I took a trip to Los Angeles this weekend to visit a good friend of mine. He was on semester break and just made my own. Continental was offering OnePass members a great deal to Los Angeles from Cleveland for the weekend so late Friday night I decided to fly out for the weekend.
Saturday, January 26, 2002
I did all my packing on Friday night, which wasn’t very much considering I would only be gone three days, so I slept in on Saturday morning. I woke up and did all the things you do after you wake up and left for Hopkins International at 1:00PM. I have been to CLE, IAH, DTW, ORD, MCO, ATL, BWI and now LAX post-September 11 and every time I get burned on the two hours prior to departure bull****. I always arrive about two hours ahead and end up sitting at the gate for an hour and forty-five minutes. This time I decided to test Murphy’s Law and arrive the standard one hour prior to departure. I arrived at 1:30PM and walked right up to an E-Ticket check-in kiosk and was checked through to LAX with boarding passes within three minutes. Me 1, Murphy 0. Proceeded through the security checkpoint where I was hand searched because my shoes set of the metal detector. No problem. That took all of five minutes and I was at the departure gate C-03 at about a quarter-to-two. Boarding began fifteen minutes later and I took my seat in the “exit row,” seat 12C. On CO’s 737-300’s, -500’s, and -700’s there isn’t a true emergency exit row. They simply take out the seat that is directly next to the emergency exit window. The only seat with additional legroom is the window seat directly behind the emergency exit window. Once again, no worries. The flight was around 60% full so there was no one sitting next to me. Safety demonstration was conducted and we were cleared for departure, runway 24L. The FA’s immediately began beverage service once we reached cruising altitude. It was soon followed by a second beverage service. The FA’s were very friendly on this flight. My only complaint about this flight was that this aircraft was not configured with the new headrests that are on most CO aircraft. I didn’t realize until that flight that those headrests make a world of difference. Flight time to George Bush Intercontinental was a very quick two hours and seven minutes. I have taken that route many times in the last year or so and that was by far the fastest I have ever flown it. Arrived to IAH and was in the terminal by 4:00PM. Well over 30 minutes ahead of schedule. I had some time to walk around so took my usual walk around the terminals that I do when I have time. I saw the afternoon departures to Europe: British Airways 777 and 747-400 to LGW, Continental 777’s to CDG and LGW (both of them), Air France A340 to CDG, Lufthansa A340 to FRA, and KLM 747-400 to AMS. The BA 747-400 was in “The Netherlands” color scheme. I am not sure why the 747 was there; it is usually two 777’s.
After walking around for a bit I went to the departure gate, D-4A. This is where things got a little crazy. Next to D-4A is gate D-5 (obviously, but I want to clear things up for those of you confused out there). D-4A and D-5 and in a corner and at 90* angles to each other. Now, this doesn’t pose a problem if you aren’t boarding two aircraft at once. However, someone at CO had the bright idea of boarding the LAX at 5:50PM flight at D-4A and the MEX at 6:00PM flight at D-5. Both flights were full and the MEX flight was being operated with a 757. That’s a whole lot of people trying to board at once. Not only that, probably about 60% of the passengers of both flights did not speak English and this just complicated things. I finally boarded and took my seat in the exit row, seat 12A. The flight was completely full, but I had a deadheading FA next to me and she was small, so I was quite comfortable. We pushed back during the video safety demonstration and taxied to the active runway. Takeoff was long, but climb was pretty powerful. Once we reached our cruising altitude the young cabin crew served dinner, which consisted of a cheeseburger and a bag of fritos. It was nothing special; what you would expect for airline food. Flight time was three hours and seven minutes. We joined the approach and we were on the ground quickly. Our taxi to the gate was the shortest I have had at LAX. Walked, for what seemed like an eternity, to the baggage claim. CO had our flight from IAH and the flights from EWR and CLE arriving right around the same time so the claim area quickly filled up. Waited a long time for my bag, but it finally came and I was out and about in Los Angeles.
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
This was just a mess. I arrived the prescribed two hours prior departure. That was a mistake. I was through security by 11:45PM and had a nothing to do. I walked through the empty CO/UA terminal six and found a great spot overlooking the active departure runway. Of note I saw the two Qantas 747-400’s to SYD and the United 747-400 to SYD. I talked on the phone to a friend for a while and then decided to head down to the departure gate, 64. When I got to the gate there was an MD-80 sitting at the gate, not the scheduled 757. I saw two CO 757’s parked at gates 62 and 63, so I figured that there would be a gate change. No such luck, we were on the MD-80. Boarding began and this was nothing short of a zoo. I took my seat in the exit row, seat 21D. Across the aisle in 21A and 21C were the pilots of the 757 that was suppose to be taking us to IAH. I didn’t get a chance to ask why the change, but they were talking about how much they disliked the MD-80. I thought that was funny, because I don’t care for it either. The two seats next to me were taken by two young mothers and their screaming babies. I wanted to cry at the thought I would have to try to sleep next to two screaming babies all the way to Houston. I put two-and-two together and realized this would not be that case since children may not sit in exit rows. An FA came by and noticed this and moved two Japanese men to the seats. These men thought this was the 1:30PM party flight and were carrying on loud enough that Los Angeles Center could probably hear them over the radio in the cockpit. Three dead-heading FA’s came back and told the pilots that there was room up front for them and they quickly headed up front. Two of the FA’s took their seats and the other FA took the seat directly in front of me. About three minutes after that they realized I was traveling alone and asked me if I would switch with the solo FA so they could be together. I didn’t care, it was still an exit row. This good deed turned out to pay off. The MD-80 was completely full except for one seat. You guessed it: the middle seat next to
me. Things finally settled down and we taxied while the FA’s gave the safety
demonstration. Takeoff was powerful and the climb was very turbulent. We were passing
through some rain showers on the climb to FL290. This was only a sign of what was to
come. When we reached cruising altitude it became very clear it would be a rocky road to
Texas. From Los Angeles to El Paso it was a consistent moderate to heavy chop. It was
uncomfortable at first, but I fly frequently so it didn’t bother me all to much. I finally fell asleep. I was awoken probably four or five times to some severe turbulence. Flight time was announced at two hours and thirty-two minutes. It seemed much longer. At one point the FA’s were doing a beverage service and we got knocked around so hard the FA fell into a seat and the large bottle of water on the cart fell onto the baby being held by her mother. She was okay though, so that was good. At that point the first officer came on the intercom and ordered the FA’s to be seated and passengers to also remain seated. It was pretty bad there for about twenty minutes or so. I feel back asleep and was awoke on our descent into Houston. Landing was hard and fast. I think we bounced twice and stopped with some hard breaking action. I was tired so I didn’t walk around IAH. I went right to the gate of my CLE flight. I did see CO #2 from HNL arriving though. The 767-400 is a nice looking plane up close. It’s extremely long.
This flight was only 40% full so boarding was easy. I took my seat in the “exit row,” seat 14A. We were early but we pushed back anyway. We waited in a long takeoff line but we were airborne relatively shortly. Flight time was announced at two hours and eleven minutes. After that I feel asleep for the duration of the flight. I awoke to the first officer announcing our initial descent into the Cleveland area. It was overcast in Cleveland with a low ceiling and seven miles of visibility. Flew the usual 24L approach and dropped the gear as we cleared the clouds. Landed pretty hot, or so it seemed, and stopped pretty hard. Taxi up to terminal C was easy and the bags were on the belt almost immediately.
I had a great time out in LA. Weather was a little rainy and cold, but it was fun nonetheless. I hope you enjoy the trip report. Travel safe........