Kudos to Continental

How problems are handled can show the true measure of a company

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Virtually all of us know that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. It accompanies the sense of dismay or even panic that sets in when our flight is canceled or delayed.

It happened to me Nov. 8 on Continental Flight 402 to LAX from Bush Intercontinental in Houston. I was returning from an overnight in Houston for the Norwegian Sea’s introduction into the market, and I was eager to get home for what was left of the weekend.

The sinking feeling is worse if you’re already strapped into your seat and if you’ve snagged a primo window seat in an exit row with no seats in front of you. We were ready to pull back from the gate when the pilot made his announcement. Turns out a luggage truck had driven into our plane’s open cargo door while loading baggage, and the door couldn’t be fixed.

So we all trudged off the plane into the gate area where a hefty man with a booming voice told us to sit in the seats at the gate. (I felt just a little like a schoolchild.)

He quickly informed us of the problem, told us the airline would swap our plane with a different one, and then we’d be rebooked into new seats since the configuration was different. He then handed out $8 lunch vouchers and told us takeoff would be in less than an hour and a half.

Yeah, right. I ate a square cheeseburger at Wendy’s and returned to the gate. And was pleasantly surprised when I was immediately handed a boarding pass for seat 21A not as prime as 7A, but a window exit nonetheless. Lo and behold, we soon boarded and took off by the time we were told from the start.

The gentleman who handled the situation was Mark Grossbard, a supervisor for Continental. He informed us of what was going on, what he was going to do and then fed us because it was lunchtime. Because of his actions, he ended up with no cranky or even abusive passengers.

Problems happen. The difference between a poor company and one that inspires loyalty is how the problems are handled. This time, Continental and Mark Grossbard did everything right.