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priority seating and carry on

Pass Christian...
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priority seating and carry on

Do you have any advice about further action I should take to get a change of policy at Continental. Below find my correspondence with Continental regarding problems I encountered related to priority seating.

-----Original Message-----

From: Ralph

Sent: 30 Sep 11 09:02:49

To: <custo@coair.com>


Subject: priority seating and carry on


I would like to inform you of a problem we encountered on flt CO1085 on Sept 14.

We had purchased extra legroom for the flight (7E 7F). The plane loaded as per normal: first class, the the rear of economy, by sections, until we were called, sitting in extra legroom, at the bulkhead between economy and first class. When we got to our seats we were told that all overhead storage was full and that our carry on would have to be checked all the way to our final destination. I objected since I had medication that if lost would have ment being out of blood pressure meds and several other important health aids. We finally checked one of our two bags and stuffed the medicine bag in front of us, negating some extra legroom, for which we paid a premium. The checked bag arrived at our final destination.

I feel if a customer is willing to spend extra money for priority seating, they should expect to have priority for their carry ons. Since the front of economy is the last to be called, it is highly probable that other passengers will fill up the overhead bins, especially now when you charge for checked baggage. Can something be done to alleviate this problem?

Thank you,


From: "custo@coair.com" <custo@coair.com>

To: Ralph

Sent: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:46 PM

Subject: RE: priority seating and carry on

Thank you for contacting Continental Airlines.

Continental passengers board our planes by row number, starting from the rear of the aircraft and working forward. Overhead bins are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Although our planes have some of the largest overhead storage bins in the industry, it has not been enough to keep up with growing demand. When there is no space left in the overhead bins, our customers are asked to gate check their bags.

Gate-checked luggage is placed in the cargo section of the plane and reclaimed at the luggage carousel in the arriving city. For Continental Express customers, gate-checked luggage is reclaimed at the Jetway in the arriving city. Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs are returned to customers as they exit the aircraft.

In the event you are asked to gate check your bag, we suggest you take a moment to remove medication, valuables, or items you may need during your flight or immediately upon arrival.

We appreciate your comments and have submitted them to our corporate customer care monthly report which is reviewed by our senior management team.


Gwendolyn Harris

TRACKING NUMBER: A00007155046-00048838744

Dear Ms Harris,

Please excuse the delay in responding to your response. Quite frankly, I was amazed.

Are you telling me that I should pay extra money for priority seating which will reduce my chances of obtaining overhead carry-on storage and reduce the amount of legroom by having to put any remaining carry on under the seat ahead of me? At a minimum you have a significant customer service problem. You have not left me wanting to fly airline if I have any reasonable options.


Nashville, TN
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1. Re: priority seating and carry on

I doubt very seriously you'll get them to change their policies. Carry-on baggage has always been a problem and has only gotten worse with the inception of checked baggage charges. Now with some of the latest enhancements *(IE more allowance for business travelers who IMO have always been the worst offenders) I can only see it getting worse instead of better.

Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
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2. Re: priority seating and carry on


I think she's somewhat dancing around the larger issue..

It's extremely hard to monitor where each person puts their bags relative to the overhead bin.. I'm not aware that CO does in fact make it a formal policy that passenger must or may only, use the OHB's at or near their seat, but I would think that practicalities, common sense and such would dictate that you'd use the bin at your seat-- or at least close to it.

That said, there are people who just put their bag into the first bin they see-- regardless of where that may be.. The cabin crew normally try to address this when and where seen, but given the volume of passengers relative to crew- that's not always possible.

Where I DO think that CO, like most US airlines fail terribly is at the proper and consistent enforcement of their stated carry-on limits.. be that piece count, size or weight (when applicable) .. and this only makes my previous issues even worse..

Getting down to the nitty gritty-- which is where I suspect you are at.. What do they owe you or what do you think you can recover... I suspect that the answer is nothing..


Continental themselves offer four ala carte add-on in these matters:

Essentially they are:

1) Premier Access Check-in: special check-in lines

2) Premier Access Security Screening: priority security lines.

3) Premier Access Priority Boarding: advance boarding

4) Premier Access Baggage Handling: special bag handling.

It appears you bought #3-- Priority boarding..

I suspect that if push comes to shove CO will say-- and you don't indicate otherwise-- that you DID in fact board early or in keeping with the proper timeline for people who've bought the Priority boarding package.. To that end, only from what they list as being the benefits of the package, this was provided to you.

Nothing that I can see in their description of the service overtly says you will have access to or guaranteed any OHB space.. You can argue that it's an implied.. and I might agree to the extent that if people did not follow the customary placement of baggage AND assuming CO failed to enforce their own carry on bag program, then I think this was a failure-- but not only for you.. but for others as well..

In the end, my opinion is (with the understanding none of us where there to see how this all transpired) since CO never really makes the carry-on space issue a part of the Priority Boarding element-- nor guarantees such, I don't think you have much likelihood for or legitimate claim, for compensation.

IF they DID advertise is as such-- THEN I think you've got a much better claim, but as I see the CO program it's silent on the matter..

But none of this negates my larger issue-- and that is the common failure of most carriers in the US to properly and consistently enforce their carry-on baggage program which is a FAA mandated element.

Travel Safe,

Pass Christian...
3 posts
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3. Re: priority seating and carry on

No, did not purchase early boarding, but if they loaded "premium" seating after first class it would solve the problem.....maybe

Seattle, Washington
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4. Re: priority seating and carry on

OP - all airlines are like this. Usually, people are allowed to stow their bags into any overhead bin they like, as long as they remain in their class of service.

Bulkhead seats can be a particular problem, because often there is no floor storage, and by the time you board, your overhead space is full. On a few planes I can think of, there isn't even any overhead storage above your seat.

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5. Re: priority seating and carry on

Ralph, I think you make a great point, but that you have zero chance of getting anything changed.

GOBPI (as usual) nails it, especial with the last paragraph "the common failure of most carriers in the US to properly and consistently enforce their carry-on baggage program"

The classic "visitor from Mars" might presume there was a rule that stated it was obligatory to take all your worldly possessions onto the plane.

San Diego
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for San Diego
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6. Re: priority seating and carry on

I am surprised that they didn't give you priority boarding when you paid for extra legroom seats. Delta certainly does that and I thought the other airlines did the same. Part of the reason on Delta to buy the extra legroom seats is because they come with early boarding after First Class and the high level

FF ers!!

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7. Re: priority seating and carry on

Not all airlines board extra leg room seats last like CO did in your case.

In fact, if you buy the JetBlue bulkhead seat with extra leg space you board First before any other passengers (there is not first class) My wife and I did this just last month and we were so glad that JetBlue had this policy since I too have crucial life support equipment in my carryon that would be extremely difficult to replace witout a trip to a local emergency room or hospital.

But even JetBlue lets people put their carry on's wherever even in your overhead bin, but since we were the very first people to board, not a problem for us. On both the outgoing and return flight, at least six passengers had to have their carry on bags taken away and checked. We were amazed at how big those bags were especially since JetBlue lets you check one suitcase free. I complained to the check in desk about not enforcing their size limits but they said it wouldn't matter to us since we were boarding first and I couldn't argue.

Thank you for this heads up. Now I know that on Continental I should pay for priority boarding instead of extra leg room. Very good to know


Edited: 05 December 2011, 01:04
Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: priority seating and carry on

We had a similar problem flying on Continentual recently. We were closer to the back than the front of the plane and boarded when our seat row was called. Funnily enough, the majority of the passengers were already seated and there was no overhead room anywhere in the cabin. We both had average sized backpacks, nowhere as big as the roller bags that many people had. We wanted to keep both with us - one with a lot of medication (we're travelling in a foreign country for a substantial amount of time) and the other with an ipad and small fragile and breakable items (souvenirs). So we had to place them between our legs and endured a very uncomfortable time, until we decided to put them on our laps.

What worries me is that this is against airline rules. Yet at no time, even on the last cabin check, did

any of the cabin crew mention that our bags should be stowed under the seat in front (where they

wouldn't fit). I know our problem was partly caused by our own ignorance, and we were better prepared on ensuing flights (where we had no trouble finding overhead storage), but like others have stated, the problem is caused because staff do not consistently police their own company's policies regarding the size and number of carry ons. At other airports, there was much more policing than we saw at Newark. It has certainly made us wary of flying with Continental again, despite them being a member of Star Alliance, which makes us eligible for FF points.

Edited: 05 December 2011, 06:13
Pearland, Texas
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9. Re: priority seating and carry on

These days with baggage fees and general hurry-hurry, more people use the overhead bins and try to bring as large of a bag as possible. You'll even see experienced flyers in the early boarding groups putting their carryon in the first overhead bin they come to.

After first class has boarded, CO boards their One Pass and other elite members, then starts boarding beginning with the rear sections. It does seem reasonable to me to expect that buying a premium seat would get you into the elite boarding group (it would be printed on your boarding pass).

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10. Re: priority seating and carry on

So if their response is to remove all valuables, medicines etc, what happens if this is literally the contents of your bag?

I always find it frustrating when I always take a normal size rucksack which isn't packed to the max. Whereas some people seem to have those 'large' small suitcases ....... which seem blatantly obviously bigger than they should be.

Also I notice, and I guess there is nothing you can do about it, but sometimes the first and last overhead in each section, has spare stuff...... blankets et al.

I always put my carryon in the one nearest to me, can't understand why someone wouldn't?

Edited: 06 December 2011, 13:01