Continental Do update

I have a few minutes between this morning’s mystery tour and the Q&A session, so I wanted to provide a quick update. I had high expectations coming to the Continental Do based on the great reviews I’ve read, but frankly they haven’t done it justice. WOW is all I can say!

Last night they had a function at the Marriott, which was awesome. The highlight had to be a “Miles or no Miles” game they played three rounds of, much like “Deal or no Deal.” Those holding the suitcases (FlyerTalkers picked at random) got 5,000 OnePass miles, while the contestants could win up to 1,000,000 miles. It was just like the real show — there was a banker, the board looked real, the suitcases were real, etc. It was extremely well done. I think the most anyone won was 180,000 miles. Yeah, our contestants weren’t very good (I’m kidding).

I was given a “ticket” for the mystery tour this morning, which I was happy I got, even before I knew what it would be. I like surprises, and this was definitely no disappointment. At 7:30AM this morning we all got on buses from the various hotels, where our host told us that the “mystery tour” would be Continental 9920 with service to Houston, so obviously everyone was excited. I figured they would scale back the event a bit this year due to the economy, but Continental went all out.

We were driven to the airport, where we drove up to an internationally configured 757-200 with airstairs at both the front and the back of the aircraft. First we had to clear security (they literally had TSA agents at the airstairs, and no, we didn’t have to take off our shoes), at which point a guy from in-flight product along with the managing director of customer experience spoke.

We then boarded a 757, where we were greeted by all kinds of execs and flight attendants. There were at least eight or nine flight attendants on this flight, and apparently a few of them were from the old safety video.

Obviously the announcements were largely tongue-in-cheek if not downright hilarious at times. These flight attendants were here for more than just our safety, and it showed they were having a great time

Most middle seats stayed empty, and in each seat was a BusinessFirst blanket, pillow, and amenity kit, which we could take home.

We had two captains aboard (one would be flying each of the flights since there were two hours), one of which made an announcement explaining our flight time of one hour and that we’d be flying over San Antonio, Galveston, doing a fly-over of Hobby airport, etc.

About five minutes after take-off the flight attendants started distributing the snacks, which consisted of chocolate truffles, strawberries, danishes, etc. All of the bags had flutes, as the champagne/orange juice/mimosa service was nonstop throughout the flight. It was pretty funny, since we climbed like crazy at times to the point that flutes were falling off the tray tables, but the service continued. Best of all the VP’s/execs were serving the drinks along with the flight attendants.

Another cool aspect of the flight was that the flight deck door was open for most of the flight, so people could take pictures, ask questions, etc. As we overflew Hobby airport, there was of course a joke or two at the expense of our friends at Southwest Airlines, which made it all the more entertaining.

What an awesome, incredible, ridiculous experience. There was so much laughter, applause, and goodwill, that I almost feel like flying Continental from now on. The fact that the executives could “mingle” with the flight attendants and work happily as a team is something I could never even begin to imagine at United, unfortunately. The flight attendants will be at the function tonight as well, which is awesome.

Continental, you rock. I’ll hopefully have a ton of pictures of the whole event up by tomorrow.

Comments

  1. Lucky, it sounds so totally cool. Could you imagine Glenn & Company ever serving drinks? Maybe that’s a better suited job for their skills…

  2. Boy now I have lots to live up to. Somehow I don’t think my tour of the center and the tower (if I can pull that off) will live up to a CO flight to nowhere. šŸ™

    Why didn’t I hear about this sooner? Hell I’ve gone to PVG before for noodles, why wouldn’t I fly to IAH for a flight to IAH šŸ™‚

  3. The cockpit door was open? That is STRICTLY forbidden by the TSA. Continental should be reported. The last thing I want to hear is that there is a bullet loaded with fuel flying over my house where all the idiots on board have access to the controls.

  4. Pat, that’s exactly what impressed me the most. The fact that the VP’s could work with the employees in such a friendly and caring way was amazing, and shows a different corporate culture than United. I pictured Glenn on this flight and immediately laughed, thinking he would be hiding behind some curtain. It’s so refreshing to fly an airline like Continental in this case.

    Sorry Joe, but that’s incorrect. The flight deck door can’t be open for commercial flights, but this was a charter flight. We were told that the cockpit door is often open for charter flights with sports teams, for example.

  5. I can tell you as a CO employee, this is a slap in the face! We have 147 pilots and their families out on furlough drawing unemployment and the company has money to burn like this? Smacks of AIG!!!

  6. Joe, if you truly believe that a cockpit door being open makes the skies unsafe (be it a commercial or charter flight) I’m worried. The TSA are a bunch of clowns and have no clue about how or what is acceptable risk involved in aviation.

    Hey I wonder if any TSA read this and now I’ll get SSSS every time I fly through the US šŸ™‚

  7. Lucky,
    Thanks for the update!

    I know how much you love UA. Have you consider CO to be your number 1 priority carrier?

  8. Amazing, 147 pilots on furlough, security at an all-time high and here are the Continental fat cats and their fan club; by-passing security, no regard for in-flight FAA rules and procdures, joy-riding all around Texas.

    Nice move, Larry, you just galvanized your pilots. We should thank you. I’m sure the shareholders will have something to say when the pilot polling numbers come out post-June 8th.

    SB

  9. The rule about the cockpit door only applies to commercial flights. Since this was a charter the rule doesn’t apply. And everyone was screened prior to boarding. It most certainly was not unsafe in any way, shape or form.

    As to the thought of CO throwing money away on this, the costs come out of marketing and will likely be more than made up for in increased revenue. There isn’t enough being spent to cover even one pilot’s salary. Oh, and they need customers and business to have loads to need pilots to fly their planes. If the planes aren’t flying then they don’t need any pilots, right? Investing in some solid marketing like this has a pretty high return for the company.

  10. Please tell me, exactly how much additional revenue does CAL expect to get because of this “junket”? What process was utilized to determine which bloggers where in a position to add value? Furthermore was it worth the reputational risk in todays business environment? Sounds like a real boondoggle to me! I guess the big question is does the flying public really care. Perhaps the even bigger question is how does CAL management justify this waste to its 50,000+ employees?

  11. The reported cost of this little diddy was $1.2 million. At $40,000 per year (trust me, the furloughed pilots make well below that as they are all on first year probationary pay, and I am generously allowing enough to cover all benefits) that would have saved 30 pilots from being on unemployment, losing their homes, and applying for food stamps.

  12. To Joe Winkelman

    Another person trying to rain on someone else parade. Get you facts straight Jack and educate yourself before you come out swinging. Cockpit door procedures apply to FAR Part 121 flights, not Part 91 Flights. So take a seat…

  13. I have spent most of my morning answering emails and phone calls from pilots who, like me, are in disbelief about another corporate showing of excess yesterday. Unfortunately this one occurred here at Continental on Flights 9920 and 9921. While I have no problem with promoting our airline and rewarding our high paying passengers, taking a couple of hundred bloggers on a couple of hour long joy ride around Texas seems excessive by any standard. At this time, with this economy and with the current public attitude toward corporate greed and excess, is this really the type of activity they think will improve our bottom line? Have they not learned anything from other companiesā€™ bad press due their excesses with these types of events?

    The insensitivity is even greater with 147 pilots on furlough. I hope everyone enjoyed the reported low pass over Hobby. It is very likely that one or more of our furloughed brothers was washing or fueling airplanes directly below in order feed his family. If this is even close to being true, whoever approved this event owes our furloughed brothers and sisters an apology. They also owe every one of us who continues to work under a concessionary contract an apology.

    Worse, the concerns I have fielded from our Union pilots are not simply about the expenses of the affair, but also about the apparent lack of concern for cockpit security, for the professionalism of our pilots, our CBA, and the amount of alcohol consumed by passengers. Management should be aware that when they invite internet activists to an event, it does not take long for the pictures to be posted on the various web sites. Imagine my concern when I viewed a picture of a passenger in one of our jumpseats, in flight, wearing the captainā€™s hat and bragging about how much he had drunk. Further imagine my disgust that your management just inflicted an unpaid suspension on two line pilots for allowing a Flight Attendant to ride in the jumpseat. Hypocrisy is too kind a characterization of the companyā€™s disparate conduct in these two events.

    No matter the expense of the event the perceptions of waste and excess far outweigh any possible benefits. I will be making the MECā€™s concerns known to management first thing Monday morning. Each of us should encourage management to reconsider these types of events in the future. If not we will certainly do a better job of getting advance notice of time and location. Our SPSC guys would love to attend.

    Captain Jay Pierce

    CAL MEC Chairman

  14. I’ll be responding to some of the concerns here in another post shortly. Long story short I think many of you are trying to use this as a cheap shot against management. I was hoping you guys were better than some of your other ALPA counterparts, but I guess not.

  15. I do not believe that there are any “cheap shots” at management regarding the seriousness of the incidents of the past days. Regarding the FAR 121 vs. the 91 issue, the TSA to whom we report regarding cockpit security, will have the final say. Also, any part 91 flight flown by a 121 carrier is held to the higher standard of the Flight Operations Manual or the applicable FAR’s. In this case, our FOM trumps the FARs. Our POI (FAA inspector assigned to CAL), the TSA, and the FBI will be the final authority on all possible violations. I suspect that there will be much more to come for those involved. I’m sincerely glad that all who participated had a fine time. And, I am thankful that you all are our customers. However, allowing alcohol in the cockpits of transport category jets; access with potential weapons (see the internet photos of folks carrying champagne bottles); people in the cockpit without each being properly briefed on all available equipment to include the use of the quick-donning 02 masks, and the general meyheim is unacceptable. The FAR’s start out in Part 91 with a restriction against, “careless and reckless operation.” We have record of the flight path and the “buzz” of Hobby. (A buzz that was done without an aerobatic waiver, an FAA airshow waiver, and with passengers on board.) As a citizen of the fourth largest city in America, I am doubly troubled. Sleeper cells could easily infiltrate your organization and turn a 200,000+lb B757 full of fuel into a missile aimed at the Houston ship channel or our petroleum reserves. The decision to play roulette with my career and my family’s future, by possibly risking our operating certificate is completely unacceptable. Additionally, those of you who exceeded the maximum certification for our overhead bins by climbing in them are costing us additional money for the inspections. I hope you keep that in mind the next time you complain about the increased fare prices.

  16. OK……

    Let’s assume a company has $1.2 million to spend, which I don’t know whether this figure is accurate or not. Seems high to me. But for argument purposes we’ll accept it.

    Should the company rehire 30 to 40 pilots and have them sit at home, as there obviously aren’t the flights required to pay these pilots now, or spend the money on a marketing event to help drive demand higher and actually rehire these pilots to transport actual paying passengers?

    Although I wasn’t at the event, I received two calls from different participants who excitedly told me how great CO is to put on such a nice event. I believe that’s the marketing angle management was looking for.

  17. “I was hoping you guys were better than some of your other ALPA counterparts, but I guess not.”

    Hey Lucky, Just to set the record straight I detest ALPA and the “collectivism” for which they stand, but we’re in the business of selling service. And when service is what you’re selling mangement had better make darn sure they lead by example. Signing off on this kind of waste is pi$$ poor leadership. Remember, it is the employees who are in the trenches everyday selling an image of “working together” and “funding the future”. And when they witness this egregiously waste of funds what sort of example do you think it sets. Especially in light of all the salary cuts and layoff’s and possibly even more in the future. This entire fiasco could have been done at a fraction of the cost and generated the same good will. However, in the end I think most of us will carry on like the professionals we are and just shake our heads. This is the same kind of disconnect that has manifested itself between our government and its citizens. I know I certainly expected more from our management than this.

  18. redflyer

    You need to calm down, it sounds from you post you are extremely paranoid and that has effected your judgment. Point to one place in the “FOM” where it talks about part 91 flights and all the restrictions you are talking about. The simple fact is you are angry at the company for giving your group a concessionary contract that you and your peers voted on an passed and you are trying to find some reason to make a big deal about this as retaliation. What about those 91 ferry flights down to Hobby for MX where pilots have brought family members along for the ride? I guess those don’t count because they met your personal approval. Was this in bad taste in light of the economy, probably. Illegal and dangerous, No.

  19. redflyer,

    Concerning the Mystery Tour flights.

    1. Flight details were not disclosed to participants prior to being bussed to the aircraft. This left very little time for your alleged sleeper-cell to plan and implement an attack.
    2. Participants were fully screened by TSA prior to boarding aircraft.
    3. The aircraft was on an ATC-filed flight plan and was under supervision throughout the flight. Approach into Hobby was a standard missed-approach and at no time did the aircraft fly below 1000 feet AGL.
    4. Visitors to the cockpit were supervised at all times and were only allowed 15-20 seconds each.

    I don’t believe for one minute that either of the TWO captains on the flight would have allowed the participants to endanger the aircraft, occupants or persons and or property on the ground.

    Yes, there was alcohol being served on the flights and the participants were being entertained and having fun. However, events like these are marketing. Case in point, I spend upwards of $20,000 a year on travel. After this event I’m more likely to direct more of those dollars to Continental. I’m also more likely to lobby my friends and clients to direct more of their business to Continental. I assure you that this event did not cause Continental to post a loss last year (look at the fuel hedges for that). In this economy Continental company needs all of the revenue it can get. This group of people spend more per capita than your average customer, this group of people also LOVE Continental more than the average customer. Why not nurture the relationship?

    My opinion is it is ultimately people like you and your self-righteousness attitudes that will contribute more to the destruction of America than any terrorist cell. Attitudes like yours fan the flames of paranoia that brings in more onerous rules and regulations that strangle the inventiveness and resourcefulness of Americans. Attitudes like yours will accelerate the imposition of a Nanny-state where each and every decision Americans make will require consultation with regulations and lawyers top obtain explicit permission from the Government. The real shame is that we have so-called responsible citizens like you who, in a fit of envy or anger regarding an event where “Oh my god! People are having too much fun!” spew forth hate and bitterness without considering the long-term good that it may bring in the to the company.

  20. “Point to one place in the ā€œFOMā€ where it talks about part 91 flights and all the restrictions you are talking about.”

    Sorry, that would be a violation of the FOM by revealing confidential and possibly security related material.

    “What about those 91 ferry flights down to Hobby for MX where pilots have brought family members along for the ride? ”

    All flights are dispatched under 121, but can operate under part 91 and the FOM. The limitations are met regarding number of passengers with vs. number of Flight Attendants (whether or not you care to believe it, they really are there primarily for your safety and not to pour your drinks.) All persons seated at any time in the cockpit are thoroughly briefed about the proper use of ALL EMERGENCY equipment. How many of you who were in the pit above 10,000 would have known how to don a mask (or even where they were located) should a decompression have occured? Finally, with regards to security, I believe (I’ll have to check since I have never flown one) only immediate family members are allowed or other company employees. The former is based on the fact that most pilot’s spouses and young children wouldn’t willfully attempt to destroy an airplane (most spouses are female and all children are under 18). The other company employees have their background checks and/or are alreday afforded cockpit access.

    “My opinion is it is ultimately people like you and your self-righteousness attitudes that will contribute more to the destruction of America than any terrorist cell. Attitudes like yours fan the flames of paranoia that brings in more onerous rules and regulations that strangle the inventiveness and resourcefulness of Americans. Attitudes like yours will accelerate the imposition of a Nanny-state where each and every decision Americans make will require consultation with regulations and lawyers top obtain explicit permission from the Government. The real shame is that we have so-called responsible citizens like you who, in a fit of envy or anger regarding an event where ā€œOh my god! People are having too much fun!ā€ spew forth hate and bitterness without considering the long-term good that it may bring in the to the company.”

    I am sincerely grateful that you all are quality customers, and thank you for your business. However, I am just as grateful that the 68,000 professional pilots in this country think more like me when I put my family on board an airplane. The next time I am in a Cat 2 hand flown approach to minimums in blowing snow going into a short runway like Midway after back to back red-eye turns, i’ll keep in mind your suggestion that I “ā€œOh my god! People (we) are having too much fun!ā€ I take my skills, my profession’s image, and my responsibility very seriously. I lost friends on 9-11 who had their throats slit. Many said it could never happen, but it did. Ask the families’ of those who merely went to work in the twin towers that morning and now do not even have so much as a finger to bury. It can happen, and it did. If you all are so confident that no one could infultrate your group, then you are sadly naive. The military teaches us how to use shoe strings and pens as weapons. Believe me, the bad guys know this, too. Champagne bottles, that would have been a too easy…This is why our cockpit door procedures are so clearly defined, honed, and repeatedly trained. I give up. You all just don’t want to get it. When I say “safety first,” that sincerely includes yours, as well. Fly safe.

  21. Hey redflyer

    Why are you taking this out on those who attended this event? Are you looking for respect? Why don’t you contact CAL management if it is such a big deal to you. I would say most pilots don’t think like you and I think it is very unprofessional to come on here and try to attempt to take your feelings of not being respected out on this group. They were invited to an event and had a great time. Do you think anyone here cares about your opinion about whether it was appropriate. Heck if someone invited my on a ride in an F-16 do you think i would question whether it was appropriate or not? Hell no I would take the opportunity. Are you saying that the pilots on this flight were not professional? Direct your anger in the right place friend.

  22. redflyer,

    We Americans all harbor feelings of loss and pain from 9-11. I worked (and continue to work) in downtown NYC on that day. By the luck of the draw I was spared witnessing in firsthand the carnage that the terrorists inflicted upon the nation. However, my colleagues were not so fortunate and endured firsthand witnessing of the extinguishing of the lives of family, friends and coworkers. I myself was witness to the recovery of remains on numerous occasions. I remember the tears of my fellow New Yorkers as they remembered those who were lost. I do not take lightly their suffering they and the families of the lost endured. I am a New Yorker because I saw how the people of this city and this nation came together to support another during that time. I only want to build upon that spirit of cooperation that was prevalent right after 9-11 that if built upon, would ultimately make us a greater nation. However, I despise the paranoia that infiltrates our society today because of that. I believe that falling into that trap is exactly what the terrorists want us to do. The idea of America is based on the idea that ANYONE can build an enterprise here and enrich themselves and other through their activities. I don’t want that hope to be extinguished.

    For the record, I am a licensed pilot myself. I was on flight 9921 and I don’t think for one minute the was approaching a dangerous state. I certainly would have made it known if I thought the environment was unsafe.

    I respect your concern for the furloughed pilots. The best way to get them back to work is to increase the revenue for Continental airlines. I recognize that these are treacherous times for any airline, but I believe the DO can only help Continental in the long run. Obviously, such indulgences cannot be repeated on a weekly or monthly basis. But, it certainly enhances Continental’s standing in the minds of the “elite” Onepass members and increases revenue enhancement.

    Again, I really want to see Continental succeed and prosper. I respect and admire all of the employees of the airline and I am humbled by the efforts Continental put forth to accommodate this group.

    Fly safe redflyer

  23. As a member of the former non elite flyers those of us who flew economy before we could afford better,
    and friends with those who currently fly in economy but who may not in the future, I wonder how many more tickets, and future elite members would have been created by using the 1.2 million to create goodwill through lower ticket prices or fewer fees, better service/meals to “non-elite”, and enhanced planes.

    Because of past experience in economy- when we couldn’t afford better, I try to avoid flying my family of 5-(where one trip to Japan can be $20,000) on Continental. Not to mention family who travels here. Think towards the future, who is sitting in economy who might someday be elite, whose child in economy might someday be choosing which airline to fly. 1.2 million could have gone a long way toward establishing a solid future, more dependable flights, lower fees, and happier staff all which translates into future sales. So the party was fun today, security risked, exec’s showed that they know how to party-but is that wise fiscal management? True it enhances the standing in the minds of some elite’s today but others say what a way to squander, endanger and piss off other customers. And now I choose between two airlines based on rested pilots, quality of service, wisdom of management… and while I want to put my country first what with pilots out of work why should I when the American company puts entertainment first not my safety or their staff. Nope they couldn’t just award extra points without the extra cost, given out extra upgrades on already flying planes, have enough pilots flying more like 40 vs 70 hours week after week, shared the goodwill with all customers hmmm. This DO might just be the deal breaker for me. oops consider that a lost $20,000 which would make your being impressed a wash now-and heck that’s just one flight. And then you have others I know that have the same feeling why utilize a company that can’t treat its staff as priority, that cut some pilots hours and dump extra on others to save costs. Hope they can demonstrate the gain on the bottom line. But maybe your are correct that management sure is smart, bankrupt twice and now a 4th quarter loss of $266 million, you sure they know what they are doing or that this just wasn’t an excuse to party before bankrupt for the third time?

    Fly safe

    Fly wise

  24. There are so many things wrong with this junket. I can’t possibly address them all in one post. But to those of you who think we CAL pilots are overreacting, let me say this:

    While I appreciate loyal passengers as any sensible employee/ businessman would, I hardly think wasting money in the present environment is a wise move merely to gain that loyalty. You guys and gals love CAL because, compared to most other North American Carriers, we put out the best product we can, BAR NONE.

    What makes that product so good is the $200 million/ year loan the pilots gave to management— a loan that enables management give you free snacks, drinks and meals, entertainment, new aircraft, and cheap travel. What also makes the product so renowned is the great lengths the professional pilots of Continental Airlines go to each day to save the company money, while also ranking among the best in on-time performance. In 2007 and 2008 we saved the company more than $100 million through our hard efforts of fuel management. Nobody puts a gun to our head ordering us to do this. We do so out of our utmost professional behavior while at work. We do so for the company and, more importantly, for you, our customers. Saving such amounts doesn’t make our job easier. In fact, it can be terribly taxing on the psyche at times by adding fuel-conservation strategies to an already complex and dense workload. Do we get any thanks for this? NEVER. Instead we constantly deal with a management that is forever at loggerheads with its pilots. Just 3 months ago, a Chief Pilot extended the probationary period, by another year, of one of our pilots who stayed home during Hurricane Ike to protect his family. This despite the fact that mgmt put out an employee bulletin reminding us all that we are to take care of our families first as Ike closed in on us. What else was this pilot to think when mgmt literally tells him putting family first is ok; then a week later threatens to fire him???!!! In fact, they did this to not one but TWO pilots.

    In addition, we have 147 pilots who are laid off. There is no work out there for them, they are scrapping by on unemployment benefits that will be running out in the next few weeks. That they are paid $30,000 their first year WITHOUT health insurance is bad enough. That they get furloughed just because we are in contract negotiations is another issue altogether. These are not inexperienced pilots, most new-hire pilots join Continental with 5-10,000 flight hours of experience. These are the best of the best professional pilots picked from the job market. the proverbial cream of the crop. Further, we have more than 100 pilots who were downgraded and took $65,000/ yr paycuts as a result. So NO, now is not the time for our company to be joyriding our jets around just to keep some bloggers happy.

    CAL has $2.5 to 3 billion in the bank. They can certainly afford to drop $1.2 mil on this event. Just the same, they can afford to restore our pay (we have been working under a concessionary contract since early 2005). They can afford to stop cutting our health benefits. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, they can afford to bring back the 147 hostages who are struggling to feed their children while losing their homes.

    This is yet another slap in our face. But at least it will unify the pilots as we struggle with management to get a new contract. I just can’t wait to hear the corporate spin on this boondoggle. Believe me, they will start patting themselves on the back for this shortly.

    Now… about the drunken passengers in the cockpit…. if i only had the time to address that one.

  25. +1 to everything “OMG, on February 9th, 2009 at 9:37 pm” said.

    redflyer sounds like a psycho bearing a serious grudge.

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