As most listeners know, I'm a very big fan of Continental Airlines and they are my preferred carrier. As background, I've been a Continental platinum for eleven years, so I
have a bit of experience with them. That said, their biggest weakness is Irregular Opeations or IRROPS for short.
As an example. Two weeks ago I was in Montreal for work and was flying back to Orange County, CA. My original itinerary was YUL-EWR-SNA as that was the only way to leave Montreal in the afternoon and get to the left coast. At T-24 Continental emailed me my boarding passes thanks to auto check-in. Later that evening I went to change my seat and the website gave me an error stating my flights had changed and it couldn't check me in. This prompted me to check on my itinerary.
It's a good thing I did as well. It turns out my initial YUL-EWR flight had been canceled and they had rebooked me on a flight Saturday morning. While that was nice and all, it would have been nice to have been told of said change and furthermore, it wouldn't work for me as I was only in CA for a day and flying back Saturday evening. Getting there Saturday afternoon to come back in the evening wasn't an option.
It was time to call and call I did. Initially the agent tried to push responsibility to the travel agent for not notifying me of the change. After pointing out that they made the change after I checked-in, the agent just got quiet. Coincidentally later in the call she would tell me that their Concierge desk made the change and should have contacted me, but she still had no idea why they didn't.
As I worked with the agent, I had found a few alternate itineraries that would meet my needs. All of these were on United and the agent refused to put me on another carrier. Eventually we found an itinerary through Cleveland to Los Angeles getting me in three hours later than planned. The frustrating part was that I still had to drive down to San Diego so my drive went from an hour to two.
Sadly, cases like these are all too common. The truly sad part is that I'm allegedly a Continental Star (*). While they have never published details, it has been hinted that the (*) status determines which flights to delay, cancel and actions during IRROPs. One has to wonder if this is the treatment that (*) gets you, what do you get for being a regular elite customer.
IRROPs are one of the areas that United is excellent in. I've endured my fair share of IRROPs with United but they've always taken care of it and most times even before I know there is an issue with my flight. I could be landing in Chicago and as soon as my phone gets turned on, have an email from United saying i've been rebooked on another flight.
With winter upon us, it's particularly important to keep an eye on your itineraries and cancelations. If you see a flight get canceled or delayed to where it won't work, call the airline as soon as you can and be prepared with possible itineraries. The easier you make the agents work the easier they'll be to work with.