Ice storm followed by customer complaints blizzard for Continental at Newark
After commenting on Jet Blue's handling of crisis communications after adverse weather caused severe problems and mass cancellations, I get to see a similar situation from ground level.
The storms that hit the East Coast of the US on Friday caused chaos across the region and shut down many of the airports around New York.
Like thousands of other people I was stranded at the airport and then suffered what seems to have been very poor contingency and communications planning by airports and airlines.
There were a good few people in the endless lines for tickets and infromation at Newark on Saturday who were using their laptops to try and book alternative arrangements. Telephone lines to the company weren't working and no one was telling people in the queues what was going on - there wasn't even a tannoy announcment.
After seven hours in line - I spin you not - just to talk to anyone from Continental and then three hours on the tarmac in a plane waiting to take off (including an emergency stop on the runway halfway through, but that's another story) the only customer service message I got was the corporate video of the CEO telling me about the superior customer service on and off the ground. Twice.
From the look of Technorati a good few of my fellow passengers have already posted their views to the blogosphere, for instance:
Scri_minus: Travel Disaster: "I urge you all not to use Continental if at all avoidable"
Bitin' the Big Apple:Boycott Newark!:: "I love Continental, but their error takes them down a notch in my book."
Dena: Utter chaos: "Continental Airlines has major issues... I ended up standing in line for 7 hours without anything to eat or drink and no way to use the toilet."
Exist: If you can help it, NEVER FLY WITH CONTINENTAL AIRLINES: "It is now sat. night I have been on hold with continental at different times since 5am fri. for a total 9 hours and counting"
darhlink: stRANded: "my flight got postponed hourly (4times!) until the airport closed.... that was precisely when absolute chaos broke lose."
It's another case of customer feedback being instant and very, very public.
Crisis communications needs to begin at the scene of the trouble. This situation hasn't hit the headlines in the mainstream media - and why would it - but it's top of the agenda for the thousands of people who experienced it.