Since Kelly and I are going to be flying in and out of Hong Kong several times a year, we decided to maximize the benefits of all of that frequent flying by choosing one airline and sticking to it, thereby consolidating frequent flyer miles. We arbitrarily chose Continental for this - first mistake.
The flight there was uneventful, if a bit uncomfortable (as described in a previous post), but the flight back nearly killed me. Kelly and I were waiting to board our flight in Newark when an announcement was made - the flight was oversold and they were looking for volunteers to travel the next day in exchange for a travel voucher and overnight accommodations. We had a day to spare and thought the vouchers would come in handy, so we volunteered. This was the fatal mistake.
The woman processing the vouchers and rebookings had never done it before, so she had another Continental employee standing over her shoulder and correcting her various errors. At some point this employee was called away, and this must be the point at which our reservations were processed, because ours were the only two that were completely screwed up.
First, we were told that we could claim our luggage at carousel 9 - we just needed to pick it up and proceed to the hotel. This was one of the reasons we agreed to stay overnight - had we known that our luggage wouldn't appear (and still hasn't appeared) and that we'd be wearing the same underwear for the next 50 hours, we might have had second thoughts. So we proceed to luggage claim to wait. And wait. No luggage. We go to the baggage service office, and are told that it's impossible for luggage to travel without the owner on international flights, so we should continue to wait. Another hour later, still no luggage. We return to the baggage service office - oh, well, it looks like your luggage did go to Hong Kong after all. Wait, I thought that was impossible? No, their computers show that it wasn't pulled from the aircraft, so it definitely went - it will be waiting for us in Hong Kong. Okay...
Second, we were told that we would be rebooked on tomorrow's flight. Oops - I guess our lady rebooked ALL OTHER volunteers but "forgot" to rebook us. So we arrive at the airport the next day having been told that all we needed to do was swipe our passports at the kiosk and breeze to the gate, only to have the kiosk meltdown and tell us to see an agent because our itineraries don't match our passports. After waiting in line for one hour, we're told by an agent that we should've been issued boarding passes yesterday (everyone else who volunteered had been) but the agent must have "forgotten", so we were on the oversold list for this flight. That meant that we got seats only if others volunteered to give theirs up. Oh, and we asked about our luggage again - the computer couldn't locate it at all, but we were told it was "probably" in Hong Kong. Just in case, the ticket agent tells us, she'll put in an order for it to be put on the flight today - so if by some random chance it was still in Newark, it would definitely travel with us.
So we proceed to the gate and ask for seat assignments. No, you're on standby, you have to wait at the gate. So we wait. And wait. And wait. The flight begins to board. Other people on standby are called up and issued boarding passes. Still we wait. I visit customer service and the gate agent twice, asking what's going on - am told again to wait. At this point the series of missteps and the staggering level of incompetence has pushed me into a full-blown meltdown. Finally, the gate agent makes an announcement that they're closing the doors in 5 seconds and all passengers should be on board. I rush up and say, "Are we getting on this flight or not?!" - we should've been first on the standby list, as it was their mistake that landed us there. She looks surprised - what are your names again? I tell her, and she finds our boarding passes under a pile of litter on the desk. Sorry, they must have FORGOTTEN to call our names. At this point, I'm fairly sure that all Continental employees are either on drugs or have mild to moderate learning disabilities. But we finally get on the plane - not seated together, both with middle seats (something my careful trip planning had managed to avoid with our original reservations). Whatever, we're on our way home.
I settle in to watch some in-flight entertainment. The monitor promptly breaks.
We arrive at Hong Kong, proceed to the baggage service counter, and (this should come as no surprise) are told that our luggage never left New York. We tell them that it should have been sent yesterday, that even if it wasn't that an order was put in for it to be sent with us today, that the computers in Newark showed that it was definitely waiting for us in Hong Kong. No, no, sorry for the mistake, but their computers show that it's definitely still in Newark. We should received it the next day (today) by midnight. I'm not holding my breath. I have a feeling we're never going to see those bags again.
Moral of the story: NEVER, EVER fly Continental. And if you do, NEVER volunteer to give up your seat - the price you pay is much higher than the measly travel voucher you get in return.