I should have known things were going to go wrong on my recent road trip on Continental Airlines. I had an uneasy feeling right from the start of the first flight segment, when the instructional safety video came on.
On Continental, the passengers are greeted by a video message of a half-minute or so from the CEO, before they start up on how to fasten your seat belt. Over the years, I've grown accustomed to being welcomed aboard by Gordon Bethune (left), the head honcho at Continental. Vaguely Southern-sounding, leathery, senior, just a little rough around the edges, Gordon gave you the impression that he could fly the plane himself, load the bags, take the engine apart, and tell you a few excellent dirty jokes off camera that would make you forget what a small space your seat was. "You're on a modern jet aircraft," he'd say, leaving us to imagine him on a crude prop job way, way back there. You knew things would be o.k. all the way to Newark, or wherever.
This time around, though, no Gordon. He's retired. So now we get Larry -- Larry Kellner (right) -- Bethune's successor.
Larry looks like a sycophantic bean-counter from Ohio somewhere, who doesn't really understand the business, couldn't relate to anybody in the back of the plane, got this job because he's somebody's nephew, and can't even switch gears on a 10-speed bicycle without a lot of clunking and clanking. It's unfair to judge him based on his looks, but that's the hit I get off the guy.
So when our itinerary went to heck because there had been a hard rain shower in Houston at some point or other many hours before we got there, I couldn't help but think: This never would have happened under Gordon's watch.
Trying to sleep on the Denver airport floor that night, I thought dark thoughts. Mostly, I don't want to fly on an airline run by Larry.