Planes, Trains, Cabs, Buses. Waiting.

This is what 15 inches of snow in less than 24 hours looks like.

With the winter that the northeast US has suffered, I shouldn’t have been surprised that this week’s snowfall put a serious crimp in my little one-night jaunt to the City That Never Sleeps for an IPR Measurement Commission meeting.  Thank heavens for Jeremy and Alice, who welcomed me into their home for an extra night solo, and even fed me granola this morning.

Wednesday dawned to a wicked wind and big snowflakes. By 11 a.m., my 4:10 Continental Airlines flight home was canceled, rebooked to 7:30 p.m. But this snowstorm was a two-part invention in pain, and the second movement hit (sleet and freezing rain) just as the evening commute was starting. Colleagues on United and others got the axe, and I decided I’d rather spend another evening on Jeremy and Alice’s guest bed than run the risk of being marooned for the night in the comfort and luxury of LaGuardia Airport.

So, I rebooked for 10 a.m. Thursday, well after the snowmaggedon was due to end and with plenty of time to negotiate Manhattan’s buses, streets and subways.

Au Contraire, mon frere. We got about 15 inches in Central Park.

At 7 a.m., my 10 was canceled, Continental wasn’t answering its phones, the Web site offered no alternatives and I was sweating bullets. I Tweeted to @Continental pleading for help (followed them) and a  little later, they DM’d me asking for confirm and deets. In the meantime, I hied myself off to Penn Station, where Continental maintains a ticket office, by subway.  The office was closed, probably because the 15 inch snowfall on the island was about the same as the other boroughs and immediate vicinity. I boarded a New York Airport bus van (a private company) at Penn Station, went to Grand Central, got on a larger bus, waited for 40 minutes or so, then made a fairly easy jaunt to the airport.

At LaGuardia, the Continental staff solved my problem, crowbarring me into a seat on a 6 p.m. flight. Of course, it was barely 1 p.m. at the time, meaning I faced a long afternoon. Fortunately, the President’s Club has good wi-fi. I’m writing this from a cozy carrel.

So how did Continental do?  What could they do? As talented an airline as they are (thank you for maintaining a hub in Cleveland!), they can’t change the laws of physics and conjure up airplanes on the spot. They have to come from other places, and with basically a full day flights to re-jigger, they did what they could. It helped, I’m sure, to present myself here at the airport and talk to a real person (who was very nice and helpful.)

I wish that when they cancelled my Thursday morning flight, they’d rebooked me immediately, as they did on Wednesday afternoon. I wish they could have had enough telephone operators on hand that I could have learned my fate earlier in the day. But all in all, Continental confirmed why they are my airline of choice. I got treated with respect, the Twitter operator tried to help me out, and in the end, I’m on the way home.

I hope the new United does as well.


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3 Responses to “Planes, Trains, Cabs, Buses. Waiting.”

  1. Pauline Draper-Watts says:

    My experience with United:
    On the plus they did keep re-booking me but I was unable to check in online so I headed out to the airport early to ensure that I got a boarding card – it was the noon flight which was the first of the day not to be cancelled.
    On the minus I watched later flights leave while we waited for a First Officer. I was stuck at the back of the plane (row 25 of 26) with the seat of the man in front reclining into my face (my seat did not recline as I was last but one row). I had a young noisy child behind me banging on his table and kicking. To be honest, I was grateful to be on a flight back to Chicago and the First Office and child could hardly be United’s fault. However, I was rather miffed when the person I was speaking with at LGA told me at ORD that they were serving comp drinks further forward. As a loyal customer with status on the airline I do not think they did very well, especially as they did the same thing to me on Monday flying out to LGA. So much for qualifying for extra legroom! I hope you make it out tonight.

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  3. Sean says:

    @Pauline – ugh! I was in row 27 of 32 and in a middle seat, but fortunately, Continental had encouraged us to check our 2nd carryon (for free!), so it was really no-fuss no-muss. Seriously, I think Continental is really the surviving airline culture (insofar as I know, which isn’t much, admittedly), and I hope so. I’ve been ok flying United in the past — one memorable rebooking from Des Moines to Cleveland was particularly welcome — but as my “hometown” airline, I try to fly Continental as often as possible.

    Nice to see you in NYC – go Hawks!