From LA to Houston, a letter to Continental Airlines
I am writing to describe an incident at Los Angeles (LAX) airport two days ago (29th Sept 2003) in which you might want to apologise to me for the loss of my time and the unnecessary disturbance of my otherwise initially relaxed and joyful mood.
I checked in two suitcases around 10 am for a 12:30 pm flight to Houston. When I got to the gate, I learned that I could have gotten on an earlier flight if I had asked at check-in. [It would have been nice if the lady at the check-in desk had told me about this possibility. Oh well!]
I decided to use this extra time to call my friends and family on the payphone. During a conversation with my sister, I heard my name being called unexpectedly. I had to hang up quickly. The attendant at the gate gave me a new boarding pass, which moved me from a window seat in the back (30A) to a window seat 4A near the front.
I was quite surprised to get this upgrade so I remarked,"Oh thanks. I didn't ask for a transfer." This caused the attendant to check on my status.
She became quite puzzled as the computer showed that I wasn't an Elite Member and yet I had more than a hundred thousand miles. She asked me to wait in the seating area until she sorted it out. Meanwhile, passengers were boarding the plane and the standby passengers were getting their boarding passes.
Unable to call my sister to finish my conversation, I sat down and waited for what-seemed-like an eternity.
Only ten minutes before the departure time, the attendant called for me and gave me a new boarding pass - seat 18A. When I got on the plane, I noticed there was already someone sitting there. I approached a flight attendant about this. She and another flight attendant reacted with "This is the third time someone is asking for this seat." They told me to go back to the gate and ask for a different seat.
I went back to the gate attendant who replied that 18A was definitely free and I should go back. So I ended up standing in front of the rows of economy seats waiting for my next instruction. I felt very exposed and lonely standing there while other passengers sat and watched the commotion.
Meanwhile an overweight male passenger moved to the until-now empty seat 4A in business class.
Just before the doors of the plane were closed, I was finally assigned to 8C - an aisle seat.
I am quite surprised by this experience as I have been a frequent flyer of Continental Airlines for many years now. But I do feel I deserve an explanation and an apology for being ushered around like this - and eventually getting a suboptimal seat. It was very embarrassing, to say the least.
1 October 2003 Wednesday