May 2022


I’m really happy with Continental Airlines (or United, if you must)

I’m back in Berlin – safe, sound, and impressed after flying Continental Airlines (being pedantic) (or United Airlines, if going by branding) for six segments. In fact, I was so impressed with the service on my flight from Newark to Indianapolis that I wrote a letter complimenting the flight attendant.

Now I’m considering writing a letter thanking the airline for the incredible service that I received on my trip from Providence to Berlin via Newark.

Due to weather, my first flight didn’t leave Providence until after 4pm, almost 3 hours late.

I was supposed to have a 3-hour layover.

You do the math – in fact, I already had done the math and gotten myself protected on an alternative routing that would have put me into Berlin five hours later than originally scheduled.

So when my plane pulled up to the gate at Newark’s Terminal A at 5:37, I pretty well assumed that my connection, over in Terminal C, was toast, but I gave it the old college try: a 1 minute walk to the shuttle bus, 3 minutes waiting for the shuttle bus, 1 minute for the bus to load 6 minutes for the bus to go over to Terminal C, 1 minutes for getting off the bus, waiting for the elevator – wait, no up the stairs, another minute – now it’s 5:50 and my flight leaves at 5:55.

Seriously, impossible.

Oh wait – I remember a strange gate number, not C128, but C74. Quick, check the monitors – it is C74, and that’s a minute walk away – so now it’s about 5:52 and when I walk up to the gate, the agent says, “Adam?”

I nod in the affirmative, and she rushes to open the door to the jetway – yelling ahead, down the jetway to somebody unseen, is the door to the plane still open??

It wasn’t. I thanked the agent for trying – but the woman at the end of the jetway knocked on the door – and ….

It opened.

Seriously. For the first time in my life, the crew on an airplane opened the door to let me on.

I was the last person on Continental Flight 96 from Newark to Berlin last night, and I delayed the flight as a result.

To say that I was happy would be an understatement. I made a point of thanking the inflight service supervisor, who’d greeted me, for opening the door.

At the same time, I was pretty sure that my checked suitcase had not made it and that I would be tracking down my suitcase for a day or two.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that I single-handedly delayed the departure of the flight, there were some wicked strong tailwinds and the plane landed 53 minutes early – at 07:12 this morning. I slept fairly well on the plane – at one point I woke up and after peering at the inflight map I was surprised to see that we were already half way across England and that we were project to land in less than an hour.

Regardless, I went through passport control and looked for the Continental representative to check on my bag—and when he appeared, I explained my situation and he told me that they’d had no notifications about delayed bags.

I was surprised, but kept my eye on the belt.

My suitcase was one of the first ones to come out – it too had made the improbable 18-minute connection.

My relationship with United Airlines and Continental Airlines is relatively new this year—after I made the decision to dump my old airline friend last year when they started treating me quite poorly.

So far this year, United Airlines and Continental Airlines have impressed me a ton: They didn’t charge me an arm and a leg to add a stopover in Denver on my way back to Berlin from Las Vegas after my father died. The inflight crews have been professional and competent, even on the affiliated Express carriers. And my suitcase made the same improbable 18-minute, inter-terminal connection that I made last night.

The most amazing thing about this is that my positive experiences are coming at the very moment that United and Continental are in the process of merging, at the moment when they eye on customer service is often detracted.

4 comments to I’m really happy with Continental Airlines (or United, if you must)

  • It’s refreshing to read a story of things going so right, you can’t believe it. What an amazing travel story.

  • MT

    Impressive! And almost impossible to believe, given some of the travel hell I’ve gone through. But then, my problems are alway on Delta …

  • Mateo

    It’s always good to hear a positive travel story. I was always under the impression that checked baggage always travelled on an earlier flight, though.

  • ian in hamburg – I’m sure that at some point in the future I will be very unhappy with Continental/United — but I will look back and remember this trip and cut them a break. I think that my relationship with Delta started going downhill when they cost me a day of vacation in Guadalajara a few years back. They opted to make me wait in airports to stay on DL metal instead of rerouting me.

    MT – Delta is going downhill, at least form my perspective.

    Mateo – Luggage can (without customer knowledge) travel on alternative flights and routes to the final destination, however — my bags were on both of my flights. I saw it being loaded onto the Providence-Newark flight (and I arrived too late for it to catch an earlier flight) and it came off the belt in Berlin and there was no possible way for it to beat me to Berlin short of a plane flying non-stop from Providence to Berlin… that didn’t happen.

    The actual rule is that luggage should, under normal circumstances, always travel on the same initial leg as the passenger–and should, in theory, be positively matched on all subsequent legs, although that doesn’t always work out quite that way.