From Hate to Great: Continental vs. United at Las Vegas International

As I have harped on many times before, attitude is key when it comes to forming my overall impression of a flight or travel experience. The amenities, ticket price, and hard product can all be great, but unless the service is warm and friendly, I cannot give it high marks.

Yesterday morning I flew from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. After clearing security, my first stop was the Continental President's Club. I was traveling with my brother and we were both dressed rather casually in jeans and hooded university sweatshirts, making us look like teenagers (if you'll allow me to flatter myself...). An agent, named Eva, took one look at us when we walked through the door and went right back to typing on her computer, probably hoping we would go to the agent seated next to her.

I handed her my boarding pass and before I had time to pull out my British Midland card, she interjected, "You can't use this lounge if you're not traveling internationally. And I need to see your ID." I simply pulled out my BD card and ID (CO always requests ID) and handed it to her. With a scowl on a her face she slid the card and handed me back my stuff. Not another word was said. As I walked past her into the club, I saw that she was playing what looked to be Sim City on her computer. Nice.

I don't know what it is with Continental. My outlook improved quite a bit after my stellar in-flight crews on my trip to Brussels and mileage run to Denver, but CO's airport staff continues to woefully let me down.

20 minutes later, I boarded my United flight. After settling in my seat, I was approached by an airport supervisor named Rudy who knelt down at my seat and thanked me for being a 1K. He asked how my experience with United staff was at the airport that morning and asked if there was anything he could do make my travel experience better. We talked for a while about the merger and he came back once again before the aircraft door closed to wish be a great flight.

What a great testament that someone loves their job. I must note that this has never happened before when traveling on United, including on multiple flights out of  Las Vegas, but I was elated by Rudy's customer service approach.

In the end, I enjoyed a standard visit to the CO President's Club and a standard flight from LAS-LAX, but the employee interaction completely altered my overall impression of the experience.

It's the little things that really make a difference. Employee attitude does matter. 


Nick November 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I do know how that is, as the LAS club staff wasn't that friendly when I was there earlier this year. However, CO does have some wonderful agents, and spent some time talking with one when I was checking in at RDU for my flight to Fleet Week

[email protected] November 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I actually had a good experience at the LAS President's Club a couple months ago. It used to annoy me that PCs always ask for ID. However, that time it prompted me to notice that I was missing my passport, likely left at the security checkpoint! The agent picked up the phone, called the checkpoint and confirmed that my passport had been found, thus saving me a great deal of panic on the long walk and train ride back to the checkpoint. (Of course, the thought of my passport "safely" in the hands of the TSA was not completely comforting, but much better than the unknown...). Luckily, at that point I had plenty of time before my flight.

Rob November 29, 2010 at 06:22 am

LAS PC staff was friendly when I stopped in a week ago a few times. I'll be in and out there a few more times this week (early am).

ttt November 29, 2010 at 04:04 pm

Your words would have had more credulity had you acknowledged that you were inappropriately dressed for the occasion, rather than just describing your attire. Had you shown up to a fine dining establishment, even where you were known, with much money in your wallet you may well have been escorted out. It almost sounds as if you were "testing" the woman, if only because you make no mention of her commenting on your attire. Your (at worst) indifferent service could just as likely been due to the fact that you had something hanging out of your nose or food in your teeth while "smiling" at her, or perhaps all the cologne failed to mask the hours old smell of alcohol on your breath. You assumed that your (at worst) offense was the college sweatshirt and jeans you were wearing, while it may well have been any of the forementioned or, perhaps, she had politely asked several other people minutes before who were similarly dressed for their "credentials" only to hear words of abuse when they could not provide them. You got what you REALLY wanted: a "testing" of inappropriate attire in a place without a dress code.

Maybe the woman was just having a bad day, maybe her husband left her the night before with 2 kids to feed (and wearing the same t-shirt), or maybe you desire a king's service while dressed like the local, spoiled college kid who lives for today and screws everyone (like her) tomorrow. Hopefully United Continental will take these things into account on behalf of "Eva", for she said nothing rude or offensive to you and allowed you to proceed without incident into the PC. Nevertheless, even the "Rudy's" of the world will have a bad day--just hope they don't run into you.

@ttt: Thanks for your comments. I don't know why I am bothering to defend myself against an anonymous reader, but I can't help but to address a few of your comments.

I wasn't inappropriately dressed at all...I simply stated what I was wearing. An airport lounge in 2010 is not a fine dining establishment. There was nothing hanging out of my nose or in my teeth. I don't wear cologne and did not have a drink on the Vegas trip.

You're right--I speculated it was my attire behind her poor behavior, but whether it was that or a raft of bad passengers who had streamed in moments earlier, that doesn't her excuse her poor attitude.

And make no mistake, her attitude was poor. For you to justify her action and even defend her is sad.

And I don't send in letters of complaint to Continental--it does no good and Eva's poor attitude doesn't even warrant a letter. I never called for her job termination or anything of the sort. The point of my blog was to say that the little things (again, the little things) do matter.

I have bad days too--but I don't take it out on my customers. That's the difference.

And one final comment: I don't know where you got the impression that I "live for today" but you are totally mistaken...

ttt November 29, 2010 at 05:05 pm

Read through your "review" again, and it got worse! You write that the agent took one look at you when you walked through the door and went right back to typing...probably hoping you would go to the agent sitting next to her. Why didn't you just go to the agent sitting next to her? She couldn't have been busy, or she wouldn't have been hoping such a thing, nor would you have written such a thing. Yes, having the opportunity to avoid, you chose to confront. Second, why is the man in the picture at the top of the page wearing a suit in first class? Go ahead, put him in a college sweatshirt. Does he look appropriate? Third, you clearly state that you knew the PC required ID as well as your frequent flyer club card. Why didn't you have these available before you walked up? You knew you had to show your boarding pass at security screening--didn't you have it out and available for them? Of course you did. In fact, didn't you go through the elite line in security where you had to show your card? Moving on, you state, "not another word was said." The gentleman in the picture would have assuredly not allowed such a thing to happen, but rather, would have said, "Thank you, I appreciate your service, may your day become even better and better with every passing moment." The difference between you and the gentleman pictured above in FC are more than one's attire: you seek to destroy people and their livelihoods, the man pictured above seeks to enhance and better the unknown man behind him in line's day and life, as well as the woman who just gave him "adequate" and redundant service. Yes, the man pictured in the picture above is a true picture of a Renaissance man with noble qualities and harmless to his subjects. You, on the other hand, do not portray such qualities. As for you not writing a bad letter to CO, I found your comments listed on the first page of Google under "airline news" that PUBLIC enough for you, and Eva.

re November 29, 2010 at 05:45 pm

In all honesty, you probably did sense a "poor attitude" from the woman. But she said nothing rude or offensive, or you would have written it. You can't say you experienced poor service, for after finally showing the appropriate and necessary documentation required to be admitted into the PC (which you admit to knowing of beforehand), she allowed you entry without delay.

As for being appropriately dressed or not, well, please remove the picture of the well-dressed, suited man sitting in FC with attentive service as the precursor of this review. At the least, show the man sitting in FC with a hooded sweatshirt (I suppose you might just do this). Nevertheless, the review of your trip should have you questioning yourself. How could you not have aspired to say "thank you for your service, and may your day get better and better as it progresses." A well-travelled Renaissance man, yes, the man in the picture above, would have quickly deduced that the unknown man behind him in line will receive far superior service to what he just encountered with such unencumbered remarks of gratitude--for the worker with the "poor attitude" would have judged herself and her attitude to be lacking because of the pleasant, honest words of gratitude from the man in the picture. The woman's day could have been changed, changing others' travelling experiences. But all for naught, for the Renaissance man pictured above was not present. Only an underdressed, middle age man bent on complaining.

As for not writing or calling for her firing, your post was on the first page of Google for a few minutes under "airline news." Is that "public" enought for you, and for "Eva."

gtgt November 29, 2010 at 05:59 pm

sorry if there were two posts with similar things written, thought the first post didn't go through. No harm intended toward you, honestly. Surely you are a good man with honest intentions, but with the power of your voice through this medium of internet, you could truly hurt someone such as "Eva" without meaning to do so. Please leave the names of those who may be having a bad day out of your writings. Sorry if anything else written here offended you....have a great day, you almost Renaissance man!

ghgh November 29, 2010 at 06:21 pm

That you are the well dressed, suited man sitting in FC was quickly deternmined from the outset. The points were two-fold. First, you are far superior to the person who wrote that article, whether you know it or not. Second, what does such a man of your intelligence and writing capability have to do with publicly naming and embarrasing a woman who probably makes $25,000/yr. and (more than likely) just having a bad day? That's all.

James November 29, 2010 at 08:43 pm

Thanks for the post Matthew. Big fan of the blog. I was at the LAS club a few weeks ago, though the experience was neither good nor bad.

Sorry about the insane people reading your blog. WTF.

In the end, Eva should have validated his entry credentials before making her remark, and Rudy left Matthew with a positive image of what his loyalty means to United. I appreciate hearing about both instances.

sorry November 29, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Sorry, and again, was directed to this website only because it appeared on the first page of a google search. In this life, attempting to receive as many free things as possible in this world is no longer a lofty goal worth attaining to for this (oh, James described it so well) "insane" person. In fact, James, please also add the word "stupid" as it took a couple of minutes to discern what "WTF" meant.

Matthew, you have a wonderful gift for writing. Do you suppose your favorite English teacher would approve of you using the gift that he or she helped you to develop to publicly chastise an unsuspecting woman who may have simply been having a bad day? Knowing you had this gift of power over her (the "power" being in that she had no idea who you were, what you did for a living, and what you were capable of)you had opportunity to attempt to change the whole situation, but chose rather to speak not another word. This isn't about "flying"; this isn't about someone else with a "bad attitude"; this is about YOU, Matthew. I didn't start this conversation, you did. And you have abandoned your gift, sold it out to the likes of "James." "James" doesn't care about your gift and subsequent love of writing, except as it helps him receive more free things in this world.

I may or may not know you, and you may or may not know me. Who I am is terribly and perfectly unimportant. I'm a nobody and a nothing, a piece of discarded refuse people spit upon because I dress poorly. But you, a gifted writer, a person people should look up to, not be afraid of. No one should ever be afraid of you, Matthew, not one.

Nevertheless, sorry to intrude into your life or into your work. Nothing was intended to be offensive, but rather, was solely meant to help you become the kind of person to whom every single person who comes in contact with you will say, "Oh, my! Who was that well-dressed, suited man?" They will be speaking of your true "garments", the ones that the moths and months and years will not and cannot destroy. For such a man will close in on perfecting the gifts that God has freely given him. May God bless you, Matthew. (You also--James and Darren.) Please, feel free to not post this or remove at your discretion.

I would like to address your comments, but will not post anything further on this matter here. If you would like to hear my thoughts, please send me an e-mail (matthew at

I don't take offense to your comments. No apology is neccessary.

tomtom November 30, 2010 at 03:08 am

Most humbly and with great sincerity, thank you for not taking offense to my comments. Perhaps more than you will ever know or understand, that is a great relief to me. May God bless you and the gift He has bestowed on you in great measure. Goodbye...

Tom December 14, 2010 at 01:57 pm


I too have run into the great guy from United that greets 1Ks onboard! In general I've found UA staff at LAS to be great.

I think what you ran into at the PC was a case of an overzealous agent trying to find excuses to deny lounge entrance. I suspect their training focuses on how they won't be reimboursed if entry is incorrectly given. I think that some interpret that as taking food right out of their children's mouth. I too think that airlines secretly resent giving lounge access to anyone because of alliance elite status. I've seen/heard this type of thing at PCs before although I can imagine it takes place at the lounges at other airlines.

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