When my “base of operations” switched from Dallas to Houston in February of this year my choice of airlines changed too. I was a frequent flier on American Airlines and had the status to prove it. I enjoyed DFW and did not mind flying in and out of there. With the move to Houston, my airline of choice has become Continental Airlines and the airport I frequent is now IAH.
With the change my enjoyment of flying has increased by a great amount. Continental has only let me down one time but they have more than made up for it with great service on every other trip with them. My recent flight in the BusinessFirst cabin from Newark to Seattle was one of the most enjoyable flights I have ever taken. The Continental flight attendants are some of the best in the business and the fact that the airline still provides meals at mealtimes is a testament to their devotion to their customers.
Recently, Continental, in conjunction with a message board community of frequent fliers, announced that they would be holding a very large event at Intercontinental Airport. The event will take place September 28-29 and will include tours of Continental facilities and a Q&A session with various Continental “C” level management, including Larry Kellner himself. As you can imagine, I am attending this event with Jess and want to have a nice list of suggestions and questions for the Continental management.
So, how can Continental improve and compete more heavily for my business?
- Better transcontinental services and comfort.
- Continental only has one east coast hub, Newark, and it serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. The comfort on these planes for both coach and first class passengers is minimal. If you are on a red-eye, do not assume you will get a good amount of sleep in coach, the seat pitch is only 31″ and pales in comparison to JetBlue’s 34″ pitch. The three inches may not sound like a lot, but it definitely helps when you are wanting to relax a little.
- The above comment goes hand-in-hand with upgrading of the transcontinental fleet, which should be segregated into an almost three class configuration. Have a first class, business class, and economy section (with more legroom) and increase the capacity on the routes. It is near impossible to obtain a first class seat on a transcontinental route due to the fact that the largest plane flying these routes only has 24 seats in the front.
- Improve the elite check-in and security lines, especially in Houston and Newark.
- The Newark elite security lines in terminal C are a joke, they merge right before you get to a metal detector and just become a bottleneck as the airport gets busier throughout the day.
- Give elites a true “elite” line and make their trip a little more hassle free, it makes all the difference, especially when being forced to fly through Newark.
- President’s Club food choices are going the way of the Dodo
- I understand that the President’s Club is a way to escape the hustle and bustle of the terminal and I appreciate it, but the food options are somewhat depressing. The cheese and crackers combination just gets old after a while. Maybe add a few other small options such as bite-sized sandwiches or some sort of meat to accompany my cheese and crackers.
- Food options in coach teeter on the inedible side of the spectrum
- The cheesesteak pizza and the faux-hamburger have to go. I know that Continental is just trying to put some food into the customer’s belly, but these options are not really options at all.
- Make a salad with chicken on top an option. The vinaigrette dressing that is provided on the flights is great, now compliment it with a little chicken or smoked salmon and I’ll be happy.
Those are the main quirks that stick out in my head as I walk through an airport terminal. I will still be a loyal Continental flier even the above never get implemented, it would just be nice to see it happen. The one other thing that Continental could do to keep its already loyal elite fliers is block off middle seats for them. Instead of filling the plane from the front to back, do the reverse, I guarantee there will be a great majority of businessmen who will thank you.