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Thu, Jun 21, 2007

Continental Passengers Deal With Sewage On Trans-Atlantic Flight

Unscheduled Pit Stop Didn't Quite Take Care Of The Problem

More than 200 passengers on a recent transatlantic flight on Continental Airlines were subjected to more than bad food and stiff legs -- they had to endure seven hours in the air with raw sewage.

The stinky saga began last Wednesday when the flight left Amsterdam. About two hours into the flight, lavatory problems forced an unscheduled landing in Shannon, Ireland to correct the problem. The unscheduled pit stop morphed into an overnight stay.

But, the next morning, the same passengers boarded the same jet to continue their trip to Newark, NJ. But, shortly after takeoff, the plumbing problems began again, this time in earnest, and raw sewage began seeping into the cabin.

"Sickening. It's a nauseating smell. It's very uncomfortable," Continental Airlines flight 1970 passenger Collin Brock told Seattle's KING5. "To be blatantly honest, I was more nervous than I had ever been on a flight."

He says the flight ended up with one half-working restroom to serve more than 200 people.

"I've never felt so offended in all my life. I felt like I had been physically abused and neglected. I was forced to sit next to human excrement for seven hours," he said. "I don't know how you can say a plane needs to be grounded one day for a problem that's not as major as a problem the next day, and it doesn't qualify for being grounded."

To make matters worse, flight attendants instructed passengers not to eat or drink very much as they served a meal, he said. (Like anyone was able to eat, we're guessing -- Ed.)

"To be told that we were supposed to monitor what comes out the other end of us was insulting," said Brock. "Shame on Continental.  It was the worst flight experience I have ever had."

Airline Wins Quality Award Recognition

But, wait. Could this be the same airline that JD Powers and Associates recently ranked the highest in customer satisfaction, for the second year in a row, in its 2007 North America Airline Satisfaction Study?

Yup. It's one in the same. It's also an example of how timing can be your friend, and your enemy.

In a release issued Wednesday -- just as news of last week's stinky flight hit the wires -- Continental triumphed it was ranked highest in the list by 24 points over the second ranked airline and was one of only two carriers to improve its scores in 2007.

The JD Powers study measures customer satisfaction of both business and leisure travelers who were asked to rate their recent airline travel experiences in several categories. This marks Continental's seventh customer satisfaction award by JD Power and Associates since 1996.

"I believe this honor is a reflection of the consistent professionalism of my more than 44,000 co-workers," Continental's chairman of the board and chief executive officer Larry Kellner said. "They go the extra mile for our customers no matter what the challenge, offering the best customer service and the best product in the industry."

Nothing was mentioned about working toilets, or flying alongside raw sewage.

Of course, one flight -- good, bad, or putrid -- isn't indicative of an airline's overall travel experience... but Brock, for one, says he isn't sure he will ever use the $500 voucher for a future flight Continental passed out for the inconvenience.

FMI: www.continental.com, www.jdpower.com

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