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‘Continental’ treatment for Indians

September 13
01:43 2010

Chaos at the counter in Newark airport in New Jersey

NEWARK, NJ: Having traveled several times between Delhi and US, I have never encountered as inexperienced and rude ground staff as it was with Continental Airline during my recent visit. My trip started on July 21 when it took the ground staff in Delhi more than two hours to find seats for me, my wife and our teenaged daughter although we had booked more than two months in advance.
Finally the supervisor had to come after two agents could not figure out the computer commands. Still they could not find seats for all three of us together.
It was a full flight and at least 80 percent of the passengers were Indians. The non-stop flight to Newark was quite comfortable even though it was for 15 hours. They did not have our vegetarian meals and gave us some salads and bread.
During our stay in US I had to call Continental to make changes and the staff was very unfriendly and lacked knowledge about international rules governing fares and charges etc. Finally I gave up and took another flight to San Francisco.
I thought that was enough, but soon had to face my worst experience at the Newark Airport. The ground staff had no knowledge about rules applicable to PIO/OCI card holders. They held me up for half an hour claiming that I did not have a valid visa, even though I was holding a PIO card. The fourth person at the counter finally told the agent that a PIO card is valid as Visa.
It was a routine check-in at Continental Airline Gate C-123 for Flight No.CO82 leaving for Delhi at 8.30 pm on September 4, until two hours before departure they decided to check our visas again.
We had to stand in queue again for over half hour. While this was going on, an agent announced that due to technical reasons the Gate had been changed to No 108, so all of us had to rush to Gate No C-108.
It was the worst nightmare for senior citizens and mothers traveling with children. The airline was able to provide the ride only for a few. Once again this flight was also packed with people of Indian origin and many of them were very old.
Mrs Nair (name changed) traveling with her husband almost had a bad fall running from one gate to the other.
As if this was not enough, the airline made another announcement that the Gate had been again changed back to Gate C-123. When asked one of the agents was extremely rude and was unable to give a satisfactory reply.
They said, “We have no knowledge and this goof up is due to operations and computer”. So convenient to put the blame on computers. It was quiet amusing to hear such excuses from a professional carrier.
Ms. Rachna Bharti, with her child in a stroller, was almost in tears watching the rude behavior of the agents. Mrs. Saroja, who had just come out of knee surgery, was limping trying to make to the gate again.
One of the students from Costa Rica traveling for the first time to India was told that the flight had left for India.
Many of these things happen at airports with thousands of people traveling. But the attitude of the staff at Continental was appalling. Especially their treatment of Indian passengers. Said one passenger, “They don’t realize we give them maximum revenue.”
I hope, Continental you are listening!

Krishan Sharma
India Post News Service

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