Reply To: Continental Disaster

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As many of you know, I tend to be a very Loyal BA Premium Cabin customer. When the threat of the strike seemed real, I cancelled my normal Club World trip to Orlando (I travel the route every 6 to 7 weeks due to the ill health of my mom) prior to the Holiday period and decided to book a Business First flight for my partner and me from Brussels to Orlando via Newark on 20 December. Many threads of the snow have been posted recently, and yes, this is another story, this time of the ‘Capital’ of Europe’s airport closing due to the white stuff, and how Continental Staff made matters even worse. The inbound aircraft for our flight was diverted to Frankfurt due to the heavy snow, but as we waited in the very poor, cheap BMI lounge at Brussels airport with the rest of the full flight Business First clientele, we recieved bi-hourly updates on how the aircraft would be ferried to Brussels, to take us to Newark, and that our flight was not cancelled, just delayed,(thereby avoiding any chances of compensation issues). The Continetal Customer Services rep came to the lounge and asked all the BF passengers to fill in a form with our names, numbers, addresses, etc. as we would be contacted by CARE during our journeys to comment on how things were handled (still waiting for that call). Finally at 16h30, we get an announcement in the lounge by Johanna of CO that our flight is now delayed (again not cancelled) until 07h00 the next mroning, we must be at the airport at 04h00, and check-in will close at 05h30 to ensure the ‘on-time’ departure at 07h00. As this is a delay due to weather CO will not be offering you any amenities (meaning no Hotel vouchers), please gather your belongings, leave the lounge, and reclaim your luggage. She ended by saying Good Luck, You are on your own! Charming, but not all together an unique attitude in Belgium.

We claimed our luggage and went to the Hilton in downtown Brussels as the airport hotels were full. I was still ok at this point as this is weather, so no problem. Amsterdam had also closed during that day for some time as did Frankfurt, so it must have been bad all over! Let’s jump to the next morning.

Checking out of the Hilton at 03h00, so not really getting much rest nor value for our full priced room, we arrive at the CO checkin counters at Brussels airport, Elite Access line, at 03h45 to join some others who were even earlier than us, only to find no one from CO to be found. We waited like hopeful idiots, patient, obedient, but tired. Finally, at 06h30, Andrew, a colleague of Johanna,and an equally superb example of Belgian efficiency, showed up, and he was giving some news to the economy passengers lined up. As he walked away to go to his office I ran after him to ask if maybe he would like to share the news with the rest of us. He came over to say the plane had not left Frankfurt yet, is likely to depart there at 11h30, so here at 12h30, departure at 13h30 earliest. Many of us, including me, went ballistic. When I asked him why we were not called about this so we could have stayed in bed, stayed at our hotels, his only reply was thet ‘I am doing my job, and calling you is not part of that!’ What the hell was the point of those forms??? I then said it is CO’s responsibility to provide us food and he came back with breakfast vouchers, for us in BF they were €7, for economy, now get this, €3. You can take a pee in Brussels airport for €3 let alone buy anything remotely resembling breakfast. None of us wanted to leave the line, as of course the passengers for the normal CO flight would also be arriving, and the line was already out near the entrance. Check-in staff finally appeared at 08h30, and then a computer breakdown only allowed check-in to begin at 09h00. Some moron from Brussels Airport tried to separate the two flights after we were all lined up, to no avail as now there were nearly 500 people to move which he certainly could not do.

Long story even longer, we finally did get checked in (of course missing our connection in Newark, and needing to find a hotel there for the night of arrival, but that’s another issue). When we got through passport and security, we decided to go to the General Lounge that is available to Priority Pass as it had breakfast, the BMI lounge offers nothing, and I mean nothing. I would have gone to the excellent BA lounge, as I am Gold, but my partner is Silver so we were not allowed in, and they had their own capacity issues with the delays, etc.

We finally boarded the plane and were off the ground shortly before 16h00 on our way to Newark. I was asked by the CSD on the flight how long we had been waiting, and when I told her, she didn’t understand this at all as the crew had a crew call time of 09h30 at their hotel in Frankfurt, which was known to CO the day before at 14h00. Can you say ‘Monumental Screw-Up!’

I am still waiting for a reply and action from CO or that elusive CARE call.

Moral to the story, stick with what you know, stick to the carriers you trust, and while BA is not perfect, it sure as hell is leaps and bounds ahead of Continental any day. I will never fly Continental again, and am so looking forward to being back on BA next week!

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