I was traveling with a group, and we arrived at the airport at approximately 7 AM (07:00). The line for Continental's check in was quite long for being such a small carrier at PIT. Northwest's line (next to Continental's) was empty. I didn't have a passport, so I presented my birth certificate and ID to the agent, who checked my bag through to Monterrey. After I was checked in and ready to go, I had to join the line for explosives screening, which was also very long. Yet when I got to the middle of the queue, a TSA agent asked me if I only had one bag. I told him I did, and he let me out of the line and screened my bag himself and let me on my way. Over at the airside terminal, I grabbed some breakfast from and watched some aircraft movements. Mostly US Airways. After a bit of looking around in the AirMall stores, trying to kill time, I headed down to gate D77. Shortly thereafter, the gate agent announced that outdoor boarding would be commenced. This would be my first time on a regional jet, so I didn't know what to expect. After she took my boarding pass, I headed down the stairs, out onto the tarmac, and up the aircraft stairs.
July 11, 2003
Continental 2553 (operated by ExpressJet-Continental Express)
Pittsburgh, PA (PIT) - Houston, TX (IAH)
Embraer ERJ-145XR (winglets)
Scheduled departure time: 8:55 AM (08:55)
The first thing I noticed when I boarded was how low the ceiling is. I'm 6'1" and I couldn't stand upright. Taking my seat at 18C (window), I noticed that the ERJ has very large windows. Nice. The plane looked very new and still had the clean smell to it. After a bit of packing up, the captain announced flying time, route information, and some weather information in Houston. Turned out to be a full flight. Shortly after, we pushed back, started engines, and began taxiing. It was crazy how fast we were taxiing. I've never seen or been in an airplane that taxied this fast. We had no wait at all and immediately departed from runway 28R. Climbout was a bit bumpy due to some clouds, but nothing major. A bit into the flight, the flight attendant came around with snacks. Bagels with cream cheese and jam. Not bad. Then she came around with the drink cart (I got water). She was very nice and helpful. She talked to passengers for most of the flight. Judy was her name, and she's in her 50's, and it turns out she quit her (high-paying) job as some type of city manager in Colorado Springs to become a flight attendant. She said she doesn't get paid as much, but she's doing what she loves to do: to fly and to be around people. Truly a great person.
Anyway, I slept on and off and chatted a bit with my seatmate during the flight, which was incredibly smooth and turbulence-free. The pilot gave frequent updates on our position and informed us we would be routing farther west into the DFW area in order to avoid some thunderstorms. Judy came around a second time with the drink cart, and I got a Dr. Pepper. She offered me the full can, which I took. After some glancing through Continental magazine, the pilot announed we'd begin descent shortly. Judy came around a third time and asked me if I wanted another Dr. Pepper, which I declined. We began our descent, which gave us a nice view of the Houston skyline, and made a smooth touchdown into Houston. We deplaned into Terminal B and had a bit of a walk to our connecting gate, B77A.
Continental 2444 (operated by ExpressJet-Continental Express)
Houston, TX (IAH) - Monterrey, Mexico (MTY)
Scheduled departure time: 12:00 noon (12:00)
I had to show my birth certificate and ID again, which was no problem. I boarded and took my seat at 18A, the "alone seat." This ERJ didn't look quite as new, but was still very clean. We pushed back, started up, and taxied out on time. I noticed nothing but Continental, and strangely, mostly MD-80's, with a few 737's and a 757 or two. We departed and made a few turns on our climbout. The flight attendant came around passed out Mexican customs forms, and then offered ham or turkey sandwiches. I took the ham, which was actually good. It's pretty good that Continental still offers sandwiches on 1-hour flights. Next was the drink cart, and I got another Dr. Pepper. This was a very short flight, as after I finished eating my sandwich and filling out my customs form, we had began out descent, which was interesting. Lots of mountains. We touched down and applied very little reverse thrust and lots of braking action. After several minutes of taxiing, we pulled up to the terminal next to a Delta Connection CRJ and an AA F-100. We deplaned outdoors and walked into the terminal to Mexican immigration.
After a week, it was time to come home. We arrived at the airport around 2:30 (14:30) and got my bag checked to Houston. Then I had to have it hand-inspected, which was no real problem. I had plenty of time to kill, so I walked around a bit and bought a few things. Security line was fairly short and I went to the upper level to gate 4. Across the hall, an AA F-100 was loading to DFW. There was no ERJ waiting for us on the tarmac. After probably 20 minutes of waiting, an agent there announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, passengers on Continental Express flight 2856 to Houston will need to head to the lower level to board the aircraft." Downstairs, I was randomly selected to have my carry-on hand-inspected. After that was through, I was outside and on my way to the ERJ.
July 18, 2003
Continental 2856 (operated by ExpressJet-Continental Express)
Monterrey, Mexico (MTY) - Houston, TX (IAH)
Scheduled departure time: 4:20 PM (16:20)
It was very hot outside, so it was nice to step into the air conditioned environment of the plane. Our ERJ was sitting next to a DL CRJ, which I watched depart. We finished packing out, and pushed back. Interesting that CO Express leaves the flight deck door open until pushback, and they even announce that it's been closed, and only authorized personnel are allowed to enter (i.e. nobody). We taxied out and departed, and began out climb out of MTY. The flight attendant (turned out to be her first flight as a flight attendant ) passed out the snack, which was cheese and crackers, Doritos, and sugar cookies. Later she came around with drinks. Again, a short flight, so by the time I filled out my customs form and ate, we had began our descent into IAH. We made a smooth touchdown and taxied past a British Airways 777 (which I think was the first LGW arrival, packing up to go back to LGW) and several Continental heavies. Our ERJ packed in a remote area, we deplaned and boarded this bus. The bus took us over to Terminal D where I made my way down to the immigration hall. It was masses of people, yet the lines were fairly short. The immigration agent was quick, efficient, and friendly. Downstairs, I had to claim my bag, which was already sitting next to the carousel. Convenient enough. In the customs line, an agent was walking around with a beagle, sniffing bags. Customs and immigration was no problem, but then I got to this guy who asked for my boarding pass. He was very unfriendly and was yelling about my not traveling with my parents. I eventually made it past that idiot and to the TerminalLink to Terminal B, where the Pittsburgh flight was already boarding.
Continental 2681 (operated by ExpressJet-Continental Express)
Houston, TX (IAH) - Pittsburgh, PA (PIT)
Embraer ERJ-145XR (winglets)
Scheduled departure time: 7:05 PM (19:05)
I was the first to board, and it was weird seeing the empty plane. I settled my things at 18A and had an immediate meeting with the lavatory. When I got back to my seat, the plane was already full. Out my window, I noticed more -145XR's than regular -145's. Anyway, the captain announced our flying time and routing to Pittsburgh, and shortly thereafter we pushed back. Taxiing out, I noticed a huge cloud-to-ground lightning strike off in the distance, and Continental 737's stacked up everywhere. I figured there was a delay or ground stop, but it turned out there wasn't. We taxied on a taxiway parallel to the one with all the 737's and began our takeoff roll. We were taking off simulatanouelsy with a CO 737. It was awesome. We event lifted off at the same time. The 737 turned left, we turned right. But, at only a few thousand feet, we began heading toward some clouds, and the captain cut engine power to a minimum and we made a huge drop. People shrieked and grabbed on to their seats. It was a bit scary to say the least. After flying at a low altitude, we finally increased engine power and began climbing again. Climbing through the clouds was very bumpy and the flight attendant stayed in her seat for quite a while. We finally found a break and the flight attendant passed out sandwiches. I got ham again, which was good. She came around later with drinks. The captain kept us updated on the thunderstorms, and said we should have a beautiful view of a sunset, which we did. Shortly after the sunset though, it became very dark and we flew through some more clouds, where there was plenty of lightning. The lightning was incredible to watch, with flashes lighting up the cabin. It stayed like that for most of the flight, which was pretty bumpy. I managed to get a little sleep. We passed over what I think was Cincinnati and shortly after began our descent into PIT. We made a very smooth touchdown on runway 32. As we taxied toward the terminal, I noticed we taxied in on 28C. Does anyone know if they've converted 28C to a taxiway?
Anyway, we parked at D77 next to another CO Express ERJ.
I was very impressed with Continental Express. To be honest, I was dreading the 3-hour flight on PIT-IAH in an ERJ, but it turned out to be pretty comfortable. I'll definitely have to go with CO again. Thanks for reading. Comments certainly welcome.