27 June 2003
Continental Airlines 1847
Depart: Newark Liberty International at 9:15am
Arrive: Austin/Bergstrom at 12:00 noon
Actual Depart: 9:25am
Take Off: 9:41am
Actual Arrive: 11:58am
Aircraft: Boeing 737-524 N16618
I woke up at 5:45am for my exciting trip to Austin Texas to train at UTNIF, the University of Texas National Institute of Forensics for 2 weeks with my closest friends. We would all be flying together, caravaning, if you will, to the airport all from my house. For those of you that do not know, forensics is broken down into 2 categories: Debate and Speech Interp. We would be trained in Speech Interp.
After showering quickly and getting dressed, I waited outside in the humid air of summer for my friends to arrive. Once we were all ready to go (6:15am sharp), we left and soon enough found ourselves on Rt 24 heading to Newark. When we arrived, we stood in line at curbside for roughly 20 minutes and when we finally reached the e-ticket machines, the curb agents, who couldnt resist fighting in some sort of twisted Spanish dialect, directed us to go inside down to Door 6 for group check in, despite the fact that we were not a group- we all had separate reservations. Seeing as how we were at Door 2, the opposite end, this would become quite a feat to drag all our bags to the other end of the terminal amidst the 7am rush at Terminal C, the Continental Haven.
Eventually, though, we checked in and joined the short queue for security, which we passed through in no time. We went to go sit down at our gate, C123, until the plane arrived, although there were some inevitable food runs-*cough* Starbucks *cough*. Eventually, Ship 618 arrived from Manchester, NH with a light load. Unfortunately, it arrived 15 minutes late. Thanks to the light load, the aircraft was quickly serviced and then we were on our way boarding. Boarding commenced and we were in the first group to board, so on we went where in the jetway, one of our friends managed to knock over a garbage can (thankfully with nothing in it). The flight attendant at the door came out laughing and said, “Y’all sure you want to break the airplane now? Well, in any event, welcome aboard!”. She was very polite. We found our seats and the interior of Ship 618 was very pleasant. Although it did not feature Continental’s new seat with the winged headrests, the built in head cushion on this seat was very comfortable. The aircraft walls were a pleasant shade of light blue with a darker blue for the seats and an even darker blue for the carpet. The overhead bins were curved, nor boxy- a sign that these 2nd generation aircraft had been redone at some point along the line. A quick glace out the window revealed a very clean wing, with some minor wear and tear around the elevator and speed breaks. I have never, however, fully understood what that thing on the end of the –300 and –500 wing is... it seems like it should be a light, but its not. It just protrudes out of the wing with some big ball in the middle... If anyone could clarify on that.....
Once boarding was complete, the captain came on and said that we were being delayed because of some missing First Class china. Wahoo. Once the China arrived, 10 minutes later, the Captain came back on, introduced himself and his copilot, and announced our flying time of 3 hours and 25 minutes. He said we were expecting smooth air all the way to Austin, where it was 77*F. We taxied to Runway 22R where we joined the queue as number 15. The line moved quickly, with ERJs being redirected to Runway 11- it seemed as if the controllers were really shooting the gap today, sparingly spacing 22 and 11 departures. Nevertheless, we were airborne after a 30 second roll and quickly climbed into the muggy New Jersey skies. The climb performance of the 737-500 really impressed me as did the cabin noise- the aircraft is very quiet, especially for a 2nd generation airplane.
Service began with a drink service followed by our meals. I had a Dr. Pepper, which was given with the full can, and then my vegetarian meal arrived. Todays service consisted of Breakfast. My meal had Crispix cereal, a banana, milk, and (get this) Listerine Pocket Packs. The LAST thing I want to imagine at 10 in the morning is a Listerine Mint. Anyway, the regular meal consisted of the same Crispix cereal, plus a pack of raisins and a blueberry muffin. Considering my friend wasnt hungary, and my veggie meal was disappointing, I ate my friends meal. The raisins were name brand and good, as was the cereal. The muffin was incredible as well- really nice flavor and not gummy like the last time I had one of their muffins. The entire meal was served in one of those Continental “box/tray” things, although that was perfectly acceptable to me. Seeing as how many airlines wouldnt serve diddly-squat on this flight, I was very impressed with Continental’s service. After that was completed, the trash was collected and then another drink service began. Again, we were treated to full cans which was a very nice touch. The flight passed by uneventfully- we never hit a single pocket of bad air up till the last part. The scenery was interesting, although we were flying at a cloudy 31,000 feet, so many a time we would be in the clouds.
Roughly 45 minutes before landing, the crew came around again with a final drink service along with roasted peanuts. I was now VERY impressed with Continental’s service and efficiency for this 3 hour and 25 minute flight. This time we were only treated to full cups, but that was quite alright, as I dont think many people were in the mood for another full can. I selected water this time, straying from my pattern of Dr. Peppers the previous times.
We started our decent, which was uneventful, and then once we hit the 10,000 foot marker (indicated by the chime), the plane violently shook and then got blown to the right, which was quickly compensated for by a quick blow to the left. Some passengers screamed, but certainly all gasped as it was very sudden and unexpected. However, the decent continued and we made a smooth touchdown on Runway 35 at Austin after a great flight.
13 July 2003
Continental Airlines 532
Depart: Austin/Bergstrom at 11:30am
Arrive: Houston/ George Bush Intercontinental at 12:25 noon
Actual Depart: 11:29am
Take Off: 11:35am
Actual Arrive: 12:15am
Aircraft: Boeing 737-524 N16632
I arrived Bergstrom with 2 friends- we were leaving much earlier than most. Although none of us were going home. My 2 friends, Rashi and Monica, were going to Houston to visit some friends and I was meeting my family in Charleston, SC, indicating that my ExpressJet flight from IAH-CHS would be flown alone. Anywho. We went inside to find no line for check in, which didnt shock us seeing as how we were 3 hours early. We used the e-ticket kiosks and checked in, moving all our seats together at the front in Row 6 (a big mistake). We arrived at the gate (22) to see that the aircraft operating the 10:30 flight was boarding. We had the option of boarding it, but decided against it.
Boarding commenced on time at 11:00am sharp, and we were in the final group to board. Once boarded, a friendly woman with fire red hair greeted us, wearing a big Harley Davidson pin on her uniform. It was a nice break away from the usual drab Continental uniform, which I find quite boring. We took our seats and- OH NO! COULD IT BE TRUE! PLEASE NO!!!!!! *High Pitched Girly Scream with Hands On Cheeks* ROW 6 DOESNT HAVE A FULL WINDOW!
I sat down in the “window seat” (ha ha ha) and peered backwards to find a view of the engine. I realized I wouldnt be doing too much window spotting on this quick 40 minute flight thanks to the UNO challenge we swore we would play on board in the terminal. We pushed back and taxied to Runway 13 (I think? 13 is the number in my head) where we quickly lined up and then held for a few moments. The breaks were released and we stormed down the runway and became airborne into a very steep climb about 25 seconds later. This flight, as was the flight to Austin, was very full, both at about 95% capacity. The interior featured again, the attractive shades of blue with the curved overhead bins.
Once the 10,000 foot chime was announced, the flight attendants whipped out trays and pads and climbed up the aisle taking drink orders. Being 2 rows behind First Class, our drinks were prepared by the First Class attendant. I ordered a Dr. Pepper which was served to me cup only. That was the entirety of the service on board. Although, it was a short flight, so I didnt really mind. However, compared to the excellent service we had on the flight to Austin, I was hoping for at least some peanuts or pretzels.
We had some minor chop all the way to Houston, but we finally made a smooth touchdown after a very quick flight. I said goodbye to my friends and made my way to my connecting gate- B83A.
13 July 2003
Continental Express 2750
Depart: Houstin Intercontinental at 1:15pm
Arrive: Charleston, SC at 4:40pm
Actual Depart: 1:15pm
Take Off: 1:48pm
Actual Arrive: 4:48pm
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ-145 N14947
Now my arms are getting tired, so these last two will be rather abbreviated. I boarded the aircraft and found my comfy leather seat in Row 10, the seat by itself. I love the big windows of the ERJ! This would be my 3rd flight on an ERJ, although my first on the non wingleted LR. It was time for some LR XR comparison! Amanda did the safety demonstration and announced that our flight time was 2 hours and 3 minutes to Charleston, and that we would be hitting some bumps mid-flight, which our captain would inform us of later.
Then the trouble began. “Ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck. Well, Houston is pretty congested right now... and so we are currently number 37 for departure. The line should be moving somewhat quickly as Houston just opened a new runway, but it should still take us just about 30 minutes or so to clear this. Thank you.” Well, we waited and 36 Continental airplanes passed us by and took off, two by two...
Finally, we lined up and took off, making an immediate left hand turn over some hangars. We climbed to our cruising altitude of 33,000 feet and Amanda started the service. We had some moderate chop here and there, although the pilot never really told us anything about it. The cart got to me and I ordered a Dr. Pepper, no ice and then was given a bag of pretzels and a bag of peanuts. I ate them both, although I found that I really do not like Continental’s pretzels... they taste very chemically. Unfortunately, this was a 2 hour flight, and I was hungry.... and Charleston doesnt have much doing.... so, yeah.. I ate them. About 20 minutes later, Amanda collected the trash and then hid away in the galley until about 40 minutes prior to landing, where she came around for any additional trash. We started our decent, which was steep to say the least, and eventually made a smooth landing in Charleston, right behind a C-17.
Depart: Charleston, SC at 11:30am
Arrive: Newark Liberty at 1:29pm
Actual Depart: 11:35pm
Take Off: 11:51pm
Actual Arrive: 1:28pm
Aircraft: Boeing 737-524 N14664
We arrived Charleston International and checked in at the curb, although the noise from the Delta 757 down at the end of the very short terminal was nearly deafening. However, we got our boarding passes and proceeded to the boarding gate, which I think was B3. The aircraft arrived from Newark a little bit late but no biggie- as the load was fairly light, so cleaning would be a breeze. I noticed that this airplane looked unusually shiny and was pleased to see that it was ship 664- Continental’s 4th newest 737-500. I got onboard the aircraft to be greeted by an all African American flight crew. This was very impressive and it is really pleasing to see that there is more diversity in flight crews than there used to be. As it turns out, when my family flew down to CHS the week before, they had this very same flight crew- and they recognized my mom and greeted her with a “Hello, nice to see you again!”. The flight crew was very nice and accommodating and the pilot was very informative. Our flight time was a brief 1hr 23m today to Newark.
I didnt really notice this until we were rolling for take off, but this aircraft featured the new seat with the winged headrest. And they suck. The ones on the 757-300 seemed a whole lot more comfortable than these- there was 0 padding in the headrest. Every time I put my head back, it really really hurt because I just kept hitting this hard object, which was the frame of the seat. We took off, and due to the turbulence we would be experiencing for the entire flight (clouds at 32,000- our cruise was 33,000), service was abbreviated to a cup of a beverage of your choice, no snacks, no full cans. The crew did this quickly and then quickly collected the trash and was not seen til the end of the flight when they offered additional drinks. Not too many people accepted. Eventually, they did a final trash collection and we made a smooth touchdown on Newarks 4L. We pulled into Gate C91 and to our surprise- our bags were first off the belt! So much for those priority tags some people have!
The verdict on Continental: I had never been a big fan of the 737-500, but these flights really seemed enjoyable. I was stunned at how quiet these 2nd generation aircraft were, and the cabins were very warm and inviting. They seemed well maintained and were spotless every time. The ERJ was nothing new to me. As far as service goes, I was pleased on the EWR-AUS and AUS-IAH route. The service on these routes was quite acceptable- I didnt expect the meal on the EWR-AUS flight, and the beverage service was adequate for the flight to Houston. The ERJ flight was disappointing- for the 2 hour flight, I was expecting something more than peanuts because I have flown CO on the slightly longer EWR-FLL (2hr 25m) and have gotten similar meals to that on the EWR-AUS leg. I fully understand the reason for the short service on the CHS-EWR route, but later found out that the only difference was that there would have been full cans instead of glasses. So that’s a disappointment. As far as staff is concerned- most were very friendly and accommodating, especially the ground crew at Charleston. Nobody was mean- everybody was professional and some were very pleasant to talk to. I have never hesitated to fly Continental, and will certainly use Continental again for plans where I can not fly jetBlue.
Here is a point rating:
EWR-AUS (10 points per category)
Aircraft maintenance: 10
Aircraft seats: 8
Cabin crew: 8
Ground crew: 8
AUS-IAH (10 points per category)
Aircraft maintenance: 10
Aircraft seats: 8
Cabin crew: 7
Ground crew: 7
IAH-CHS (10 points per category)
Aircraft maintenance: 9
Aircraft seats: 9
Cabin crew: 7
Ground crew: 8
CHS-EWR (10 points per category)
Aircraft maintenance: 10
Aircraft seats: 6
Cabin crew: 8
Ground crew: 10
Total points: 199/240 83%
Hope this wasnt too long or boring (though Im sure it was!)
Thanks for reading, leave a comment!