hese days, you would be hard pressed to find many travelers who say the airlines are paying close attention to their customers' concerns. But there are at least 274 Continental frequent fliers who would have to concede that the company's top brass at least listened to their complaints--in person, over dinner and drinks.

Early in April, Continental Airlines played host at a gathering in Houston for members of FlyerTalk.com, a travel Web site best known for its message boards where travelers discuss, dissect and often complain about pretty much anything related to travel, but mostly airlines and their frequent-flier programs.

The event grew out of a bet made by Dean Burri, a FlyerTalk regular (screen name: Cigarman) and Lawrence W. Kellner, Continental's chief executive.

"Larry and I were having a disagreement about the power of a site like FlyerTalk," Burri recalled. "I was telling him that I think it's very important that travel companies watch these sites, for the good and the bad, because rumors get blown out of proportion. He said there's not more than 60 people on FlyerTalk who fly Continental on a regular basis. I told him he was crazy, so a wager ensued."

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