight was supposed to be revving it's engines and flying off at 11:05. Initially the guy at the boarding counter announced that the flight was delayed by 45 minutes and he checked the tickets of passengers with connecting flights for possible flight misses. Atleast mine didn't have any problems and he said "It was delayed for maintenance. We will board in 15 more minutes".

It past more than an hour and he made another announcement "Sorry to announce this, but the flight is delayed further and we're starting from Monterrey at 15:00. Passengers with connecting flights, please proceed to the counter". My connecting Lufthansa flight from Houston to Frankfurt, was at 17:10. He saw my ticket and he said "No problem". I was first of all stupefied at his blatant stupidity, Houston is an hour ahead (in time) of Monterrey and it takes an hour and a half to reach there and he said that I'll not miss my flight at 17:10 if I start at 15:00. I questioned him how on earth was it possible for me to catch that flight. After reaching I had to get the US immigration cleared, get my baggage and customs cleared, get the boarding pass for my connecting flight, get the security cleared and board the flight. After a quick contemplation he agreed that it was not possible and he rebooked my tickets for the next day which required an overnight stay at Houston. But before that he checked if he can get me flights via Netherlands or France since I wanted to avoid the stay. From Paris there was a direct flight to Bangalore and he asked me if I have visa. I told him that I had a transit visa for Schengen states and showed him the visa I had. Again there was a absurd display of his stupidity. Our conversation:
He: Your visa is not valid
Me: Why?
He: It's not a French visa.
Me: I do agree it's not a French visa, but France belongs to Schengen states and it's a Schengen transit visa issued by German consulate.
He: Yes, maybe. But I don't see France written anywhere.
Me: Neither Germany is mentioned anywhere, it's not specific to either Germany or France. It's a Schengen transit visa and holds good for all Schengen states.
He: If I give you ticket and visa is not valid, Continental will give me a fine of $10000.
Me: Yes sir, but my visa is valid and in case it's invalid also, there is an exception in the rule which says that "Indians transiting in any Schengen states need not have Schengen visa if they posses a valid US or Canadian visa" and I do have a valid US visa.
He: Sorry sir. I just can't issue tickets.
Me: @#$%^%#%#@#$@$@ (Not audible though)

It past 15:00 but there was no call whatsoever, not even it looked like they were preparing for the boarding. Finally at 17:00 there was a queue for boarding and I just followed them without giving much damn to announcement. As my turn came for boarding he checked my boarding pass and said, "This queue is for a different flight, yours will start boarding in another 15 min". Finally the boarding happened at 5:40 and the flight took off at 6.

At Houston, I disembarked and ran fast towards immigration to avoid long queues and then headed to customs. The man at the customs looked like "You don't bother me, I don't bother you" kinds. He asked me where I'm coming from and where I'm heading to, he didn't take the pain of opening my bags for checking...damn!!! I should have got those avocados and jícamas. I then headed to Continental office, where there was a long queue. I met a semi-bald old man from Continental airlines to whom I asked if there were any flights that can fly me to Europe at that time of the day. With his ugly racist attitude (the ones that most Mexicans are subjected to from their neighbouring big brother) he said, "I'm not a travel agent to arrange such things, you gotto follow the queue and check with people in the counter". I just felt like yelling back at him "You racist old ass, to hell with your attitude", but I controlled. Then I went to a different counter where I met this desi-officer (read Indian officer) who asked for my tickets to check what could be done. Then he came back and told me that since the flight was delayed due to weather, they can give me some discount voucher at one of the hotels. I then told him it was not due to weather, but it was a mechanical problem that they stated back in Mexico. He giggled back with the heaviest north Indian accent, "There is nothing called mechanical failure, flight was delayed just because of weather. We can't do much except giving out some discount voucher". I then got back in the queue with my new friends (whom I had met in Mexico), who were ready to fight in case they didn't give us accommodation.

I reached the counter, there was old impatient Asian lady who, thankfully, printed my hotel and meal vouchers three times. She was complaining to her boss that the printer was not responding and hence she fired the print thrice. So without me asking for anything, they booked hotel rooms and changed flight tickets. I went to the courtesy phone in which I had to dial three digit code of Ramada JFK hotel and I did dial those three digits. But there was no response. I dialed thrice, but there was no response. I asked one of the airport authorities for help and he asked me to wait outside for the shuttle service. I waited and waited and waited for nearly an hour and a half...shuttle services of Sherton, Mariott, Sleep Inn and other hotels passes thrice or four times but of Ramada JFK, not a single time. It was cold outside, I was tired and finally I met a lady with whom I shared the taxi and reached the hotel. No it's not yet over!!!

Ramada JFK didn't have any rooms. It was insane. Without even checking the availability of rooms, Continental had blindly given away vouchers!!! From Ramada JFK we were picked by another shuttle which took us to Hotel Monarchy and to our luck our vouchers were honoured by them.

Next day I reached the airport an hour before the time of my flight and I handed over the changed itinerary which continental had given to me on the previous day. The lady checked my ticket and she said that my tickets were not really booked, only the itinerary had changed by Continental. After consulting with her supervisor, she could somehow get me the tickets. With a sigh she told me, "Continental had not finished the job, they had not booked your tickets which they should have done. You're lucky that there were seats and I've booked tickets for you. Have a good flight". I replied to her with a wry smile, "Thanks. Continental screwed up my entire journey".

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