Sunday, March 9, 2008

Continental Airline, where's your purple cow?

It's a long way home... I was supposed to do Salt Lake - New York - Quebec City. I read on a friend's blog and my wife told me this storm was a major one. In the Quebec City area, people got stuck on the highway for several hours and snowmobiles were called to the rescue, highways were closed, and of course, the Montreal and Quebec airports too...
Plane late in Salt Lake, no luck in New York, I will eventually get to Quebec city.
(looks like being tired after a 3hour sleep doesn't stop me from being poetic! In fact, maybe it even help!)

The result is a cascade of canceled and delayed flights, crews and pilots trying to reach their "port d'attache" without success. People sleeping everywhere, the lucky ones on benches, the others directly on the floor.

Continental Airline, where's your purple cow?

It's not the first major snowstorm of the century, heck, airports and airlines are supposed to be prepared for terrorism and other unexpected events. What I witnessed is a very poor execution, a lack of sensibility and for sure, someone who will avoid at all costs getting back on a Continental plane. What was wrong?
  • Emergency situation: staff those darn counters to answer clients questions. 3 out of 5 agents simply walked away even if there was about 100 people waiting and a flock of others coming in. Two others came back about 2 hours later...
  • Disaster recovery: the boarding pass printer breaks, how can it take close to an hour to get another one? Don't tell me there was no alternative!
  • Vouchers: didn't had breakfast because I ran to take a flight, simply to find out it was canceled. Waited for 6 hours in line to see an agent, we know my flight (if I'm lucky) will be at 8:00pm, 9:00pm, but nope... can't get two vouchers right away. It's limited to one at a time, sorry buddy, you'll have to wait in line again to get your voucher!
What they could have done? As Seth Godin would put it, "this means you have to toss out everything you know and do something "remarkable" to have any effect at all". Continental will certainly be a long lasting memory event, but not a positive one!
  • Busses! Doh! Planes were simply canceled, bumping everyone else on standby or booking toward other airports that are as filled as this one is simply useless. Montreal is not that far (6 hour drive): charter buses and get going! Even if we had to pay for it, making the arrangements would be highly appreciated. There is no reserved seats for three days, so they are simply hoping people will get so pissed they will find other ways of getting home.
  • Empathy: why not put bottled water and snacks near the waiting lines? I waited about 6 hours... babies were crying, elderly people were dazing blindly at an hypothetical place that now only exist in their head: home.
  • Communicate: instead of repeating over and over the same (often false) stories, why not stand up and simply tell it to everyone. Why not pick a drywall and write the latest status: "Montreal: next reserved seats on Tuesday, here's the alternatives: ...". Why not tell the 100 or so people waiting in line to group by destination to facilitate communication?
  • Be fair: a lady was told there was absolutely no room but a few minutes later another person got a seat. A lady just in front of me got a reserved seat to Quebec city but I was told there was already 15 people on the standby list!
I got no other clothes, but I got my laptop and wireless access... stay tuned for the rest of this nightmare!
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