Goodbye, OnePass; hello, AAdvantage

Call Continental Airlines customer service, and recorded and live representatives make it a point to state, “We know you have a choice with your air travel, and we appreciate your choosing Continental.” Ironic, then, that they don’t treat their customers that way.

This spring, I flew domestic and international Continental flights and booked a forthcoming trip with frequent flyer miles. Some of what I’ve experienced:

– Each and every time I called Continental, the customer service rep asked, “And will you be needing a rental car on that trip?” This was posed even when I was going places where their rental car partners don’t have a presence (Prague) or called to ask questions about flights I had yet to book.

– When I called to lodge a complaint about a delayed flight, a representative told me that only 75 minutes of my 150-minute wait was “Continental’s responsibility.” As a result, she refused to consider my flight “significantly delayed,” placing my complaint below the two-hour qualifying threshold for compensation. When I asked to be transferred to a supervisor the representative flat-out refused. (A supervisor called me two days later, apologetic, and as an apology sent me “gift certificate vouchers” that I haven’t yet figured out how to use.)

– On one trip, a flight attendant glowered at me and muttered under his breath when I asked for a can of soda rather than a half-full plastic cup.

– Having flown a variety of airlines over the past 12 months (American, Delta, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet), Continental has the least amount of coach-class legroom.

– And the real kicker, in my book: following the safety instructions on my international flight, the airplane’s media system showed three minutes of commercials complete with loud audio accompaniment.

Compare these experiences to the generally superior legroom on American, the way JetBlue flight attendants give you extra snacks with a wink when you can’t decide what you want, the Virgin Atlantic representative who gave me her full name and extension so I could ask for her on return calls, and the time a friendly JetBlue gate attendant placed a block on the seat next to me so I could sprawl on an overnight flight. There’s no contest.

I may be a captive audience once my ticket is purchased, but airline travel from New York City is a highly competitive market, and it will be a while before I choose to fly Continental again.