May 28, 2011

Different Names for the Same Thing / A Cautionary Tale

I went to Boston a couple weeks ago. I booked my round-trip flight with United, but the outgoing flight was operated by Continental. The reservation information was very clear about this. The picture by the flight number was Continental's logo. The printout of the reservation said "Operated by Continental."

As it turned out, the return flight was also operated by Continental. The reservation information was not clear about this. It was a fun airport surprise. The airline logo didn't print (so lazy), and the printout said "United flight number ____." Very tiny beneath that, it said "Flight operated by Continental."

I missed it. I went to the terminal that housed United. I waited in line for a very long time to check in. (Strictly speaking, first I waited in line for a long time at the U.S. Airways counter because I was fiddling with my new headphones and not paying close attention to the signs. Then I waited in line a somewhat long time to check in at United.) And there it was, an aggressive little message on the check-in screen telling me my flight was operated by Continental.

I was in the wrong terminal. Fine. I marched up to a couple United employees who were chitchatting. When they got done pretending not to see me, I explained my predicament and asked how to get to Continental.

"Aw yeah. Just go up the escalator and wait there. If there's not a golf cart, it will come. Just wait."

The escalator led to a very small circular platform connected to a hallway that led to the parking garage. Sure enough, there was a golf cart sitting there. No driver. I frantically tried to signal the chatting employees from my little round balcony to let them know that someone had abandoned his or her post. They paid no attention. I gave up. I waited. After a couple minutes, a guy came up the escalator, pointed at me, smiled, and asked, "Continental?" I nodded. He threw my bag in the back. A guy in giant headphones who had followed the driver up the escalator climbed in without a word. We were all set, only the golf cart was facing the wrong way. After an Austin Powers-esque 23 point turn, we were on our way. Through the parking lot. Going the wrong way down a one-way ramp. Squeezing between cement posts intended to keep vehicles out of areas. Running down slow-walking airport employees. And finally, there we were at Continental.

Dear United,
Please make the operator of your flights clearer. Thanks a bunch.
Katie Jane

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