Watching Crisis Management unfold live, with Continental Airlines

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So that little “light” seems to have cancelled my flight. So I sit here near the gate, having already been rebooked on a 1:30am flight, getting me home at 5am, in time for my 8am pitch meeting. And I’ll be friendly. I promise.

Anyhow, I get to watch crisis management unfold in front of me.

On the plane, the captain came on with the news that flight 455’s plane was going out of service. Before the collective groan could even finish, he followed up with “but, we have a 737-800, a bigger plane, coming in to Palm Beach from Newark.”

My first thought was, “great, it’ll be in tomorrow morning, and there goes my meeting.”

He then continued with, “It’s coming in, landing at 12:30. We’ll clean it, turn it around, and have you on it by 1:30am.”

Huh. That was unexpected.

“We’re going to deplane now, and unfortunately, TSA (Transportation Safety Agency (or Totally Useless Agency, depending on how they’ve treated you on that day, (poetic license mine and not Continental’s) has gone home for the day, so you’ll have to stay in the terminal. If you go out, you won’t be allowed back in, unfortunately. But we appreciate you sticking with us, as just as soon as that plane gets down, we’ll get you back onto the bigger plane, and get you on the way home. We’re truly sorry about this, and we’ll get you back just as soon as we can.”

So we file out. Got on the line for re-check in, and was told that I already have my ticket, no worries, can just board when they open up.

Go grab some floor, and plug in my laptop. Turns out I was right by check-in desk, which by now, had a huge angry line.

They answered questions like human beings, not like gate agents. If they didn’t know something, they said so, and not in a demeaning way. It was kind of impressive to watch, to tell you the truth. They rebooked those who wanted to be rebooked, and told others they could just relax until the plane boarded.

While all this was going on, other agents (and this impressed me) brought out all the sodas, ice, juices, and waters from the galley, and set them up, along with ice and cups. Without making any announcement or anything, they just put them there. They didn’t try and direct anyone, people just came up, took a soda, juice, or water, took a few pretzels, and went back to their seat. (With the exception of one dumbass, who told the old woman next to him to “f___ off,” and threatened me and two other passengers with physical harm when we objected to his treatment of the old woman, (he was quite wasted, and we’re all watching him to see if he does anything else, I’ll try and get a cameraphone photo to put up here of him for posterity.) Continental was very, very smart in offering it. It was at least something.

What did they do wrong? Really only one thing, as far as I could tell. One person asked if they could get their bag off the plane, and the gate agent called down on her walkie-talkie. The volume was pretty high, and everyone around the gate agent’s position heard the baggage handler come back with “I’m not looking for one person’s bag to take off this plane. Tell him we can’t do it for security reasons,” which of course, that person heard, and was last seen storming off, probably to write a nasty letter.

So – As I wait here to reboard, I must say, Continental did a superb job, as best they could do under the circumstances. It’s now four minutes to eleven pm, and hopefully, we’ll board in an hour or two. Could have gotten a lot of people really angry, now they’re mostly sitting here, chatitng to each other.

Perhaps now is a good time to walk around and introduce the concept behind AirTroductions. 🙂 Yes, I’m kidding.

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