Breaking up with an airline is not unlike separating from a significant other. The same raw emotions, finger-pointing and angst come into play.
I first met the airline of my dreams, Continental, when they acquired my two former flames, Eastern and PeopleExpress. At first, I wasn't sure what to make of the hard-charging, Houston-based hussy, but I gave her a chance. I had to. Continental suddenly dominated Newark Airport.
And, sure enough, as the years unfolded, the newcomer found a way to fill the voids in my travel life. She rewarded my constant flying. She welcomed me to her presidents club. And, she not only gave me gold elite status but, on international business class flights, she went out of her way to make sure I was content. Yes, I actually used the word content in the same sentence as airline.
I distinctly recall one Continental attendant on a London flight asking me, 'Shall I address you as Steve, Steven, Mr. Cody or sir?' You had me at shall, miss.
Then, as is so often the case in relationships, my significant other found 'another.' In this case, the other man was United Airlines, a big, old-time, deep-pocketed blow hard from the Windy City.
Mr. United swept Ms. Continental off her feet and, just like available overhead luggage space, she was gone. So, too, was her personal service, tender loving care and the feeling that I was someone special.
I found myself mixed up in the midst of a messy merger. My elite status disappeared. My access to the presidents club went the way of all flesh and, instead of asking how I preferred to be addressed, I was told by a rude flight attendant to sit down, shut up and shut off my Blackberry.
All that abuse might have been palatable if the reservation experience hadn't also taken a nose dive. I suddenly found myself swiping my card at a Continental kiosk and being prompted to enter all sorts of alphanumeric codes that, despite my best efforts, often told me to go in search of a gate agent. And, once at the ticket counter of what used to be Continental, but is now Continental about to become United or, may in fact be United, I would be told by a lobotomized automaton, 'Sorry, there's no record here. If you want to fly to Boston, I suggest you buy a new ticket.'
This wasn't just a trial separation. It was a divorce, and a very nasty one at that. I went from adulation to resentment in the time it takes a flight attendant to say, 'The use of approved portable electronic devices is now permitted.'
I wouldn't mind the messy divorce if my former lover didn't go out of her way to ballyhoo her new beau's service and quality everywhere I looked.
The happy couple's tagline line boasted:
'It's not who's merging. It's what will emerge.' And, some of the newlyweds' brand promises included:
– 'Creating the right flight plan' and
– 'Place your expectations in the upright position'
Oh, the pain of it all.
I don't mind a woman (or an airline) dropping me like a hot potato. But, I do mind it when she (or they) pours salt in the wound.
Continental. United. United Continental. Or, whatever the heck you're calling yourself these days, I want you to know something: I am SO done with you.
I have no choice but to fly you (since you OWN Newark), but I will never, ever love you again.
As the Stones sang in Already over me, 'you're so cold. You're so cruel. I'm your man. Not your fool.' Well, guess what, Ms. Continental Airlines about to become Mrs. United Airlines? I'm already over you too.