Continental's purchase confirmation email

In late December I bought a ticket to London through Continental to go visit Brinker (my girlfriend) while she’s there for her internship. After going through a seemingly normal purchase flow I received the email below and crossed out the “Buy plane ticket” task off my to-do list.

Continental confirmation email

A week before my trip I went to the Continental website with my confirmation number in order to get the detailed flight information. It gave me some error about not being able to find any flights for the # so I figured the site was busted and gave them a call. The woman on the phone informed me that I’d never actually been given tickets. But I had received an email with a “Confirmation Number” and a link to “Manage Reservations”…

Silly me! I obviously hadn’t noticed the important text at the top of the email – the text in the 8 point font.

We are still processing your reservation, and this e-mail is not yet a confirmation of your reservation. … If you do not receive your receipt within three hours, please contact us.

The system had messed up somewhere and it was up to me to realize I hadn’t been ticketed within 3 hours and give them a call. What a great customer experience. The woman on the phone assured me that it wasn’t anybody’s fault that this had happened and that she’d be glad to help me buy a new ticket for $1200. They were $550 when I had made my previous “reservation”. She also mentioned that the flight was operated by Virgin Atlantic and the integration with them may have caused the issue.

Luckily a friend at work showed me’s special contact information for Continental and I gave them a call. The woman at this number said she’d never seen this happen before but that she could get me a new ticket at the same late-December price if I moved my flight back by a day. Awesome! I felt victorious even though I’d been totally screwed by a poorly designed system. Would it really be so hard to send me an email 3 hours later if I wasn’t ticketed? Hopefully I was just the victim of a very rare bug.