Day 8 Continued. Houston, USA.
We made it to Houston! Freedom! I noticed that we were delayed so I asked the flight attendant what the process was for catching our connection. The flight attendant said not to worry because there was a 9 pm flight in case we missed the 7 pm. So that was a bit more comforting but I was still determined to catch the 7 pm flight to Newark. I needed to get in that night to be there for my brother’s surprise birthday party in New York City!
As soon as the plane doors were open I was running ahead of the crowd. I needed to check in my backpack because the bottles I bought wouldn’t be allowed on the plane even though they were duty free.
Out of the plane there was no Continental rep there to help speed us through to our connection. I expected someone with a sign to gather all the passengers who were on the way to Newark, which was usually the case for close flight connections.
Then I found the customs line to be quite long. After patiently waiting in line checking my watch three times a minute, I got through customs. Then I had to check my bag in at the Continental desk. I didn’t mind if the bag didn’t make it on this flight, as long as I did. I had 20 minutes before scheduled departure.
Having a Silver Elite status, I got into the Elite line hoping to quickly drop my bag off. I called an attendant over and said I only had to drop my bag off so I could catch my connection.
You wait in line just like everyone else.
Seriously? Wow, thank you for that.
There were two couples in front of me. The economy line was empty besides one passenger. There was one “elite” desk and four or five regular desks serving customers. A regular desk opens up and the guy in line gets served. The people in the Elite line are bypassed. Then as we wait for another desk to open two more groups get in the economy line. The Elite desk was busy processing some issue, so the only desks opening up where the regular ones and they (for some odd reason) were NOT serving Elite members. We were bypassed three more times. The couple in front of me asked in frustration “what’s the point of even having Elite status?”
I made a move and ran into the empty regular line and was served when the next desk opened up, before the other two groups in the Elite line. I ran to the desk with 5 minutes to spare before boarding and quickly explained I needed to catch to flight to Newark. The man slowly started typing on the computer and finally said that the flight was closed. I said I need to get on and that there is still time. He said “no because you still needed to get through security.”
He then started typing away and then said Ok I have you booked on the next flight, tomorrow morning at 6 am.
What? Can we get on the 9 pm flight to Newark?
He started typing away. At this point Bill caught up with me.
Sir, that flight was cancelled.
What? What other flights go into New York tonight? JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, even Philadelphia?
The man typed away on the keyboard. No sir, there are no other flights tonight.
Bill and I were in shock. We survived all transportation in Central America and stuck to a hectic schedule for a week, but our whole plan was ruined after we arrived in the US. Ironic isn’t it?
At this point a lady from the Elite desk came over. She asked what the situation was and then basically repeated what the person told us minutes before.
Great so we were stuck in Houston for the night. We slowly accepted that fact. My first thought was my sister’s disappointment because I was going to miss the massive surprise birthday party she planned. Then my brother’s disappointment.
We then asked where we were supposed to stay.
Oh Continental will not provide a hotel, said our Elite lady.
You have to pay for your own hotel.
The Continental flight was delayed and we missed our connection and now we have to pay for our hotel?
Sir, the delay was due to weather delays (which was later changed to “security issues” when we prodded further) which is not covered by Continental.
We were shocked once again. We could have caught our flight if the service by Continental was helpful, but it wasn’t and now, not only were we not making it to New York, we also had to find a hotel to stay in our forced overnight in Houston.
This was not our fault. I’m a loyal customer, with Continental for many years and I expect to be treated as such. We could have caught our flight if you actually sped us through the process.
We AREN’T the US customs sir, we can’t “speed” you through any process. If you like you can sleep in the airport… That’s free.
Seriously? It was 7 pm. Did she really just suggest that we stay in the airport and sleep on the benches? I was in complete awe of the rudeness from an “elite” team leader. I then asked for her employee number because I wanted to file a complaint.
Sir you can’t have my employee number, but you can have my name. To file a complaint, please go to www.continental.com and file through there.
Bill and I stood there and gave each other a look. Ridiculous.
The lady then left cause her “shift was over”. The man seemed apologetic and printed out our tickets for the next day.
I wasn’t going to put up with this. I was going to file a complaint with the correct information, including her employee number. We made our way to the Elite desk where the lady couldn’t be found. I asked the other person on duty and she said that she was already gone. Then she asked me what the problem was and I calmly explained our situation. The lady checked and confirmed that they could not issue any hotel vouchers for the type of delay category (security), but then said to hold and she would speak to someone in the office. She returned shortly after and said that they would be able to offer us hotel stay and meal vouchers due to this special situation.
I raised an eyebrow. Seems like someone does understand the concept of customer service.
Thank you. I want to note in my complaint that you were able to effectively resolve the issue! She smiled and said that we didn’t need to do that.
Vouchers in hand, we headed to our shuttle. Now to call and tell everyone the bad news.
We were exhausted, defeated and disappointed. Though we were trying to rally to go out and make it a night in Houston, we realized that we had a 6 am flight the next day, so we decided to figure it out after dinner. We took the shuttle bus to the airport Sheraton and checked in along with about 10 other passengers (not from our flight that we could see). We got our room with two queen size beds, which was definitely a step up from what we’ve been use to on the trip.
After relaxing a second, we headed to dinner at the bar downstairs. It was pretty empty consisting of a few groups of stranded passengers from all over. Sitting there waiting for our dinner we almost fell asleep so we both decided against heading into Houston center for partying… After getting some burgers we got back and slept.
Day 9: Houston, TX to Newark, NJ
We were up bright and early. Before we knew it, we were on the plane to Newark. We sat together in economy when a lady from Continental came back and pulled me into First.
Son of a…
Sorry Bill. See you later!
Unfortunately, I was too tired to enjoy first class and I slept through the whole flight..
Surviving the End of the World Tour
Though 2012 has been misunderstood as the End of the World, we were told several times that it was the rebirth of the calendar and not an end. We definitely accomplished our goals for the trip, having seen the Mayan sites: Chetumal, ATM Caves, Tikal, Copan and other sites: Snorkeling the reef of Belize, climbing the volcanoes of Picaya and experiencing the cultures of 5 different countries.
The trip as a whole was exhausting and stressful. Mostly because the perceived danger kept you alert at all times (even when in your hotel room). We were prepped to be robbed at any time. Though in the end, it really wasn’t as dangerous as everyone made it out to seem.
The travel was tiring since they didn’t really have overnight buses, so all the travel was done during valuable day time.
The locals were friendly and helpful for the most part. Often curious and wanting to chat. It was a roller coaster of a trip and I’m glad we made it off the ride.