Caio86 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 43 posts, RR: 0 Posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 17917 times:
US-based carriers are often compared against Asian and European airlines—and more often than not, the former are trounced. I could think of many excuses to pardon the sometimes awful hardware and software—poor leadership, rising costs, tough competition, byzantine labor rules and regulations—but alas, sometimes I cannot forgive my share of horrendous experiences. Many times it seems as though the glamour and mystique of flying are taken out of today’s American airlines—the immaculate suit has been replaced by the disheveled tracksuit.
With that being said, without the bad times, how would we know the good ones? Initially I was going to write about the new media system in Continental’s economy class. Finally, Continental was upgrading its hardware in the face of competition from upstarts and legacy carriers. But, unfortunately for that report and fortunately for me, I was upgraded, erasing the memories of the bad times with Continental.
Continental Airlines CO89, May 15th, 2008
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Gate C75(? Apologies, I lost my ticket-The gate across from the Nathan’s for those familiar with EWR)
Seat 10E (BusinessFirst)
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 12.15/12.28
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 13.50 (+1 day)/13.49 (+1 day)
I arrived at Newark pretty early, and in my experience individual check-in with Continental has never been that difficult, as they dominate the pretty expansive terminal and allocate a lot of check-in desks and staff. Security had a long line, but it moved relatively quickly. I made a quick stop at the President’s Club (the Continental lounge) and was shocked that they reintroduced food and that it wasn’t excessively crowded. Granted the food was a bagel, but a vast improvement over the very dodgy-looking Cabot cheese and crackers.
The plane boarded early, amid some confusion over the fact that American passport holders had to prove that they had valid Chinese visas. I suppose this is a necessary annoyance, as it would be pretty bad to fly all the way over there to find out that you can’t enter the country. The plane was delayed a couple of minutes, not because weather or a long line of departures, but because of a BusinessFirst passenger that decided to go to the President’s Club amidst the commotion caused by the visa inspection.
I sat in my economy seat and was surprised at the new inflight entertainment system, as I had dreaded the endless loops of CSI and How I Met Your Mother’s. As I began to explore the already activated system, a flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder. “Seat 10E is open. Hurry up!” I often question the upgrade policy of Continental, upgrading mileage club members when the BusinessFirst area is relatively empty, as this encourages people not to buy the BusinessFirst seat. Although this practice is noticeably on the decline, it still occurs. The last time someone invited me to the front, during a school trip to Chicago on Continental, I genuinely thought I was in trouble and asked, “WHY ME?”
Settled into the comfortable seat (albeit outdated compared to the slick offerings by other international carriers), I was greeted by a barrage of gifts—a bilingual menu, an amenity kit, a blanket and pillow set, a headset and a choice of newspapers. It had been too late for me to get a welcome drink, but I noticed they were in glass cups, and not plastic ones like Delta’s domestic BusinessElite. Once the plane took off, the chief purser came around and greeted everyone by name and asked them if they were comfortable and stopped for a good ten minutes talking with the passengers. Another non-Chinese flight attendant who I have recognized from the Newark-Honolulu flights spoke in Chinese to the Chinese passengers.
Fiddling with the seat controls like a brat on a sugar high, the attendants took my lunch order and I started to look at the IFE. There was something like 300+ choices for movies alone, and an equal number of television shows. The content was pretty foreign language friendly for an American carrier, but it was obviously geared towards an American audience with a lot of HBO and Disney-ABC choices. All-in-all it was items that people actually wanted to watch—ranging from cinema classics to what was in theaters a couple of months ago.
I’ll be honest, the food was alright, and this is an airplane food lover. Some items tasted a bit burnt or overcooked, but in their defense, I would never ask for a steak rare in a germ-rich environment. The service however, was top notch—a combination of very old-school formal but also very relaxed and friendly. The attendants also took subtle cues and asked if I liked it or not and then inquired about my food preferences, which turned into a friendly discussion of our favorite restaurants in New York and Honolulu (as most of the female and a couple male FA’s were from Hawaii). Some flight attendants even gave me their business cards so I could contact them for food or drinks, which I thought was a nice touch.
Most people quickly passed out after lunch was served, but the attendants kept on working, setting up a mini-bar and walking around the cabin to see if those who were awake needed anything. They slipped a bottle of water in my seat's pouch while I was asleep.
The combination of friendly flight attendants, lots of food and entertainment options, and a comfortable and sleep-inducing seat (at least for me), the 15 hour flight came and went all too quickly. Soon enough we were approaching the impressive Beijing Capital International and cutting through the smoky haze that envelops it.
While I don’t think the front has spoiled me for life just yet—I still have to go back on economy, and experiences like this are few and far between—it’s both reassuring and inspiring that good service DOES exist on an American carrier, contrary to many people’s opinions.
Limited food offerings
Some sort of Chinese appetiser
Sundae with green tea
New and improved IFE
Post-snack cheesecake (they do try to fatten you up here I suppose)
Fruit course of breakfast
Congee with duck
And Beijing pictures (I have been here already a couple of times and haven't done much sightseeing this time around)
It's H&M's Chinese cousin—W&H!
Quanjude Peking Duck
Mutianyu section of the Great Wall
Comments, questions, concerns greatly appreciated and wholeheartedly welcome.
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4738 posts, RR: 26
Reply 4, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 16846 times:
I love your shoes!!!
I have heard about CO's service levels. Comparatively, despite the rather antiquated offerings in JCL, they are the best service wise across the Pacific. Your trip report seems to sing the same song. The REAL test would be a trip on YCL, I suppose?
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 728 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 16731 times:
Inflight upgrading, like yours does happen, but not very often. On AA premium members (Executive Platinum and Platinums with 2 million miles) get electronic upgrade certificates which can be used for a 1 class upgrade based on availability. Also, if the flight is oversold, the gate agents will usually do a 1 class upgrade for premium members. Those are complimentary
Coal From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 1945 posts, RR: 9
Reply 6, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 16264 times:
Thanks for sharing. I'm flying continental this summer connecting from SQ coming from SIN to SFO and then onto CO to FLL via IAH, then back to SFO to go back to SIN. We'll see how the service is, as last time I flew them was about 11 years ago.
Still, I find two things unacceptable: The seats, and the lack of noise-canceling headphones.
AfklmLHLX From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 16178 times:
Good trip report! I recently flew CO BF EWR-HKG and I have to say that when speaking of their service in terms of perfection, there could be a lot that could be improved all the way from the headphones to the chocolate upon the last meal service. However, for a quasi-Business-First product, CO is definitely up to standard with UA's first in some ways. I think that the whole grandure of flying "First" class is something you pay for in itself, but I enjoyed flying BF with CO more than just the "material" items such as food and amenity kits (which did make the experience a lot better mind you) but it was just the whole ambiance of flying in the forward cabin. My flight was delayed five hours so I took off at night and the meal service was conducted at night, which I think changes the whole memory for me in a way. I just remember eating my sundae as we cruised over the North Pole which was just a really cool feeling.
I have to say that I agree with you that the food service could be better. But then when I compare it to many other American carriers in Business or First of BF, CO is the best in terms of meal service. I think it is a hit or miss thing with them as the menu changes every month. Also, I had all of the Chinese options available to me, but I think that on flights such as those to Italy, India, other places in Europe and Tel Aviv, the meal service is a little better overall (in terms of choices). Also, I feel that although the CO seats do not look as sleek as some other airlines, they are very comfortable do not look outdated. The only complaint I have about them is that the footrest does not go to 180 degrees as that would have really helped me sleep. However, I just enjoyed being in BF too much to sleep on the flight!
PITIngres From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 1089 posts, RR: 13
Reply 11, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 15087 times:
Quoting Semsem (Reply 3): They certainly do a great job fattening you up in C. However in Y they do an excellent job in starving you.
I can't agree. I was on CO89 the very next day (may 16th) in Y and I felt like we got plenty to eat. If you need something extra, the snack basket is out in the back, you don't even have to ask the F/A's.
13+ hours in Y is not my idea of fun, but it was a lot better than my last trans-pac experience which was some years back in a united 747 to Oz. That was awful. CO is doing a nice job with EWR-PEK in my opinion.
AfklmLHLX From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 15033 times:
Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 10): I hate the second meal being breakfast on transpacific flights on CO/NW and some others...AA does a seond lunch/dinner.....
I know! I know that airlines do not just do things nonchalantly but something as big as giving people breakfast at 6 PM? Honestly, it made me feel sick having breakfast then. They should at least have a lunch/dinner option.
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8430 posts, RR: 55
Reply 14, posted (5 years 10 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 14798 times:
Nice report, enjoyed the read, thanks for the pictures.
Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter): Many times it seems as though the glamour and mystique of flying are taken out of today’s American airlines—the immaculate suit has been replaced by the disheveled tracksuit
- That sounds about right.
Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter): The last time someone invited me to the front, during a school trip to Chicago on Continental, I genuinely thought I was in trouble and asked, “WHY ME?”
CO's product looks ok, but seat wise it is still miles away from the likes of BA's Club World product, given the choice it would be BA every time, however CO vs UA etc might go CO's way.
AfklmLHLX From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (5 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 14262 times:
I am still confused as to why you were upgraded. How did the FA know you were a milage member and what does that have to do with getting an ungrade (unless you were Elite)? That is 10,000USD ticket and it is just odd that an FA would be that nice to just pick a passenger and upgrade them. Were any other passengers mad? I would be!
Christao17 From Thailand, joined Apr 2005, 934 posts, RR: 8
Reply 18, posted (5 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 13421 times:
Hi there - nice report. I feel like I should know this, but are those seats angle-flat or just regular recliners? If they aren't at least angle-flat I'd say that's a major knock against them on a long-haul flight, although it sounds like the interpersonal service was top-notch.
Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter): I could think of many excuses to pardon the sometimes awful hardware and software—poor leadership, rising costs, tough competition, byzantine labor rules and regulations
Those reasons don't excuse the poor hardware and software; they just explain them.
Readytotaxi From United Kingdom, joined Dec 2006, 3054 posts, RR: 3
Reply 19, posted (5 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 13333 times:
Very nice trip report, your photos clearly show the quality of the food service and how the seat sadly lets the airline down. I remember fondly my trips from LGW-EWR in Business first because of the great service and food, but the seat now is so out of date I will not fly with them until the upgrade takes place.
Thanks for sharing with us.
you don't get a second chance to make a first impression!
Lp0815 From Singapore, joined Oct 2005, 219 posts, RR: 1
Reply 21, posted (5 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 12653 times:
"The advertisement burns the child chicken"?
That's a good one.
I am in shanghai right now and yesterday evening on of the items on the menu for dinner was "Temple explode diced chicken" - not bad either methinks.....
JumboJet From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1159 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (5 years 10 months 3 weeks 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 12227 times:
I'm very surprised that CO doesnt have the noise cancelling headphones that most international carriers are now offering, including Delta. Also, is CO offering a comforter and oversized pillow or the standard biz elite product?
: CO's blanket is the same as Y. The pillows are a little better than Y. The headphones are just like Y but are a little easier to put on. Also, the ba
: Thanks for the replies, to answer a couple of still unresolved queries: I'm not that sure as to the specifics, but this sort of upgrade has happened t
: Actually the blankets are bigger and slightly thicker, at least on the flights I've been on on the 767's and T7's. And I feel the pillows are signifi