So it was time for another trip to see the family. I'm up to 22 paid days off a year from work so instead of a three day weekend, I decided to take a week and a half at once. My sister and her family live just outside of Kansas City and my brother and parents are near Raleigh. I wanted to see them during the holidays but I couldn't find anything to either city for less than $450... I'm not made of money.. So I thought about after Christmas. I spent about 2 hours putting trying to find a reasonable fare to see everyone. I came up with PHX-EWR-RDU on Continental. Then RDU-MKE-MCI on Midwest. And finally MCI-PHX on US Airways; thanks to Expedia. The price was perfect....$317 plus tax! All said and done it was $360, not too bad. I actually found one on Orbitz that had MCI-DEN-PHX on Frontier which I really wanted, but come hell or high water it would not take my credit card. Their loss.!
On Friday I left work not planning to return for 12 days. I don't quite have separation issues, but I do have a hard time staying away from my store for more than a couple days. I left very specific instructions for all my employees that I was not to be bothered unless they couldn't get ahold of my assistant manager, or our district manager. I wanted a few days away. Saturday morning I woke up at 730 so I could check in online for my first flight on Sunday. I knew from past experience that Continental.com would let you pick the exit row. I tried to check in and got greeted by some message about not being able to check in online because there was no valid E-ticket code or something like that on my reservation. A quick call to Continental's helpdesk and 26 minutes later I was assured my reservation was fine, but the exit rows on PHX-EWR were taken, but I got an exit window on EWR-RDU. Better than nothing I guess! I spent most of Saturday doing laundry and visiting some friends.
I woke up about 5am on Sunday morning. Packed my carry on bag and ran over to the Starbucks near my house to get my roommate something to drink since he was getting up at 530 on a Sunday morning just to drive me to the airport. We left our house in South Phoenix about 545am, and he had me at the curb at Sky Harbor Terminal 2 right at 605. We said our goodbyes and I headed inside the terminal. The line at the Continental counter was about 15 or 20 people deep and the majority of people I saw seemed to be confused as to the kiosks. There would be 3 or 4 kiosks open and these people seemed to wait until one that had an agent near it was open. A process that should have taken 10 minutes, took upwards of 20 minutes for me to get to a kiosk. Another thing that held up the line is people were checking in ok, but had to wait a few minutes to have an agent come over and tag their bags. I'm not sure that having 4 agents for 2 Newark and one Houston flights is quite enough.
I got up to see an agent and she had to enter all of my personal information into the computer. Apparently my name is on some sort of no fly list or whatever. After a few minutes of typing she handed me my boarding passes, tagged my bag and I was off to security. I was surprised at the security line for 630am on a Sundy morning. It took about 30 minutes for me to get all the way through. I was behind a rather old gentleman from some country where English was not the chosen language. He made the mistake of putting his boarding pass in his bag and sending it through the x-ray machine rather than carrying it with him. The TSA kid was practically yelling at him for doing that. Then the guy had something on him so it set off the alarms. More yelling from the TSA kid. I actually felt bad for the ole guy, he looked scared. I went through with no problems, collected my bag, put my shoes back on and headed for gate 6A.
Sunday January 8, 2007
Leave Phoenix - Scheduled 740am, Actual 737am
Arrive Newark - Scheduled 213pm, Actual 158pm
N37281 (Delivered 12/19/2003)
Boarding started at about 710 or so and was done by rows of course. I boarded when he called my row and after a few minutes jam in the jetway, I boarded. The plane was in a normal condition you'd expect on Continental. The floors were clean, seat pockets were clean of debris and the plane looked in real good condition. I put my carron in the bin and sat down. Boarding completed and we started our pushback. The safety video was played and after a few minutes we were next in line behind an Alaska 737-800. We turned onto runway 25R and were soon airborne. As we climbed out and made a turn to the east we entered the clouds. After a few chops we were above the clouds and climbed up to 35,000 feet. Our flight attendants made their usual welcome announcements and told us that the moies today were the Jane Austin Book club, and some other moie that sounded just as bad. I put on my iPod and created a playlist. The person in front of me reclined about 10 seconds after take off so her seat was right in my face whenever I would lean forward just a little bit. About 45 minutes later flight attendants came around with our breakfast. I had orange juice and a bowl of Whole Wheat Honey Nut Cheerios. I gave my chocolate muffin loaf thing to the woman next to me an held onto my box of raisins for later in the flight. A short while later our garbage was cleaned up and for the most part the flight attendants disappeared until later in the flight.
Looking out the window all I saw below was clouds. Three hours later it was the same thing. I've never seen a cloud cover that long before, was a little weird. The flight attendants came through a couple of times to pick up trash but for the most part I never saw them. I watched the Blue Collar Comedy tour on my iPod and got some strange looks from the two people next to me when I'd laugh. I tried reading a bit but the woman in front of me had reclined and holding my book was not a comfy position. After I finished my movie on my iPod I just looked at the window and relaxed. About an hour from Newark the flight attendants re-appeard and were doing another beerage run. As they finished up with the row ahead of me the pilot asked them to prepare the cabin for landing early as he was expecting some bumps ahead. They stopped serving and cleaned up the cabin. The bumps weren't all that bad and before I knew it we broke through the clouds and I saw land for the first time in hours.
We landed and quickly taxied to gate C81. We were at the gate at 148pm but the pilot told us it would be a few minutes while they waited for someone to drive the jetway. We were about 25 minutes early, but someone had to know we were there right?. Everyone had already stood up and had jammed the aisles so I just sat there staring out the window. After a while we were let out I took a quick look around the terminal then headed for my gate. My RDU flight would be leaving from Gate C88 (i believe) and it was one of the downstairs gates with no windows and no seating. It was a pretty disgusting area, surprisingly hot and rather smelly too.
Sunday January 6, 2008
Leave Newark - Scheduled 305pm, Actual 306pm (see below)
Arrive Raleigh - Scheduled 450pm, Actual 456pm
N17321 (Delivered 2/5/1986)
Boarding began about 240 for our 305 departure to Raleigh. They did large groups rather than just a couple rows. They did the usual pre-baords, Elites, etc. Then the did rows 15 and higher and all rows. I waited a little while to board, wanted to spend a bit more time standing up so my back didn't start to bother me too much. I boarded and again the plane was clean and comfortable, but it ws starting to show its age. One thing I really like about Continental's 737-300's and 500's is that the exit row window seats dont' have a seat in front of them so you get a ton of legroom. That was rather nice. About 310pm our pilot announced that we were going to be delayed about 10-15 minutes because they were still waiting for bags to come up from the bag room, apparently the TSA was taking its time screening them. He announced that weather in Raleigh was in the 60's and once airborne we'd have "an hour and ten minutes of aviation excitement" on our way to Raleigh. We pushed back about 330 and headed for the runway. We took to the skies quickly and almost immediately made a sharp turn to the left.
This was a really short flight so not too much to talk about. Flight attendants were friendly but not overly friendly. They said you're welcome when I thanked her for my cranberry juice. They came through not long after they gave us drinks to pick up the trash then didn't really see them until the end of the flight. It was a really smooth flight, no bumps or anything major. Flightaware shows that we were at a cruising altitude of 22,000 feet. Was lower than I'm used to, could actually see the scenery flying by quickly. That was a nice treat. Our pilots announced our final decent into Raleigh and flight attendants came through one last time. We made a smooth touchdown at 453pm and were at the gate and door was open by 456. I called my brother to let him know I was on the ground and headed to baggage claim.
Once the bags started to come out the belt everyone rushed up to the belt so I just stood back for a few minutes. When a space opened up I made my way up there. After a while the crowd thinned but my bag still wasn't there. There was about 10 people from my flight still waiting for bags when they took our flight off the monitor. Just great... I beat everyone to the baggage claim offiice and filled out the report. The agent said that there were two more flights from Newark that day andmost likely my bag would come in one of those. She also told me I was the second person from Phoenix on m flight that idn't get their bag. I told her that wasn't exactly a comforting thought. Now what really got me curious.... my flight parked at the gate at 2pm (roughly) at gate C81. My RDU flight left from gate C88 at about 330pm. Somehow in an hour and a half m bag couldn't make it 7 gates? I got a call later that night from the deliver company about my bag. It was waiting for me when I got up the next morning.
All in all Continental delivered mostly what they promise. The planes were clean. The flights were safe. The flights were pretty much on time (flight 330 was 3 minutes late). They fed me at meal time and their employees were nice to me. ONly issue was my bag taking 12 extra hours to get to me, but in the end it got to me so I can't complain much. When I graduated college I traveled quite a bit. Continental quickly became my airline of choice because they offered clean, safe, on time flights with friendly employees. Sound familiar?
I have a couple pictures I took but its almost midnight and I can't get Photobucket to work quite right, so I'll put them up tomorrow. Stay tuned for Part 2, RDU-MKE-MCI on Midwes (Connect) and Midwest.
[Edited 2008-01-27 22:30:39]