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View Full Version : Is the United Merger Destroying Continental?


Chuck Daniels
07-04-2011, 12:32 AM
For the past decade, I have traveled 25,000 – 50,000 miles a year for business, with 100% of it out of Newark Airport and 80% on Continental. Since the announcement of the merger with United, I have seen a steady decline in the level of service and “on time performance” at Continental. However, my most recent business trip to Indianapolis has convinced me that the merger with United is going to destroy the Continental that has served Newark Airport customers so well over the years.

My business trip to Indianapolis required that I leave on Sunday, May 22nd and return on Thursday, May May 26th. Both flights were non-stop ERJ-145 50-seat jets operated by Continental Express and on both flights I had seat 1A, which is five feet from the cockpit and front door and allowed me to hear all of the conversations between the crew and the ground staff while in Indianapolis and Newark. At no time during the outbound or return flights did a drop of rain fall in either Indianapolis or Newark on Sunday or Thursday. Also, on both flights the Continental crews were very professional and might as well have been passengers since they were kept in the dark like the 50 other people on the flights.

My outbound flight on Sunday was scheduled to leave Newark at 1:10pm and arrive in Indianapolis at 3:13pm. It was a bright, sunny day and boarding started as planned at 12:45pm. By 1:05pm all 50 passengers were on board but there was a problem – no pilot !!! The gate agent told the co-pilot that they were just notified by “Continental Operations” that the pilot was flying in from Ohio and would not land until 2:30pm and that the flight would probably not leave until 2:45 / 3:00pm. Unfortunately “operations” did not tell the crew what to do with the passengers for the next 90 minutes until the pilot arrived and none of the gate agents wanted to let anyone off since everyone had boarded and all bags were loaded. There was a 15 minute discussion on the consequences of letting passengers off only to have them not return on time for takeoff which would require their bags to be found and removed which would be a “nightmare.” As you might expect, the 50 passengers responded very unhappily (and loudly) when they were told that the flight would not be leaving for another 90 minutes and no one could leave. After the uproar from the passengers, the decision was reversed by the ground crew that passengers could leave only if they “promised to stay in the immediate boarding area.”

After a frustrating 60 minute unloading /reboarding process we were back on the plane and the pilot arrived around 2:30pm. We were in the air at 3pm and arrived at Indianapolis at 4:26pm. Our departure from Newark was almost 2 hours late and our arrival in Indy was 2 hours late as well. During the flight, I’m sure I wasn’t the only passenger thinking the following questions:

· Why did no one know that the pilot was not only late for the flight, he wasn’t even in the airport until everyone had been boarded on the flight? If the pilot had to fly from Ohio to get to Newark to fly our plane to Indy, obviously “operations” knew about that well before 1pm.

· Once “operations” knew that the pilot was going to be 90 minutes late and notified the crew, why did they not also tell the crew what to do with the 50 people already sitting on the plane? Did “operations” really think that 50 people were going to sit in a small plane for 90 minutes waiting for the pilot to arrive from Ohio?

While my trip to Indy got off to a unpleasant start, it pales in comparison to the return flight home on Thursday. Again, not a drop of rain fell in Indy or Newark on Thursday. Again, I was seated in seat 1A and I had a front row seat to the conversations between the pilots and the crew – which did a great job despite being constantly lied to by “operations.”

My flight home was scheduled to leave Indy at 5:30pm and arrive back in Newark at 7:29pm. The departure screens at baggage check-in and security showed that the flight to Newark was “On Time” however it was not until we arrived at the departure gate that the found out that the flight was now “on gate hold” and its departure was now delayed until 6:55pm because of weather delays “in route” to Newark. I was told by several airport workers that no rain fell at the airport in Indy that afternoon and when I called my wife to tell her about the delay into Newark, she was surprised because “it had been a beautiful day in NJ.”

I retreated to a bar near the gate only to find out that it was “standing room only” because Continental had delayed several departing flights “at the last minute” like they did with my flight. After finally getting a seat at the bar I struck up a conversation with the bartender. She told me that today was no different than any other day because the bar is always full of passengers whose Continental flights were delayed for dubious reasons. She said that while some of the passenger stories she heard seemed “too horrible to be true” almost every one of them said the same thing at the end of their story, “the merger with United is destroying Continental.” Little did I know that I was about to become one of those passenger stories that seems “too horrible to be true.”

We all returned to the gate to start boarding at 6:30. After everyone was on board Continental announced that the “gate hold” was going to be extended for another hour and then they told everyone to get off the plane and come back at 7:30 for re-boarding. Many of us retreated back to the bar for some dinner and more discussions among the patrons about the obvious decline in the quality of Continental’s service.

Back to the gate at 7:30 for re-boarding at 7:45. We left the gate at 8:00, taxied to the runway and then sat through another 15 minute “ground hold” and then finally took off at 8:25pm – almost 3 hours late.

The flight to Newark was uneventful with no turbulence or delay and we landed at 10:07pm only to taxi to a “holding area” where we parked and sat. After 10 minutes of silence from the cockpit, the pilot told all of us at 10:21pm that “there was no gate for us to park at and it would be another 30-45 minutes before a gate became open.” Many of the 50 passengers responded in disgust – wasn’t this the reason for the 3 hour hold in Indianapolis, so that there would be a gate for us when we landed in Newark? It wasn’t until 10:51pm that we pulled into a gate – 3 hours and 22 minutes late from our original 7:29pm arrival.

In looking back at my “round trip nightmare” to Indianapolis and having a front row seat (1A) on both flights, I believe that there is ample proof that the merger with United is destroying Continental. Just consider the following that occurred on this simple, direct, round trip flight:

· While both flights were on “Continental Express”, the flights were under the direct control of “Continental Operations.” It was obvious to me that the crews on both flights, just like the passengers, were kept in the dark about what was really going on.

· My flight to Indianapolis left 2 hours late because Continental Operations notified the crew 5 minutes before departure (after all the passengers had been boarded) that the pilot was going to be 90 minutes late. Why did Continental Operations wait until the last minute and then not tell the crew what to do with the 50 passengers for 90 minutes until the pilot did finally arrive? Did Continental Operations really think that 50 people were going to sit in a small plane for 90 minutes waiting for the pilot to arrive from Ohio?

· On my return flight, we waited through 3 hours of “ground holds” in Indianapolis so that we would have a gate available for us in Newark when we landed, only to have to wait another 45 minutes after we landed for a gate to be available. There was no rain in either Indianapolis or Newark but the flight was a total of 3 ½ hours late because of “weather in route” that was not encountered “in route” once we finally took off for Newark. Continental Operations was in control of the Continental gates in Newark so why wasn’t our gate available when we landed?
From the conversations I overheard between the pilots and the crews on both flights, it seems that many of the changes United is making at Continental are having negative impacts across many areas of Continental’s service, from the time it takes to serve food in flight because the passengers have to pay individually for their meals to how crews and pilots are scheduled for work. This later issue seems to be at the heart of the problems I suffered on both of my flights – no pilot for my flight to Indianapolis and then the planes that were stuck at the gates in Newark were stuck because the pilots who were suppose to fly those planes were stuck in the planes that couldn’t get to the gates.

It was my impression that Continental is no longer running Continental – United is. United has a well earned reputation for poor customer service and it appears they are now dragging Continental down to the level of customer abuse that earned United the lowest rating in customer satisfaction for the past 2 years (http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/Can_t_Get_No_Satisfaction_at_United_Airlines_8805. html (http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/Can_t_Get_No_Satisfaction_at_United_Airlines_8805. html)). This can be nothing short of disastrous for those of us that use Newark as our primary airport.

After 20 years of enjoyable business and personal travel on Continental, my last six months of traveling on Continental has clearly shown a significant decline in just about every area of their customer service and operational efficiency. If the last six months are any indication of what awaits all of Continental’s loyal Newark based customers, then all I can say is that if we do not put a stop to United’s destruction of Continental, then we have no one but ourselves to blame for accepting the horrible service for which United is famous.

Many of us on the flight agreed that we were all going to write letters to the FAA, our elected officials, and anyone else who can help stop United from destroying Continental. This is my letter and I plan on posting it everywhere I can. I can only hope that is will inspire others to write about their “too horrible to be true” experiences on the “merged” Continental so that our voices will be heard by those who have the ability to stop United from turning Continental into another United.

Please join me in having your story of abuse by Continental/United heard by writing it and posting it everywhere you can. All of us can have an impact and I hope you will lend your voice on this very important issue.

Happy travels everyone (if that is still possible).

Chuck Daniels,
Newark, NJ

jimworcs
07-04-2011, 01:54 AM
Answer to your question; yes
They are rewarded for becoming giant monolithic anti consumer machines... NY getting anti trust immunity to allow them to grow Sven bigger bynacquisition

A320FAN
07-04-2011, 09:37 AM
The DOJ and DOT which oversees all kinds of mergers have given the green light for UA and CO to merge. One of the requirements was that they give up 18 slots to another carrier which happens to be Southwest. You may want to consider giving Southwest a try. you may not like the open seating policy which has served them very well over the years (and one I would like to see more airlines adopt). However you can purchase one of their Business Select fares which will give you a boarding pass inthe A 1-15 range so that you can board the aircraft 1st.