unsatisfactory service

You may know the feeling: it’s a mixture of frustration,
disappointment and rage.

How did I come to feel like this?

I dealt with a check-in clerk of Continental Airlines at Aguadilla
International Airport (BQN) this morning.

We took my mother-in-law to her flight returning to Frankfurt,
Germany. She had one mid-size, one cabin-size piece of luggage and a
carry-on. That shouldn’t be a problem, you might say, and I agree
100%, but it was. We had specifically checked the baggage regulations
on the Internet last night. There were some changes: now you may only
check-in one bag on some routes. On routes to/from Europe we found no
change. Still the check-in clerk wanted an extra US$25 for the second
bag. We told her that we had checked on the Internet and that there
must be a misunderstanding, a fault in the system or something else,
but that the information on Continental’s web pages said something
else. “I don’t know what you saw on the Internet,” came her reply “but
according to my system you have to pay an extra $25.”

So we tried to get her to bring in more information. Whether she might
check on the Internet for herself: “No.” She continued to offload all
activity to resolve the matter onto us, offering only a toll-free
number on which I later spent about 25 minutes _before_ getting
through to a rep.

Had she considered that my mother-in-law is traveling internationally,
we asked. “I consider nothing that is not in my system” came her
reply. Excuse me?

After some hesitation on her part we succeeded in having her bring in
the supervisor. Then 4 of the check-in clerks gathered around one of
the screens. Were they actually accessing their company’s Internet? I
was hoping they did, expecting that to finally resolve the very
unpleasant issue. But… not so! After consulting their terminal for
some time the approach changed: the supervisor and the clerk who
we had dealt with asked whether we had any proof for what we claimed
was on Continental’s web pages: “Do you have a print-out?”

Now WHAT? Do you think I am making this up? You can’t seriously expect
me to carry print-outs of your company’s regulations that are
available on the web…

So after quite some time of trying to talk some sense into these
people, the only option was to pay. By that time all three of us, my
wife, my mother-in-law and I, were so upset about the whole incident
that my wife said she doesn’t ever want to fly Continental again after
being treated in this disrespectful way.

As soon as we got home I phoned Continental’s customer care. Waiting
to get through and then explaining the whole case took about an hour.

At least now we have a US address where my mother-in-law can mail the
receipt of the US$25. Of course, Continental can see that she actually
flew on an international flight, that she was actually charged an
additional US$25 which she actually paid. So don’t ask me for what
they need the receipt and why we should have the extra effort to set
things right… Why am I not thrilled about having the address to send
the receipt to? Well, even if they do send a check for the US$25 and
even if that check reaches her, it will cost her more to cash a US
check than the $25 it is worth.

Needless to say: the whole issue ruined our farewell and our day.

To be fair, I have to say that we used to be quite satisfied with
Continental: they fly to Aguadilla which is a 40min drive from where
we live, on the flights we took with them, their service was friendly,
frequent and satisfactory, on our recommendation my father and his
wife flew Continental when they came visiting us here, same for my
mother-in-law. So, I really would like to get back to
looking-forward-to-flying-Continental and
being-able-to-wholeheartedly-recommend-Continental…

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