So I discovered that I was able to take some time off from work to go home for the holidays. After discussing with the family, we determined that it would be a good idea for me to work both Christmas Day and New Year's Day, as these days are double-pay holidays. That made the trip 'do-able'. Otherwise, I would be missing too much income to afford the trip!
So I got on Continental.com and booked my itinerary:
CO 268 ANC-IAH
CO 2002 IAH-DAL
CO 2975 DAL-IAH
CO 407 IAH-ANC
At the time of booking, only last row middle seats were available on the long legs form Anchorage to Houston. NOT cool. Fortunately, I watched them like a hawk, and changed seats as they became available, grabbing an exit row aisle seat for ANC-IAH.
CO 268 ANC-IAH
Got to Anchorage, and found a crowded airport. Was glad that Continental has moved to the north terminal. Gate N5 for this flight. Their area in terminal A was a disgrace, with graffiti completely covering the restroom walls, inadequate seats, no concessions, etc. The north terminal isn't the nicest in the world, but it's a sure step above!
The inbound (flight 407, coincidentally) was about an hour late due to headwinds. This pushed our 2245 departure back to 2330. That's okay- I had almost 2 hours to connect in Houston.
The pilot was a joker. He referred to the copilot as being the more capable between the two of them, which we should be thankful for, as it was the copilot doing the takeoff. ?!?
Pushed back, and taxied to runway 32 for a short roll into the night. But then, all day long is night here in ANC lately!!! We climbed out, and cruised at FL350, 370, and eventually 390. Our ground speed averaged 610, so our flight ended up taking about 5:56. We didn't make up for the entire delay, but we landed only 15 minutes late.... not bad. Love those tailwinds!
Service was good. First, IFE included the moving map for about 30-40 minutes. Then, they started "The Devil wears Prada." It was a decent movie when they showed it on my flight home for thanksgiving, so I opted to watch it again. Flipped back and forth between that and music selections. INCIDENTALLY, seat 16C is great for comfort, but the drop down screen for the movie is very far away, and hard to see.
Food came soon after the movie started. They served a breaded chicken sandwich (piping hot), with a salad, bag of baby carrots, and mini candy bar. I had a coke, but didn't get the full can. I didn't get the full can on any of these flights; I hadn't asked for them, and I am beginning to think that Conti's policy is to give it if you ask for it. I have received a full can in the past without asking though... whatever, the issue is not worth the words I have already written.
I was still hungry, so the next time they went by, I asked if they had any sandwiches left. They did, and they brought me one!
The cabin crew were great on this flight. Very friendly, curteous, et cetera.
I soon fell asleep.
Toward the end of the flight, I woke up. The cabin crew was coming around with jelly danishes. I chose apple, and it was delicious. They also offered cherry and cream cheese.
We landed at IAH, runway 25. We taxied to one of the C gates. I thanked the crew for a great flight, wished them Merry Christmas. I made my way to the train, and boarded for terminal B.
CO 2002 IAH-DAL
I arrived into the bustling terminal B and made my way to gate 76A. I have never successfully figured out which gates are at which banjos, so I just have to follow the signs.
The experience was about as I'd expect. Nothing special. At least I was lucky enough to fly out of a real gate, instead of the terminal B parking lot. That's the worst thing about CoEx at Houston... but I have ranted about that in the past.
Boarded and took 17A- my favorite on the ERJ.
We took off from 15R. The flight attendant came on and said, "Normally on a flight of 49 minutes, we only offer water or juice, but I like to give people a choice, so these are your choices:" He then named off all of the coke products he had, and asked us to make our decision before he arrived at our seat. He reached the tail of the nearly-full plane just as we began our initial descent. He then went back to the front and collected garbage, reaching the tail of the cabin within 5 minutes of touchdown. He really hustled, and I appreciated his extra effort. I told him so as I deplaned. We landed DAL 13L as usual, and taxied in to gate 27.
Love Field is ever changing, yet never finding an identity. The gate area is as it's been since Continental remodeled in 1998. Shades of blue. Blue walls, blue chairs, blue carpet, blue uniforms, blue signage, AARGH I am color blind from it. It's hard to figure out where to go if you're new to the airport. I'm not, but you deplane into a large square room, with little suggestion of where to go. These two gates (currently labeled 26 and 27) have been occupied by Continental since 1958, but were originally ground-level. Which translates to taking an immediate escalator ride downstairs into a dimly lit hallway. I love Love Field, but parts of it aren't what I'd call modern.
So I made my way to the baggage claim, to discover that they've opened another brand new claim carousel since Thanksgiving. It's beautiful-and very modern-in there. Swoopy silver ceiling, with HUGE ceiling windows, and big carousels. New floor tile, too.
Baggage took a few minutes, but my suitcase was the second off the belt!
CO 2975 DAL-IAH
Arriving at Love, I found the Continental Express staff to be surly as usual. I don't know who they work for (ExpressJet or a ground service company) but they're always... lackluster. Not all of them- some are friendly and proficient. But not this day. I was doing good to get their attention to put the labels on my 2 checked bags. Whatever. Gave my bags to the TSA, and walked around for some picture taking. I really like Love Field. It's so much easier and less strenuous than DFW.
Went through security in the old American skybridge for the green concourse- now the southwest connector to the baggage claim. The security line here is typically FAR shorter, because it's sort of hidden. Arrived in the Continental gate areas, only to discover that my flight number was listed at gate 27, though my boarding pass said 26. The man at 27 then told us to go to 26. We rushed over, only to find that the aircraft at 26 was not our aircraft. The ERJ135 at 26 would block out at 1410, and ours would block in at 1415. So I went back to the Southwest concourse and stood in line at McDonald's. They took way too long, and I got back to the Continental concourse with too little time. I sat down anyway and started eating, only to have them announce boarding for elites. My flight to Dallas a few days prior had pushed me into silver elite status, by the way. So I packed up my food and got in line.
We boarded something you never see on Continental- a dirty airplane. But the flight was running late, and they wanted to do a quick turn. We left late, and arrived early, so I won't complain. The flight attendant thanked me for bringing him McDonald's... haha, nope.
Flight was typical. We departed DAL runway 31R, which is kinda rare.
Does anybody know whether they actually ever use the other runways at Love Field? Of three, I've only ever taken off or landed on one of them, 13L/31R.
He did a peanut and drink service, which I declined, as I finished my french fries.
Landed IAH and taxied to gate B62. Deplaned, and got on the train to gate E4. Hooray- terminal E. Terminal E is, in my opinion, one of the nicest air terminals this nation has to offer.
CO 407 IAH-ANC
Arrived at E4 to discover I couldn't see my aircraft, and couldn't get the registration. (Got it from someone on A.net instead, yesterday). The aircraft was arriving from San Salvador.
I went to the counter to inquire about the chances of receiving my elite upgrade. "The airplane is very full, so it doesn't look good," the woman said. Oh well. Sure enough, not five minutes later, they were asking for volunteers for $400 to take a flight the next day to Seattle. I wonder what good that would do anyone- Seattle is not Anchorage. The next seat they had for Anchorage was on Saturday, January 6th. Looks to me like the additional capacity they dumped on ANC this Christmas wasn't enough!!! A 739 through SEA, a 752 nonstop, and a 753 thru SEA were apparently insufficient. Wish they'd put a 787 on the route!
My choice of 28A was a mistake. I should have taken the exit-row aisle again, as it was available at checkin. But I wanted a window. The 757 is cramped at the window (for 6 hours and 56 minutes, anyway.) I won't soon do that again.
The guy next to me fell sound asleep. He was probably about 20, and he really clonked out. At one point, I decided to use the lav, and the older gent at the aisle seat got up to let me out. So I nudged and poked this guy in seat B, and said, "Hey, excuse me... hey... hey... excuse me..." to no avail- he was REALLY OUT! I began to wonder if he was still alive...
In the end, I just climbed over him. Awkward, but hey... when you gotta go...
The lavatory was surprisingly clean. I don't know if the flight attendants had worked on it, or if it just hadn't been dirtied. I always try to clean it after I use it, but it was already spotless when I went it.
The movie on this flight was Lady in the Water. Not my cup of tea, so I listened to various other channels (several times they repeat in 7 hours).
The 'snack' service was just as before. Except this time it was a barbecue chicken sandwich, same salad, same bag of carrots. I guess it had a milky way instead of a Twix bar, but yeah. Again, still hungry, I asked for and received another one. I read my magazines (Airways, and Trains) and tried to sleep, but to no avail. Eventually, the attendant brought a glass of water to the row in front of me, and when the man asked her something, I overheard her say that they'd be serving another meal in a little while. Sure enough, they brought around turkey hoagie sandwiches, with a bag of Ruffles. Good stuff! So I ended up with three meals on this flight!
This particular flight had several bouts of random turbulence. Once or twice, the plane dropped suddenly, losing (I would estimate) 20 feet of altitude. It was generally rough. Not bad, just chronic bumps.
Landed 7L in Anchorage, and pulled in to N5. Baggage at Anchorage ALWAYS takes forever. This time was no exception. I was disappointed to find that they hadn't tagged my bags as 'elite priority' at DAL. I was at the claim for upwards of half an hour. Fortunately, my bags arrived undamaged, and didn't end up in a dumpster behind a hotel in Houston.
I wish Continental would go mainline at Love Field. I brought it up in the forum a week or two ago, and the consensus was 'not likely'. I like the ERJs and COEX, but prefer a 735.
They lost points for crummy staff at Love, and for woefully slow baggage at ANC with no priority bag tags.
They gained points for GREAT cabin crews, all the food I could ask for (and FREE at that... stick that where the sun don't shine, AA), good IFE, generally clean and comfortable aircraft.
Overall, this trip was well above average for an airline, and slightly above average for CO. Maybe it's just the holidays that made crews so friendly.
Oh, another note- N18119 has the old coach seats... without adjustable headrests. While I miss the headrests, these seats are FAR more comfortable everywhere else. N33132 has the new seats, and they feel very cheap and cardboad-ish after you've been in the other type for 6 hours. I wish they'd switch to the 753 style seat- it's more comfortable.
If I think of anything else, I'll add it in a comment.