We’ve written about Continental Airlines in the past — and today, we’re having at them again — because they consciously make it incredibly hard to get a complaint filed.  We are grateful we have this public outlet to express our ongoing dismay with their service and to warn you against a similar fate.

Every time Janna flies to visit Iowa, she lands in Omaha, Nebraska.  Each time she flies back to New Jersey, the Continental gate attendant in Omaha refuses to accept her electronic boarding pass that Continental emails to her.

That disconnect in policy and customer service is frustrating, and when we finally decided to file a formal complaint, we were given the go-around on the phone, online and through the fax machine.

I first called Continental to complain about the refusal to accept an electronic boarding pass the morning it occurred.  The Continental agent told me to “call the next day” when “Consumer Relations” were working.

The next day, when I called the “Consumer Relations” line, I was met with a rotating voice recording telling me my wait would be “over 45 minutes” and that I could, instead, go online, and give my feedback to Continental.

I hung up the phone and jetted online to complain.  The online complaint form is overwhelmingly complicated.  The window where you are allowed to complain has a limit of 2,000 characters.  Our complaint was under 1,500 characters — yet the form refused to accept our complaint.

I found a fax number.  I printed out our complaint and called the Continental fax line.  After three failed attempts, my fax machine finally connected with theirs.  It has been three days, and we never received a reply or an acknowledgment, from Continental that they read our complaint.

Here is the content of our complaint.  Contact information has been redacted.

TO: Continental Airlines
FR: Janna
RE: OMA Gate Experience
DT: August 2, 2010

I tried to send this via your web feedback form and it was not accepted. I am finally taking the time to complain about a gate worker in the Omaha airport. He is a tiny, thin, old, man and he refuses to take electronic boarding passes you email me to use on my iPhone.

Yesterday, for FLT 2916 OMA to NWK, Sunday, Aug 1., I tried to show the old man my electronic boarding pass on my iPhone and he told me he “didn’t accept them.”

This has happened to me on at least four trips with the same old man. I travel a lot. The only boarding agent in the USA who refuses to accept an electronic boarding pass is that mean man in Omaha. Fix him. Teach him. Remove him.

Yesterday, I decided to kindly confront him and ask why he refuses to accept electronic boarding passes when Continental obviously uses them.

He said, “I don’t have my glasses.” and he refused to read the bar code on my iPhone for my boarding pass and he removed me from the line and he sent me to a Continental kiosk to print out a paper boarding pass that, incidentally, he never “read” and just scanned. He could’ve done the same thing for my electronic boarding pass.

It isn’t right that Continental representatives will not accept electronic boarding passes that are emailed from Continental Airlines proper. If a certain employee refuses to accept them, then that is either a failure of training, or contemptuous refusal to abide by airline rules — and either option makes the customer angry and resentful.

The lesson in this Continental mess is to never give up.  Call.  Go online.  Fax.  Write a blog post.  Be heard.  Don’t let bad service exist to fester in the guts of others beyond you.  Fight back.  Stand up.  Vote with your wallet.

We thank you.

11 Comments

  1. UPDATE:

    Continental Airlines called. The representative said she was “responding to our email” when we actually faxed them and wrote this article. Based on her responses during our conversation, it was clear she had read this article, yet for some reason, pretended she had not by making up the email report.

    We were told the Omaha gate does not accept electronic boarding passes. When I asked why, in the day and age of massive computer computing power, would Continental email an electronic boarding pass to a Deaf person who cannot use it at an airport because the airline doesn’t have the hardware in place to read the boarding pass — she said she would include that question in her report.

    Computer systems can easily be programmed to send an electronic boarding pass — or not! — based solely on destination and arrival parameters and the hardware in place — or not! — to read the pass. Don’t set a false expectation.

    I also explained why the online complaint form is complicated. Other than the form gagging on the text box, the drop-down calendar is a year out-of-date. The default is “August 2009” — so you needlessly have to page forward 12 months to get include the proper day and date. There are also too many form fields to fill if you just want to lodge a simple complaint.

    The representative also suggested the 45 minute wait to lodge a complaint over the phone was normal because, “We get lots of calls.” She concluded our conversation by saying all this information would be included in an executive report.

    We were given a case number, but were quickly told we would “not be contacted again on this matter.”

    Okay, then.

  2. i traveled continental on july 7th 2011. and was outraged on how i was treated by a supervisor name p. harrison in houston. i boarded my plane on time in atlanta and arrived in houston on time. they kept me on the plane for twenty five minutes. makeing me miss my connecting flight with your sister airline united. when i asked for help by the supervisor she told me tough luck. And that if i wanted i can sleep at the airport. The young lady from united tried talking to her and she told both of us tough luck again. when i asked to speak to someone over her. i was told there was no one. when i asked for the complaint line she gave me reservation. i missed my appt in peru and it was oh well. i feel sorry for united merging with this company sorry delta was not available. i have never been treated so coldly bye an employee of any airline and i have flown with all this is my first complaint.reading the rest of omplaint i see nothing will happen or change so i will take this to facebook and all other channels possible. if i can keep one person from flying continental i have done my job

  3. I have flown with continental 2 times in the past two months. Only because they are the only airline that flies out of my area. I live in Del Rio TX. We have one tiny airport the size of a large Starbucks, one ticket counter, one security gate, one boarding area. The first time I went to this airport to fly with continental I showed up 2 hours early I was met by a security guard who told me the 3 people who work the ticketing counter weren’t even there yet but that I was welcome to wait inside. So I go inside and wait for an hour, T minus 1 hour till my flight takes off, and the gate agents finally show up. 5 minutes later they are telling us the flight is delayed by 1 and a half hours “due to maintenance” . which also meant that I might miss my connecting flight in Huston TX.So 2 hours after I was supposed to get there I land in Huston and they can’t let us off the flight because ” it’s lighting” so we wait on the plane for 30 minutes till “it’s safe” to get off. So despite my best Airport dash the gates closed literally 3 minutes before I got there.So I had to stay the night in Huston. They next day my flight from Huston to Baltimore that they had switched me to was delayed by 1 hour. So fast forward three weeks I’m on my trip home. My first flight is on time from BWI to Huston, then I have a 4 hour layover. I wait 3 hours in the airport only to have them say an hour before the flight is supposed to leave for del rio that again the plane has been delayed for maintenance for an hour. Then that turned into 2 hours, So after waiting 5 hours for a flight the flight was cancelled with no reason given. so again I stay in Huston. The next day on the flight they re-booked me on going from Huston to Del RIo was also delayed for maintenance an hour. All Of this in one round-trip. That brings me to this morning. since I was told by the security guard at the freakishly small airport that the rules of being 2 hours early didn’t apply at that airport. I got there 30 minutes early. I walk in, there is no line at security so I go to the ticketing counter and there is a sign that says the flight is closed 30 minutes prior to departure. so I ask the TSA agent what’s going on and he says he will let the lady know that I am there because the same woman who works at the ticket counter also has to go in the back to guide in the plane ECT. So I have to stand there and watch them start boarding my plane.. watch it take off…ect over the course of 28 minutes. So The moral of the story is You can be patient and spend a total of 4ish hours of your life waiting for continental to get their stuff together but god forbid you are 3 minutes late to the ticket counter because even if they can still easily get you on the flight…. Which they could.. They won’t have the patience for you. So the next time they delay or cancel your flight don’t feel bad about raising hell cause they don’t feel bad doing it to you.

    1. That’s a terrible story! My wife had a Continental flight cancelled last night. They auto-reassigned her today to a longer flight and I had to spend a lot of time getting her back on a direct flight later today. So tedious!

  4. I submitted this complaint on their online form today:

    “On Friday, September 30th, 2011, my in-laws were scheduled to arrive at SAT at 10:07 pm on a Continental flight from Houston. I could tell by following their progress on the Continental web site that their previous flight, from Omaha to Houston, was delayed, and would likely cause them to miss their flight into SAT. A Continental telephone customer service representative was as helpful as he could be, but the information he had was limited. He was unsure whether my in-laws would make their flight, be put on the next flight into SAT, or be put on the first one the next morning. All I could really do was to go to the airport and find out. When I arrived at SAT, about 10:30 p.m., the only Continental personnel on site were Arthur Nasis and a woman named Anne, both working in the baggage claim area. I explained my situation to them and they told me that, for security reasons they could not give me any information, even though the telephone customer service representative had been very helpful, and that I should just wait and see what happened. I waited for the first flight to arrive, and my in-laws were not on it. So again I asked Mr. Nasis and Anne if they could just tell me whether my in-laws were on the next inbound flight, so I could know whether to wait two hours or go home. Mr. Nasis was not helpful or friendly, but Anne was independently confrontational and rude. When I asked her name she pointed to her name tag and said, “Can you read?” I presume that she was having a bad day, but I had just completed a 14-hour shift myself and was standing in her office, in my work uniform, politely asking for help. I asked if there were any Continental management personnel on site and she said there were none. Aside from poor customer service and simple bad manors, I have a sincere safety concern with respect to Anne’s confrontational demeanor. I would like to know if there are video surveillance recordings of that office. I also wonder if she had worked too many hours without a break that night, or that week. Finally, I wonder if there is a record of similar complaints against her. Again, this poor customer service is enough to prevent me from flying Continental in the future. I am only one customer, and that is really not my concern. However, I believe Anne’s behavior could be a warning sign of an imminent and serious safety concern, and I want it addressed. I will await your reply.”

    I suspect that I am awaiting a form note. I FLY SWA!!!