Continental Airlines Elite Access – Too elite

As usual, the family and I went on our year-end diving trip.  This time we went to the Dominican Republic.  Since United and Continental have merged we took advantage of the direct 4-hour flight from Newark.   In the past 10 years since I swore off Continental I have only flown them twice out of necessity.  The last time back from India where it was a less than pleasant experience.

The problems started when we checked in at the Elite desk in Newark airport.  The first was despite wanting to talk to a human that is typically offered in the Elite Access lane, the woman insisted that I use the kiosk.  This worked ok – for my boarding passes but then had to find my reservation number and enter it to get Motoko’s and then it was not letting me get the kids since they were not elite flyers.   When I asked how to get them they told me to swipe their passports as if I should have known this backdoor trick.

Things went well until I noticed they did not tag my kids bags with “priority” tags to make sure they get unloaded first.  While it does sound a bit elitist it does make the difference when you actually get them and how long it takes to get out of the airport – which is important when you have warm beaches or a car service waiting for you.
When I asked why they were not tagged like Motoko’s and mine they told me they were not elite flyers and not eligible.  They are on the same reservations with two elite flyers – I explained this means that now the two elite flyers would be waiting and her response was – she does not make the rules.  I asked it I could add them to our ticket and was told they were already on theirs and nothing she could do.    As expected, our priority bags were the first ones off and 30 minutes later the kids bags came out resulting in us getting the second bus to the Hard Rock Hotel 45 minutes after the first shuttle left.

On the flight back home Motoko and I checked all the bags under our names and they were all tagged properly – ironically, in Newark they were the last ones off.
I understand the kids are not elite but if you are on an elite ticket and traveling with the elite status traveler you should be able to get at least your bags tagged.  The same is true for boarding rules.  They announced that you should board with your highest status/row in your group.  When the kids tried to board with us (even with telling then they were with us) we were told they were not mind readers and they will let them board this time.
In tough financial times you should take care of the loyal.  Yes, if my kids were flying alone they should be treated like cattle the way all airlines treat the non-loyal occasional traveler.  However, it is often inconveniences like these that will cause a very loyal high mileage flyer to shift to another carrier that actually reciprocates that loyalty.