Here's a non-rev's perspective on COA:
18 Aug 00:
6:50 am CST: Eagerly awaiting a two-day trip to MA, my girlfriend and I arrive at IAH terminal C for our outbound flight to Boston's Logan Airport. I had called the night before to check the PBT's (Passenger Boarding Totals) and we thought we might just have a shot at flight 420. I was hoping upon hope we would make it aboard, as I had not yet flown on a CO MD-80. (now operated by a 737-700) We arrive at the departing gate just about 50 min. before departure time. At 7am, on a Friday morning, IAH is just starting to wake up, and we had a pretty nice view of Terminal B as Continental Express ERJ's, EMB-120's and Beech 1900's all prepared for a busy day. A nice treat was seeing a brand new NW Airbus. Not being an airbus fan, I didn't pay much attention, but as she taxied to her gate, all I could think was "Wow!" Those beautiful red and gray colors shone bright on a crisp Texas morning. After what seemed like an eternity, all paying passengers were aboard, and we were informed there was one open seat in First. The gate agent only gave us a second or two to decide, and I put my girlfriend aboard, as she had never experienced the joy of flying first. The flight departed about 5 min ahead of schedule, and once again I got to play the waiting game. I knew I had a great shot at flight 1286, which was scheduled for 10:50am. While waiting for my flight, I had the opportunity to go down to the company (CO) store and breakroom. The food was decent, and after choking down some rank black coffee, I went to my gate and waited...and waited...and waited.
CO1286: Once again after all paying passengers, I was allowed to board, this time, as luck would have it, I got stuck in the middle seat, in the last row. Being 6'4" it was a little uncomfortable, but hey, I made it on. The flight was operated by a 733, which was a little dissapointing, as this ship had no movie screens. So much for inflight entertainment! After a long taxi, we were airborne and on our way to BOS. Overall the flight was good, a little bumpy upon our turn over Northern Alabama, but nothing to complain about. Food service was normal for coach, a BBQ sandwich basket, which was actually pretty good, and I washed it down with a nice, cold, Sam Adams. (I'm still waiting for CO to sell Shiner Bock) About 2hrs and 45min into our flight, the Captian informed us that we were making good time, and we should be arriving about 15mins early. Good news, as my girlfriend was sitting in Terminal A awaiting our arrival. Our ETA came and went, as we spent 45 min in a holding pattern over the Cape. ATC was delaying outbound flights due to a squall to the north. Our final approach into Boston was beautiful to say the least! The sailboats and yachts were just starting towards port, fearful, I guessed of the bad weather approaching. The landing was run-of-the mill, nothing spectacular, nothing horrendous. We managed to pull up to the gate about 10 or 12 mins late, but still on-time by DOT standards.
20 Aug 00
After taking the ferry over to Martha's Vineyard that morning, we decided to just take our chances and depart from MVY that afternoon. All of the flights looked good, but EWR (where we had to make our connection to Houston) was under a code Yellow. (CO uses a system of color-codes when a hub is under a weather alert 1) code white-minimal impact on ops, minimal delays, no cancellations forecast 2) code yellow-moderate ops impact, some cancellations possible, 30-60 min delays expected, and 3) code red-highest alert state, ops highly affected, pre-cancellations ordered, extensive delays expected) Knowing the infamous Newark runways were going to be parking lots, we decided to take the next avalible flight out of the Vineyard, flight 3263
COexpress: 3263 we manage to get to the airport 15 mins before sched. departure, only to learn that ATC has pushed the flight back by 30 mins. We check in for the flight, and since it was only modestly full, we got our boarding passes and seat assignments in advance of boarding. (on full flights, we have to wait untill all rev passengers have boarded, then non-revs board based on seniority) As we pass thru security and out onto the tarmac, we are greeted by the sweet sound of the ATR-42 320 with those wonderful PW 121's. Most people despise the ATR, but I've always been a huge ATR fan, more so with the later 500 series, and of course the larger ATR-72's. Boarding was fast and furious, and before we knew those PW's were motoring us on to EWR. This flight was pretty good, the pilot did a superb job handling the a/c given the shifing air currents and bad weather all around us. By the time the FA was finished with the beverage service, we were on final into Newark. Although not a pretty locale, by any length, EWR is a fascinating airport, brimming with different cultures, languages, and planes from around the world. A far cry from the dusty airport in Lubbock where I grew up. While we taxied, we got a great view of the Peter Max 777, and of course, just about every example of CO aircraft type in the fleet. Unfortunately, our arrival was 42min behind schedule, which should have made us late for our connecting flight, CO51. But alas, the gods would smile upon us, or so we thought, CO51 had a change of equipment, which delayed the flight an hour and a half.
We waided thru the sea of people in Concourse C, and on to our gate where we discovered that CO51, originally operated by a DC-10-30D (domestic) had been replaced by the smaller (capacity-wise) DC-10-30B
(buisnessfirst) I called up the employee pass-travel line, and to my horror, discovered 40 other non-revs listed for this flight, of which, 12 made it on. (We were not one of them) Again, the waiting game commenced. We had a shot at 3 later flights into IAH, and we figured we were good to go. Once again, it came time to check in and see what hand fate would deal us on the next flight...bummer, overbooked. Two more, then finally one more flight to get home tonight. We had come to a fork in the road, we could chance the last flight back to IAH, or we had the option of taking the flight to AUS or MSY and renting a car. Despite 92 non-revs listed on the last flight to IAH, we decided to try our luck. Anxiously I called CO reservations to check the load, it looked pretty full, but our 737-500 was stuck in the weather, unable to get into EWR, so a larger (capacity) 737-800 was scrambled to take the flight. After an anxious 45 min. we lucked out, and took the last of the avail. seats on
flight 223. Finally, after 5 hours in EWR and 3 near-misses, we were glad to be winging our way back home. Boarding was hurried as we had lost precious min. during the equipment change. Passengers scurried to their seats and haphazardly threw what they could into those overhead bins. I was amazed at what some people consider carry-ons. Here we were with a small roll-on, and a back pack tucked under our seat, while people brought on huge suitcases. Good thing our fleet has oversize bins! We pulled out of EWR about 20 min late, but taxi time was minimal and that beautiful 738 had us in the air VERY quickly. The roll was exceptionally short, and the takeoff was one of the most comfortable I had ever experienced. (maybe I was just glad to be on a plane, rather than spending the night on a hard, foam seat) The NG 737's have the awesome flip-down tv's and offer a great view, wherever you sit. The gate agent was nice enough to put us together, which made the trip back much more enjoyable. Speaking of seats, CO has really done well by installing those "winged" headrests on all of the NG's. On a full flight, where pillows are at a premium, they really make life a lot easier. Finally, we made it back into IAH, and somehow we managed to get in a couple min early! I guess the crew had those 7-B's spooled up nice and tight. With my feet now firmly on the ground, I can sure appreciate passenger's frustrations when flights are delayed and/or cancelled. It's not easy preparing one'sself to bed down in an airport lobby, and it keeps things in perspective for me, being a CO employee. I now find myself trying more than ever, to do my best so that no one has to miss out on that dinner waiting at home or the kid's ball game. Hope you enjoyed it, I'm planning on doing another real soon! I'll be sure to fill you in on all the details.