About a year after finally getting free travel vouchers from Continental on last year's spring break trip, we finally put them to use on this year's spring break. We even got some NW travel out of the vouchers as they handled our western portion of the itinerary. We began, though, with a couple RJ's...
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Continental Express Flight 2040
Depart: Port Columbus Int'l, OH (CMH)
Arrive: Cleveland Hopkins Int'l, OH (CLE)
Departure time (actual): 6:10am EST (6:05am EST)
Departure gate: A5A
Arrival time (actual): 6:55am EST (6:52am EST)
Arrival Gate: D28E
Aircraft: ERJ-145XJ, N14125
Load factor: 100%
I wanted to leave earlier to have a little time at CMH, but my dad wanted to sleep as much as possible so we left our house at about 4:50am for the 20 minute drive to CMH. We were dropped off at the curbside check-in and were at first going to head inside to the CO ticket counter, but that was pretty busy. So, we went back outside to the skycap and checked-in. It took about 15 minutes to get all of our bags checked and boarding passes printed. The skycap had to run inside and get bag tags there because the one outside had broken down. Once everything was set outside, we went in to security where there was a decent line that took about 10 minutes. It moved pretty well for the amount of people who were in the line. The highlight of the wait had to be the wonderful non-TSA boarding pass checker who commented to my dad that she noticed "he has put on some wait." Wow, what a compliment from our friendly Columbus security folks! Well, being that we left the house so late, there was little time to wonder around concourse A at CMH. I did notice that it was completely full with a US A319, 737, and RJ's and 2 CO 737's, plus one remotely parked. Our ERJ, with winglets, was parked between the 2 737's and we boarded down the stairs that is gate A5A. We walked out on the ramp and up the airstairs and into the Express Jet. We were some of the last pax to board as the flight was quite full once we took our seats in row 10 (mine was 10C, window). We sat at the gate for about 10 more minutes until pushback at 6:05am. During the safety briefing, a woman behind us tried to take her son to the lavratory, but the FA motioned for her to take her seat during taxi so that was pretty exciting. Our taxi continued eastbound, heading for 28L. We passed a busy NW ramp at CMH with 4 (3 DC-9, 1 A319) aircraft for just 2 gates. We did not go all the way out to the end of 28L, as it was not needed for our small jet. We made a right turn to 28L and roared out to the west and into the clouds. The sun was just beginning to rise as we climbed to 15,000 ft., our cruising altitude. The FA came around with a water-only service for the quick flight. We only stayed there for 5-10 mins. and then were on initial descent into CLE. We dipped down into the clouds as we began final approach and didn't get out until 3 mins. out from landing. We came down on runway 6L and made a quick right turn towards the Continental Express terminal at Hopkins. We taxied around to D28 and parked at D28E. We deplaned and walked up towards the terminal through the two large doors at gate D28, exactly where our next flight would leave from.
Continental Express Flight 3200
Depart: Cleveland Hopkins Int'l, OH (CLE)
Arrive: Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (MSP)
Departure time (actual): 7:30am EST (7:30am EST)
Departure gate: D28E
Arrival time (actual): 8:35am CST (8:28am CST)
Arrival gate: E7
Aircraft: ERJ-145XJ, N14125
Load factor: 95%
Not only was it the same gate that we just walked in from, we were also on the same exact plane we just walked off of, what are the odds? Well, it wasn't much walking for us, as we just hung around for about 15 minutes in the nice Express terminal at CLE. It was my first visit to this concourse at CLE, and I was very impressed with the appearance. Our flight to MSP was called at 7:12am, and I thought there was no way this flight would get off on time with a nearly full load of pax in line to board. But, CO kept things moving and everyone was seated very quickly and the door was shut at 7:30am. We pushed back a few minutes later and were off to our taxi to 6R. Many CO Express planes were headed for de-icing, but we skipped it and went straight to 6R, where we were #3 for departure. We waited for 5 minutes, then lined up for 6R and climbed to 33,000 ft. The FA first came around with cranberry muffins, a nice touch on a morning RJ flight. You hardly ever see any kind of decent food on an RJ. CO does still set itself apart in some ways from the other big carriers. The FA then came around with the beverage cart, which offered a full range of drinks. Good, friendly in-flight service on this flight from CO Express. The flying remained smooth the rest of the flight. We began initial decent into MSP at about 8:05 CST and you could see a blanket of snow on the Wisconsin (I presume) ground below. We passed by MSP on approach and made a circle around downtown Minneapolis, affording us a spectacular overhead view of downtown. We turned left to line up with 12R and were down on the runway shortly after. We made a taxi around the F concourse and then on to Continental's E gates. We parked at E7 and after a while were out into one of my favorite terminals. We didn't have much time, however, to wonder around the airport. We had a three hour layover before our NW flight, so we decided to take the new light rail out to see my grandma in Minneapolis. What a great transit system it is, very easy to use and efficient. It took us almost right up to my grandmother's house. After spending about an hour with her, it was back to the airport!
Northwest Flight 1483
Depart: Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (MSP)
Arrive: Missoula, MT (MSO)
Departure time (actual): 11:21am CST (11:14am CST)
Departure gate: D4
Arrival time (actual): 1:10pm MST (12:43pm MST)
Arrival gate: 1
Aircraft: DC9-30, N920N?
Load factor: 100%
We had to check back through security at MSP and discovered checkpoint 1 by the Midwest Connect counter had no line. It seems people don't notice that checkpoint is there because there was a pretty good line at checkpoint 2. We went through the security drill once again with no problem. We went down to the D gates quickly to check on our flight and then decided to get something to eat before the 2 hr. flight. Well, my dad and sister really wanted Caribou, so we had to go back to Concourse E for that. My brother and I stopped off for a healthy lunch at Burger King. Then we went back to the D gates and our flight was boarding. (There has not been thus far in the trip for spotting, which I was hoping to do at the MSP Observation deck with a 3 hr. layover. Hopefully on the way back there will be some time!) Anyway, we had to pack the BK in my bag and then pull it out again after we were on-board. We went through D4, was greeted by the F class FA serving beverages, and I sat with my dad in row 19. My sister and brother were in 18. We ate and then we pushed back from the gate a little early. We taxied out to 30R and were third again for takeoff. After an NW A319 and CO 737 took off, we were up and jetted down 30R. We climbed to 34,000 ft. and continued to cruise toward the Rocky Mountains. The one Y class FA came down the aisle with a beverage-only service. A fun snack pack was available for $3, but we passed. Well, I was pretty tired from waking up so early so I slept for a good hour. I awoke to the sounds of the captain announcing initial descent into Missoula. We could soon get great views of the Rockies out our window and we landed in Big Sky country about 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Now came the interesting part, another small, rural, but busy Montana airport. I had already been to Kalispell (FCA) two years ago, so I was curious as to how this would compare. After touching down on runway 11 at MSO, I spotted the small terminal building that looked like a ghost town from the outside. All 3 jetways were vacated, and there were no other planes on the ramp. But a ramper appeared and guided us into gate 1 at MSO. The load quickly deplaned and walked into a neat terminal area. It had a rustic, cabin-like look and fit the region perfectly. There was a Horizon Dash 8 that arrived shortly after us and a mass of DL passengers waiting for a delayed flight to SLC. I took a few pictures of the inside and outside of MSO and then headed down to baggage claim, which also is the way to Gate 5 (Horizon) and to the security checkpoint. It happened to be a pretty busy time with people arriving on Horizon, people arriving on NW, and a large security line. We got our bags quickly from baggage claim and began our drive up to Whitefish, MT for skiing!