Entries in Continental Airlines (7)


Non-Stop Atlantic Flights Keep Stopping, Blaming Headwinds

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thousands of passengers on non-stop flights from Europe to the U.S. over the past month have found themselves with an unexpected stop -- an unplanned landing to take on more fuel.

Pilots have had to put down in Canada or elsewhere to top off their tanks after running into record headwinds that have slowed the flights, using up more fuel than expected.

This story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said Continental Airlines has had the most problems. The airline, which has merged with United to form the world’s largest carrier, had nearly 60 diversions for fuel on flights from Europe since early December.  The airline confirmed the number to ABC News.

Airlines are required to carry enough fuel to reach their destination, and an extra amount in order to land at an alternate airport if necessary.

It’s not just the headwinds that are to blame.  Continental has switched to smaller twin-engine Boeing 757s on these routes to save money, and those planes can’t travel as far or hold as much fuel as wide-body planes.  The Wall Street Journal notes that that’s not a problem if winds are calm, but strong headwinds can cause havoc with schedules.

United/Continental spokesperson Megan McCarthy told ABC News that the headwinds have been a “once in 10 year extreme.”  McCarthy said the headwinds in December usually average 35 mph. This past December they’ve hit 54 mph, and on the worst days have been up to 69 mph – twice as strong as usual.

McCarthy noted that most of their 757 flights from Europe – 97 percent of them — did not have to divert. Diversions for fuel, or any reason, are a headache for customers, and cost airlines money.  McCarthy said, “We are looking at it very closely, it is an inconvenience to our customers, to determine if there are other options.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is also checking to make sure there are no safety issues.   In a statement, the agency said, “The FAA is aware that United Airlines aircraft have made more unscheduled fuel stops this year than last year and we are looking into the issue.”

US Airways and American Airlines also fly 737s across the Atlantic, but they’ve had only a few diversions due to the winds.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Delta Airlines has had none.

There have been allegations in the past that both Continental and US Airways had skimped on fuel, as fuel costs have skyrocketed.  Both airlines denied the charges, and no safety fines were levied.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Passenger Sues Airline Over Turbulent Flight

United Continental Holdings(HOUSTON) -- A Texas woman is suing Continental Airlines and three other airlines after a turbulent flight left her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental trauma.

Colleen O'Neal, of Lubbock, Texas, claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that a flight through stormy weather from College Station to Houston left her with an "intense fear of flying" that affected her mental health and her career.

The lawsuit filed at the Harris County District Court claims that what was supposed to have been a 20-minute flight on Oct. 29, 2009, turned into a two-hour ordeal. The aircraft rose and fell "as if it had lost power and was falling out of the sky," leading O'Neal to fear she was going to die, the court papers said.

Weather reports prior to the flight's takeoff had predicted intense thunderstorms with a "threat of tornadoes, wind shear, and dangerously strong winds," the lawsuit said.

At one point during the flight, the pilots attempted an emergency landing in Victoria, Texas, but were forced to abort.

O'Neal's attorney, Corwin Fargason, said that at the end of the flight passengers posed with the pilots for a photo to celebrate their survival.

"I've flown quite a bit in my life and there's a difference between bumpy and what she experienced," Fargason said.

According to the complaint, O'Neal now suffers from PTSD symptoms, including "nightmares and flashbacks" that have left her unable to fly.

O'Neal purchased the ticket through Continental Airlines, but the flight was operated by Colgan Airlines.

She is also suing United Airlines, Colgan and Pinnacle Airlines. United merged with Continental Airlines last year and Pinnacle Airlines owns Colgan Airlines.

O'Neal, who works as a district manager for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said her fear of flying cost her a position at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. She would have been required to travel by air.

In published reports, officials for Continental, United and Pinnacle declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Continental Cancels 24 Flights after Pilots Call Out Sick

United Continental Holdings(NEWARK, N.J.) -- Due to something that was apparently "going around," Continental Airlines was forced to scuttle two dozen flights Wednesday, most of them from New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport -- one of the carrier's main hubs.

The sick-out forced Continental to find accommodations for their passengers on other flights.  The airlines attributed the canceled flights to "pilot unavailability."

However, it's also known that Continental pilots have been upset with the slow pace of negotiations to combine labor agreements since Continental and United announced plans last year to merge the two carriers.

United has already said that it would not reach collective bargaining agreements with all the unions until after this year.

Continental typically offers 3,000 domestic and international flights daily.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


United Airlines 'Glitch' Brings Back 9/11 Flight Numbers

United Continental Airlines(WASHINGTON) -- After September 11, 2001, United Airlines retired the flight numbers of its two planes used in the attacks: Flights 93 and 175. But the airline said Wednesday that a computer glitch earlier this week allowed those numbers to be assigned to forthcoming flights.

"We regret that these flight numbers were inadvertently reinstated in our system," United said in a statement. "We have already taken steps to remove them and apologize for the error."

United says no flights labeled 93 or 175 ever took off.

In a statement, the pilots of United Airlines said that the "reinstatement of Flight Numbers 93 and 175…demonstrates an absolute and blatant disrespect of the pilots, crew and passengers who lost their lives on that date."

United maintains it was computer error -- a glitch brought upon by the company's merger with Continental Airlines -- that caused the apparent snafu.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Continental Flight Diverted After Passenger Tries to Open Door Mid-Air

John Foxx/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- A Continental Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing in St. Louis Sunday afternoon after a passenger on board tried to open a door while the plane was in mid-air.

According to officials at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, the disruptive passenger, a 34-year-old male from Burbank, Illinois, made his way to the front of the aircraft, saying he had to get off the plane.  Two passengers and a crew member restrained him while the flight landed and authorities boarded the aircraft.

The passenger was taken into custody and is being questioned.

Continental Flight 546 was heading to Chicago from Houston.  It was later cleared to continue its flight.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Flight Diverted to Boston, Burning Smell Detected Onboard

Photo Courtesy - United Continental (file)(BOSTON) -- A Continental Airlines flight from New Jersey bound for Ireland was diverted to Boston Saturday night after a burning odor was detected onboard.

Massachusetts Port Authority spokeswoman Lisa Langone says the the Boeing 757 landed without incident at 9:40 p.m. Saturday at Boston's Logan International Airport. None of the 191 people onboard were injured.

Continental Flight 24 had left Newark, N.J., and was en route to Shannon, Ireland. The cause of the odor is still under investigation.

The incident came a day after two JetBlue planes landed safely in Boston after being struck by lightning.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ex-Continental Pilot: Low Pay Led to Dangerous Fatigue

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A former veteran commercial airline pilot lived for more than a year at the beginning of his career in and out of a bare-bones "crash pad" and was so tired while flying that he drifted off to sleep in the cockpit, the pilot told ABC News.

Josh Reikes, who began flying in 1999, said money was so tight in his first years that whenever he commuted to a new city before a flight, he could not afford a hotel room and opted to stay in a crash pad.

"You're bunked up with six, seven, eight people stumbling in at all hours of the night waking you up," recalled Reikes. "It's not good sleep at all. But what's the alternative?"

An ABC News investigation found these dormitory-style rooms, designed to pack in as many airline crew members as possible, are spread out in cities across the country. After the few hours of sleep some pilots are able to snag in the crowded crash pads or on the couches and chairs of crew rooms, they report to duty and are entrusted with dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of passengers' lives. In the past 20 years, more than two dozen accidents and more than 250 fatalities have been linked to pilot fatigue, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News airline companies deny pilots are sleeping overnight in crash pads.

Reikes told ABC News he lived for more than a year in and out crash pads because it was the only way he could get by on his $17,000 per year starting salary at ExpressJet, which offers flights under the name Continental Express as a Continental Airlines regional carrier.

"There were about 15 of us bunking in a small hotel room," Reikes told ABC News of the crash pad he called home. The kind of sleep he was afforded there caused him on more than one occasion to either deliberately take a nap in the cockpit or drift off to sleep inadvertently, Reikes said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio