As the clock struck midnight, it ceased to exist. Continental flight 1267
departed Phoenix Friday, March 2, at 11:59 p.m. When it landed in Cleveland on
Saturday morning it was known as United 1267. Originating back in 1934 under a
mishmash of different names, Continental Airlines had drawn the final
One minute is all it took for an storied airline to be resigned
to the dustbin of history. Its name may still appear on some planes, and to be
sure those United Airline counters will still show some collective memory of the
Continental name, but its name is now history. To be fair, though, this was
planned for almost two years, and carried out with military
First, some of the fun facts you need to know as the harsh
reality continues to unfold: United Airlines in Israel flies twice daily, 14
times a week, from Tel Aviv to Newark. Staffed by one of the most professional
teams of airline executives I’ve ever encountered, they are hoping their
Continental spirit be absorbed into the corporate culture of Chicago-based
Until recently, each airline issued its own tickets and
passengers had to use separate ticket counters. No longer. One reservation
system, keeping the Continental computer system, allows travel agents, airline
employees and customers to see all reservations on one site.
flier members have been bombarded over the past few months with requests to
merge their Continental and United accounts. Today it’s called the United
Mileage Plus. All miles have been merged and can be found (or so one hopes) at
www.united.com. Continental frequent flier members were informed their number
would stay the same, as would their Personal Identification Number.
people know not to be so trustworthy and have been checking online to verify. If
not, do everything possible to fix any bugs before you plan your next
Troubleshooting guide: Let’s say you purchased your ticket prior to
March 2 under the Continental name. There is no need for a new electronic
ticket; in fact the only thing that “should” have changed is that instead of you
flying from Tel Aviv for example on CO #91, it’s now UA #91. You should of
course ensure that your frequent flier number, that appears on your boarding
pass that you get online or at the airport, shows the correct number.
not, make sure ground employees change it in their system and print you out a
new boarding pass. Moreover, save said boarding pass until you can verify online
that you’ve been credited.
Keep in mind that on most days, over 250,000
people fly on United Airlines.
One can hope that while there were some
glitches at the outset, the vast majority were solved quickly and efficiently
leading to few flight delays.
Don’t forget that Continental, like United
Airlines, belonged to the massive Star Alliance. This means that if you had your
ticket issued prior to March 2 on any of their partner airlines, you must also
check that your new United frequent flier number has been entered.
written in the past that no matter how much technology has impacted our
industry, the role the airline executive plays is a far more important one than
the average flyer realizes. So as not to embarrass him, we’ll call one such
executive Special K.
His title is United Airlines Sales Executive for
Jerusalem and Southern Israel. With South African parents, he must have been
raised in a household where superior service and high ethical standards were
drilled into him. Married with two small children, his superiors expect him to
provide insight and intelligence, excellent service and problem solving for the
hundreds of travel consultants that fall under his purview.
is modest and I’ve never seen him raise his voice to anyone in the industry.
I’ve seen him challenged by massive levels of incompetence and stress from both
customers and travel consultants, all the while showing the patience of
For me he epitomizes all that I expect from an airline sales
promoter. I certainly know he doesn’t work for me; I don’t pay his salary or
provide him with a car or a phone. I don’t make him work 24 hours a day or speak
to VIPs late at night or at the break of dawn. His employers do all
I’m often surprised to get an e-mail from him at midnight informing
me that a truculent client had received the coveted upgrade that he had
I don’t expect him to acquiesce to my every request. I don’t
expect him to solve every problem. In fact what I like most about Special K is
that rather than give an outright “no,” he meekly answers that he’ll try. How
much greater is his influence when he can report back that he was able to solve
that problem, get that kosher meal to the gate.
Working with him has made
my job considerably easier over the years. In fact one of the reasons we sell so
much Continental, and now United, is the knowledge that we have Special K to
assist us if an emergency arises.
I have no doubt his employers in Tel
Aviv and in Chicago realize what an asset he is. Just in the past few months,
he’s rerouted snowbound clients, brought a wife home to her
soon-to-be-hospitalized husband after the airline told her there was no chance,
and found a missing child who was “lost” in the airport.
So as United
Airlines truly attempts to unite with the esprit de corps that we’ve come to
expect from Continental, having employees like Special K will make it far easier
for them to succeed.Mark Feldman is the CEO of Ziontours,
Jerusalem. For questions and comments, e-mail him at
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