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facing a bump
vouchers offered by continental airlines are the real deal
by jeffrey d. walker

It’s one of those things that you fear when traveling by airplane. You’re headed through the terminal to your gate, and you’re looking at the screens. Departures… departures… check flight number…

On time is what it said when we got to Cleveland on December 28th, headed back from Christmas with my in-laws, me, my wife, and our 8 month old. And then...

”Ladies and Gentlemen waiting for service to Ithaca…”

The plane we were supposed to fly on was… I don’t know exactly. Not available; crashed; on fire; filled with snakes. I don’t know – the staff always seems to say things to try to keep you calm, like that you’ll be moving in “about half an hour” [See "30 Rock", Season 5, Episode 14: "Double-Edged Sword"]. The problem was that the plane they were going to replace our original plane with had 11 fewer seats, and that they were “looking” for 11 people to volunteer to take another flight since the first was full.

It was snowing. No one was volunteering. Worse, we had not been seated together as a family on the original flight, and Linus and my wife were seated in an “exit row”, where they could not be since he's and infant. All in all, the situation made me nervous.

The Continental Airlines staff was offering $300 travel vouchers per person for the inconvenience if you would opt for a later flight, or an earlier flight that had you landing an hour away from the original destination. I called and was quoted $96 one way rate between the two airports for a rental car. This information, coupled with the knowledge that my wife was to be in a wedding in the spring, set me into action.

I approached and first confirmed that they needed people to agree to give up their seats. She recalled that we were a family, so that I had at least two seats I was bargaining for [the baby doesn’t get his own ticket this young]. I complained a little about the roughly $100 it was going to cost to rent the car. With no hesitation, the lady offered another $100 in vouchers a piece for the trouble. Plus, they could give us vouchers for lunch in the airport while we waited. So the total deal was: (1) $400 each for my wife and I in vouchers; (2) new tickets re-routed to Buffalo at no additional cost; and, (3) lunch. The latter translated into two poorly made Subway sandwiches, drinks, chips and cookies, but at least it was free.

The rental car, after taxes and other fees, really cost $121.01, and I incurred $8.00 in gas between airports. [Total out of pocket so far: $129.01]. They rented me the last car they had, which was the new Fiat. I had sort of wanted to try out one of these little things before, but let me just say that this is NOT the ideal car for two adults, their luggage of several days, Christmas presents and a baby seat. Also, it's also not my favorite car in the snow on a highway. But no one actually died, luckily.

Now comes the big part – using the vouchers turned out to be amazingly easy. There was no restrictions or difficulty in their usage. I took the time to look at the quoted costs at their website (where you have to use the vouchers) as compared to a popular travel site that offers many competitor rates; the fares on each were identical. There was no penalty in using the vouchers whatsoever. Also, the lady gave us the vouchers broken up into the original $300 offered, and then another two $100 vouchers. Therefore, we actually were able to get the tickets using only the $300 ones, spending about $15 out of pocket, and save the remaining $100 vouchers for another time.

Total cost back to Kansas City in the spring is now at only: $144.01. Total face value of tickets: approximately $615.



A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

more about jeffrey d. walker


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by jeffrey d. walker
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published: 4.17.01


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