I think the important thing to remember is that there are two (at least) sides to every story, including this one. I would be interested in reading Continental's answer.
Unfortunately, my experience with dealing with Continental on these issues leads me to believe that they will deny the facts of the case to cover their ass. Let me give you an example here. On October 16, I was pulled out of my first row aisle seat on a EWR-ATL flight by a pilot and forcibly reassigned to a middle seat at the back of the plane. Here are the two accounts of the situation, with vastly differing facts. These accounts are excerpted from the official correspondence between myself and Continental. In the end, I chose not to pursue legal action despite multiple solicitations from lawyers who heard about my case.
My version :
On Tuesday, October 16, I flew from EWR-ATL on flight CO 1155. As an Elite level frequent flier, I had pre-reserved and was assigned the preferred bulkhead aisle seat 5C.
I checked in and cleared security with no hassles and was settled in my assigned seat with a few minutes to go before departure when I was approached by Capt. Daniel Broderdorf who had been observing the passenger boarding process closely. He informed me that I would have to move from my assigned seat to another one at the rear of the aircraft, despite the seat 5B next to me being empty.
When I attempted to retrieve some of my personal items stowed in the seat pocket, I was told to “leave them there” and to head back to row 19, where I was instructed to take seat 19B between two large men. This was despite other aisle seats being available at the rear of the aircraft. To add insult to injury, Capt. Broderdorf then requested the non-revenue passenger who had been previously seated in row 19 to take my assigned seat 5C. A number of passengers looked visibly alarmed at this chain of events, especially since I am of Indian descent and have a complexion that is often mistaken for Middle Eastern.
I have no objection to racial profiling when it is used as a tool to unobtrusively select someone for additional scrutiny. If any Continental employee had approached me and asked for an additional ID or security check during the boarding process, it would have been fine by me. However, the impression I received was that Capt. Broderdorf assumed that I was suspicious based solely upon on my ethnicity and accordingly went out of his way to inconvenience and humiliate me in front of an entire aircraft full of passengers. That is where he crossed the line into the realm of unacceptable conduct.
I don't feel that Continental is a racist airline. I do however feel that one Continental pilot did not use his best judgement on this occasion. If this is part of a pattern of racially discriminatory behavior either by this employee alone or by employees in general is for you to investigate and deal with for the sake of your own business and conscience. I realize that some inconveniences are unavoidable while traveling, but the treatment of one of your loyal Elite customers in this shabby manner is a matter that I am sure you cannot condone.
Continental's reply :
We have conducted an investigation of the movement of your seat by Captain Broderdorf on the above-referenced flight.
The investigation results do not support your claim of discrimination nor does Continental engage in "racial" profiling. Our investigation reveals a significantly different account than the situation that you describe in your letter of October 23, 2001.
Captain Broderdorf's actions in asking you to move your seat from 5C to 5B (not to row 19 as you state) were taken solely in the interest of security after the 9/11 events as he wanted to place a Continental First Officer in closer proximity to the cockpit. I am also told that you were not forced to move, but asked to move and willingly obliged. I am also told that a gate agent subsequently asked you to take an aisle seat that was empty farther back in the place, to which you also agreed. You ultimately sat in row 19.
While these actions in moving a revenue passenger's seat for the advantage believed to be in the best interests of security by the Captain may not have been properly explained to you, and for that we apologize, none of these actions taken were based on any improper or discriminatory motives.
There may be two sides to every story, but my experience dealing with Continental tells me that the two sides will differ on these facts, and personal experience leads me to side with the plaintiff's story as the truer version.
"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada