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September 26, 2005 12:03 AM

Broken: Continental lost luggage service

Broken_baggageBroken_baggage2An anonymous reader writes:

These pictures of show some Continental customer reps at their lost luggage claim office chatting among themselves, while the line of weary travelers, wondering where their luggage was, stretched out the door. Five reps present, five empty stations.

When I started taking pictures, one rep called for someone to go get security and told me it was illegal to take photos. Needless to say, security never showed up; my claim was finally proccessed half an hour later, since I was second in line.


Can't you see how busy they are doing nothing?

Posted by: weesnaw at September 26, 2005 12:26 AM

Yeah, if they did something, they might do something productive.

Posted by: Jello B. at September 26, 2005 01:42 AM

*GASP* How dare you speak of actual efficiency?

Posted by: Fuzzy at September 26, 2005 08:01 AM

These are the people the second level of hell is saved for, and the same people that get huffy if they have to wait to check out at the mini-mart. and they wonder why a machine takes their jobs..

Posted by: El Gato at September 26, 2005 08:46 AM

It is broken that they didn't say what was going on, but I'd bet that there was some kinda system outage/lag because why wouldnt' they want to process stuff? I don't think any supervisor would let behavior like this slide unless the system was down and they couldn't work. In that case, though, there definitely should've been signage.

Posted by: sir_flexalot at September 26, 2005 09:49 AM

Even if the system was down, they still should have been working feverishly, if anything to appease the customers.

Yes have signs, but I would have gotten a notepad, and started walking down the line taking the information I need so that when the system comes back up, I can start zapping people into it and not waste time retreiving information.

Posted by: Brooke Browne at September 26, 2005 10:11 AM

They should all be fired. Round up their names.

Posted by: Bob at September 26, 2005 10:33 AM

It would not suprise me that the system was down. Companies in general have policies anymore that employees are not allowed to do anything without the computers being up. I was at a McDonalds where the computers were down. The had fresh fries and big macs on the rack, but couldn't sell them to me because the computers were down. I suggested that I could pay exact change, and they could write it down and enter it later. I was told by the manager that he would have to fire anyone who did that, and if he didn't he would be fired. So you might be dealing with such a policy here.

I think taking down the information would be logical, and we know how companies are required to be logical to be in business ;-) Frankly good customer service would be to admit that the computers were down. Take down the information from each person. Give them all a coke while they were waiting. and as appropriate send them on there way with a replacement toothbrush kit.

Of course the fact there were a buch of people waiting for service might indicate that there was an additional problem.

Posted by: Ray Stevens at September 26, 2005 12:29 PM

I just flew across the country yesterday, and I would not be the least bit surprised if they were just BSing.

Almost every person that I had to deal with that worked for the airlines were incredibly rude and un-helpful.

Posted by: Tim at September 26, 2005 12:51 PM

What is this website about, anyhow?

Posted by: rich at September 26, 2005 02:32 PM

OK, this clarifies the essence of broken: NOT THINKING ABOUT THE CUSTOMER. If anybody wants to post "not broken" in any other post, think about this first: Are they thinking about the customer?

Posted by: nickd at September 26, 2005 04:41 PM

OK, this clarifies the essence of broken: NOT THINKING ABOUT THE CUSTOMER. If anybody wants to post "not broken" in any other post, think about this first: Are they thinking about the customer?

Posted by: nickd at September 26, 2005 04:42 PM

Anyone who thinks that airline employees are unhelpful, why dont you try to work for the airlines. Then come back and repost.

Posted by: someone at September 26, 2005 06:43 PM

having a bad job is not an excuse to be unhelpful.

Posted by: gmangw at September 26, 2005 08:05 PM

What bothers me about this post is that we do not see the line of weary travelers crowding the service lines. If I know one thing about airline passengers (especially those that have lost their luggage) it is that they are quite willing to barge right up to a space where an employee is standing and DEMAND to be served. (Of course, this is not true of each and every customer, but if you have a line "stretching out the door," there will be at least one person who will barge the cue, get in the rep's face, and demand answers. This then empowers the rest of us timid Tommys and Tamis and WE start getting assertive.) Perhaps there was a problem, and these reps were standing around with their fingers in each others, ears. But it is NOT clear form these pictures.

Posted by: Dtingthomas at September 26, 2005 08:55 PM

Yes, this is not surprising at all for an airline.

Maybe we should take a poll to find out which INDUSTRY is most broken. Is it airlines or is it banks? Nominations anyone?

Posted by: J. Scott at September 27, 2005 01:07 AM

" I was at a McDonalds where the computers were down. The had fresh fries and big macs on the rack, but couldn't sell them to me because the computers were down."

LOL. Yeah, exactly. Dang, is that what this country has come to?

Posted by: J. Scott at September 27, 2005 01:49 AM

I wish I knew how to fix old-name airlines that don't care about their employees, and old-name airline employees that are so sick of their airlines that they don't care about the customer any more. Maybe they need to all go bankrupt and be replaced by the JetBlues and Southwests.

Oh, wait, that is what is happening, isn't it? With the old-name airline employees' stocks and pensions becoming worthless in the process?

Maybe it's time for those employees to realize that although their situation sucks, they can choose to be either part of the problem or part of the solution.

Posted by: Pat at September 27, 2005 11:43 AM

Yes, let's talk about banks too. At least with banks - and I'll drag credit card companies into this - one has a decent chance of raising a stink about bad customer service by calling in a manager to review an account of long standing and ask whether they really want to see that kind of business walk out the door. I've never seen that work with an airline, but have fairly good results with banks. With credit card companies, consider it a given to be able to call them up and ask that finance charges for small transgressions (i.e., payment one day late) be forgiven. If they don't, you fire them and four other companies will fall over themselves to take their place.

Posted by: Pat at September 27, 2005 11:50 AM

What's really broken is that there are at least five wickets here for the lost luggage service.

Just how much luggage did Continential plan to lose, anyway, to require this much lost-luggage service capacity?

Posted by: David Jones at September 27, 2005 12:24 PM

What's really broken is that there are at least five wickets here for the lost luggage service.

Just how much luggage did Continential plan to lose, anyway, to require this much lost-luggage service capacity?


Posted by: JAC at September 27, 2005 12:38 PM

Most baggage service counters are not just for dealing with lost luggage. They also deal with special handling requests, so having 5 counters probably is something needed to handle the overall volume of baggage.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at September 27, 2005 01:36 PM

May be that the counters deal with more than lost luggage, but five counters to deal with all unusual situations including (we hope) lost luggage, that seems like you would have to have a volume of like half the planes in the US to justify that many.

Posted by: Ray Stevens at September 27, 2005 02:55 PM

Seeing as some of the major airlines are going into bankruptcy, you think they would work a litle harder.

Posted by: Rick at September 28, 2005 12:53 AM

The entire Airline industry is broken- here's a story:

I'm not even going to TOUCH what happened to me based on the catering strike that British Airways, that's left for another e-mail. But let's just say that instead of going to Detroit like I wanted, I ended up on an American Airlines flight from London to Boston. I managed to get a flight the next day from Boston to Detroit on Northwest Airlines.

Now, here's the fun part.

American Airlines lost my baggage from London to Boston. They checked it for the standby flight I was waiting for to Chicago. Well, I didn't make that flight, so they just decided to NOT DO ANYTHING with my luggage and leave it there in London while I flew to Boston.

So, I checked in to Northwest Airlines, and didn't check my bag, since, you know, it was still in London. Well, when I got to Detroit, I walked to another terminal to get to the American Airlines lost baggage center. I told the lady my story, and she basically said that American ISN'T RESPONSIBLE for my lost luggage anymore because my last carrier was Northwest! I said... "But they don't even KNOW I have luggage!" No matter, she said, it's their problem now. So I made a call to Northwest's desk, who basically said that it was American's problem, not theirs, but they'll go ahead and take care of it. Cool, ok, I expected a phone call the next day as to the status of my luggage...

No phone call the next morning, so I call Northwest's lost luggage line in Detroit. Busy. I call again, I get put on hold for FORTY MINUTES and get dropped. This cycle happens for about 2 hours until I get fed up. I get in my rental car, drive to Detroit Metro Airport (about 30 minutes away) and go to the Northwest Ticket desk. I walk up to the ticket desk and ask what the deal with their phones are, since, there's 4 agents at the desk and 2 are helping customers. Well, it turns out that they just turn their phones off during peak hours! They can't be bothered with phone calls from customers they should be helping who lost their luggage the previous day, because they're too busy dealing with the people who lost their luggage today! So they just turn their phones off!

Well, I finally talk to the NW lady, and she tells me my baggage is still... In London! Why? Because American hasn't recieved a request to have it sent to Detroit yet, or something like that. So, basically, I stand there and ENSURE that she contacts American Airlines and talks to their rep, as I really can't trust these people to do their work without supervision. I wait 5 days... FIVE days without luggage, before my bag finally arrives in Detroit, torn up and damaged.

The entire Airline industry is broken. British Airways for the catering strike fiasco, getting me to my destination in Detroit 2 days late (and thus missing a wedding), American Airlines for shifting the blame, and Northwest for their apathetic customer service.

Posted by: Bill at September 30, 2005 04:20 AM


Posted by: Sido at September 30, 2005 11:21 PM

Bill-- My wife had the same problem when two airlines (US Airlines and British Midland) got a handover mixed up. BritMid were flying into London Heathrow (from Paris) but USAir had labeled her luggage for London Gatwick. She realised before landing in Paris and it took SIX WEEKS finally to get her luggage back. But it had had an interesting tour of the US and Canada in the meantime-- all the tags for where it had been were inside when she got it back-- so as part of compensation I claimed air miles for everywhere it had been. I got fed up with them arguing whose fault it was (before I'd submitted a claim) so eventually just claimed against both, and they both paid out without a whimper.

Going to Canada last year from London via EWR with Continental, US immigration was very busy and though I just caught the connecting flight my bags didn't. I must say I thought the baggage staff in Toronto very helpful, they have a freephone number to phone WHEN YOU ARRIVE WHERE YOU'RE GOING and you speak to a REAL PERSON and they taxi'd the bags up that night (we were going 'up north' the following day). I actually wrote to thank them, OK they made a mistake but the baggage person herself did everything in her power to make it easy for me. Remember, people, to send compliments when someone does their job well-- I know it is always appreciated and then EVERYONE gets better service.

Posted by: Simon Trew at October 1, 2005 06:18 PM

Simon makes an important point:

It is crucial to recognize the people who provide good service. With luck the nasty cranky people would be replaced with nice people who know how to do their jobs. But that depends on people letting these nice people know when they've done a nice job (maybe leaving $5 on the counter?). It can truly make all the difference.

Posted by: Sido at October 3, 2005 09:37 PM

Reminds me of DMV

Posted by: Jon at November 4, 2005 10:16 PM

I flew to Mexico this DIc. 19th to Mexico for my X-Mas vacations and very dissapointed I´m writting this note to complain about the customer service they have. It sucks!!!! They misplaced my luggage and it´s been 3 days now and NO news! I have nothing to wear, I´m diabetic and all my instruments to check my glucose levels are lost. I´m very angry and will NEVER again deal the Continental Airlines. There service reps have "zero" clue as to what their job is....

Posted by: continental Airlines at December 21, 2005 02:50 PM

I think this is what technology can't fixed-Human efficency. If the Airline/Travel Industry won't shape up they dampen the spirit of travelling to and fro. Thank God for Camera phones and digital. This is a great way of exposing how great is their customer service!

Posted by: luggage woman at January 5, 2006 12:49 AM

Just returned from Seattle, only to discover a leg broken off my twice-used, checked-in luggage. This was fun, especially when we arrived in Houston, missing our next flight because of time delays and having to cart this broken luggage all over the airport to find another flight to Lafayette. Then I'm getting the runaround trying to locate a pair of eyeglasses and case, probably left on the plane from Houston to Seattle on June 10. Our friends drove from Central Louisiana to catch our cruise ship in Seattle, and now I think I know why! HB

Posted by: Henrietta at June 26, 2006 08:15 PM

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