My girlfriend, Kayo Kimura, had a reservation to fly on Continental Airlines Flight 9 on May 5, 2000 from Newark Airport to Tokyo, Japan, scheduled to depart at 10:25 AM.
We set the alarm to wake up at 6:00 AM, planning to take the subway, the PATH train and then the local bus to Newark Airport.
The cab picked us up at my home in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. I noticed that the clock in the cab said 8:00 AM and not 7:00 AM. It turned out that my clock had been one hour behind. I do not know how this happened. Although there had been a change for daylight savings time, I had thought that I had the correct time on my clock.
I would have driven to Newark Airport by way of the Verrazano Bridge. However, the taxi driver took a way which I found to be unusual. He went north across the Cypress Hills Cemetery and then took us up Bushwick Avenue. I asked him why he did not take the Verrazano Bridge instead. He said that it would be crowded at this time of the morning, which was rush hour.
He took us across the Williamsburg Bridge in heavy traffic, and then across Manhattan on Broome Street and then entered the Holland Tunnel. All this was in heavy traffic. My girlfriend, Kayo, started to get worried and said she might miss the flight. I was not worried, however.
Reaching New Jersey,. the driver took us on Highway 1-9 to Newark Airport. However, he obviously had not often been to Newark Airport and lost the way. He eventually asked directions from another driver, who told him to turn around and go back.
We eventually reached Newark Airport. The signs at the airport said "Continental - London" was at Terminal B. There was no sign for Continental - Tokyo. Since Kayo had arrived at Terminal B on her flight from Japan, we assumed she would also be departing from Terminal B.
We got off at Terminal B and went to the Continental Airlines Check-in Desk. However, the representative there said our flight was departing from Terminal C and we would have to take the Monorail there.
We took the monorail, which took five minutes. We then went to the Continental Check-in Desk. They said we would have to go to the International Counter instead.
We went there, arriving at 9:35 exactly. They said that Kayo could not fly because she was late and the flight was closed.
Naturally, we argued. They said that because this is Golden Week in Japan she could not be put on the flight, because her seat had been given away to someone else.
We argued some more and finally they said that she could only fly if she purchased a business class ticket to Japan, which would cost $3,000 (three thousand dollars) more.
To my great surprise, Kayo pulled out her credit card and paid the three thousand dollars.
We then went to the boarding gate. Boarding had not yet begun. There were a large number of people sitting around, obviously hoping for a stand-by seat. The flight had obviously been overbooked. Kayo got on the flight at exactly 9:45 AM, which was still 40 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Many passengers had not yet boarded the plane when Kayo got on and were hoping to get a seat.
I left the airport. While waiting at the bus stop to go back to New York, I could see that the airplane at Gate 73, which was the airplane that Kayo was on, had not yet departed. My bus left at 10:45 AM, and still the plane had not taken off, so it was apparent that the flight was departing at least 20 minutes late.
I believe that Continental Airlines should reimburse the $3,000 it charged to Kayo's credit card, for several reasons:
1. There was no airport sign that the Tokyo/Narita Continental Flight would depart from Terminal C. We naturally made the mistake of going to Terminal B. It took us at least fifteen minutes to orient ourselves and make it to terminal C. The monorail alone took five minutes. Had we known it was Terminal C, we would have arrived more than one hour before scheduled departure time.
2. The real problem was caused by the overbooking of the flight. There were empty seats on the plane, but these were business class seats, which is why Kayo had to pay an extra three thousand dollars to catch the flight. I feel that the airline should have upgraded her to business class under these circumstances. Three thousand dollars is really an outrageous amount to charge a passenger who shows up at the airport 50 minutes before departure time.
I just wonder if this act of extortion by Continental Airlines is brought on by the fact that the passengers are Japanese. Had the passenger been American, British, German, etc. she would have raised a tremendous stink over this. However, it seems likely that Continental was exploiting the fact that a Japanese person will just pay the extra three thousand dollars to catch the flight.
Today I recieved the letter from Continental Airlines.
Finally they agreed to pay me back all the money which I had paid.
(They also excused that I had paid extra fee for the air-ticket. It was the counter made wrong decision. Usually they should make upgrade for me.)
They said 'We refund the cost of your new airticket to the original form of payment. It may take 3 billing cycles.'
By the way, Sam, what it does mean 3 billing cycles?
Maybe it takes a little time for my money back...
Thank you, Sam.