Here is the trip report for my spring break trip to Palm Beach...this was only the second time I'd flown on Continental. The first time I flew them, January 3, 1997, returning from a cruise, was a mostly positive experience. I flew FLL-IAH on a DC9-30 and IAH-SFO on an MD-80. There was rather bad weather in Houston that day which caused a delay on the IAH-SFO leg, and the FLL-IAH leg almost dropped from the sky on initial descent btu other than that they were both pleasant flights. Knowing how CO has won accolades of late for their service naturally expectations are high for the traveler who hasn't experienced them in four years. This report will be detailed and will include my comparisons of CO to NW.
Friday February 23
Scheduled departure time: 7:00 A.M.
Actual departure time: 7:25 A.M.
Long line at check in due to simultaneous flights leaving for IAH, CLE, and EWR at the same time...the CO section of Terminal B at DTW was abuzz with activity between the three CO flights and an America West flight to Phoenix as well. I checked in curbside and immediately went to gate B5 to board. As a frequent Northwest passenger, I was immediately impressed by the interior of the 737-500, which was clad in grey and charcoal. The large overhead bins were grey and different from other 737s I've been on, the ceiling was grey, the seats were obviously new, and the unit with the lights and call button were not the typical 737 style either (they had feather-touch buttons). As CO uses its 737 fleet in Mexico frequently, the exit signs say "EXIT/SALIDA", which was different for me also. I loved this aircraft. The flight, the only CO jet flight to CLE all day, was nearly full. The flight attendants, two young females and one male were nice and chatted with the passengers as we waited to be de-iced (the EWR-bound flight got it first)...we then taxied out for take-off for the short 25-minute flight to Hopkins Int'l...after a rather bumpy landing, we cruised on into gate C19 at 7:59 A.M., 11 minutes earlier than scheduled. The plane was bound for Newark from there...
Overall 9 out of 10
Scheduled departure time: 9:00 A.M.
Actual departure time: 9:30 A.M.
Hopkins International Airport will never be accused as being the most interesting airport in the country. Most of the action there is comprised of Continental's various types of 737 aircraft (-300, -500, -700, and -800 are all common at CLE) and ERJ 135/145 jets, with the occasional Southwest 737 mixed in with the CoEX turboprops also making appearances. A 757 looks very big at CLE (there was one bound for LAS), however, I did see a United 767 (-300 I think) as I was landing on the previous flight. We waited at gate C14 for one of the flight attendants to arrive for the flight (she was manning a delayed flight inbound from EWR). Finally Diane (the delayed FA) arrived and soon after we boarded. One of the gate agents botched the announcement by saying the flight was bound for Fort Lauderdale. The flight was full and people had a rough time finding places for all of their carry-ons. As I was boarding Diane was making one of the welcome announcements... She said into the PA, "Good morning and welcome aboard Continental Airlines flight...(having rushed from one flight to another, she didn't even know what flight it was)...I whispered into her ear..."Flight 1911," and she said thank you to me while the PA was still on...then as she continued she didn't know where it was going ("Flight 1911 to .....) so I helped her out again... it was funny. Anyhow, the plane was decked out in the grey interior as well, like the -500, but the panels above the seats were like the bulk of the -300s I've been on, and also they were that off-whitish color that indicated their age; the color didn't match the grey overhead bins which were newer. There were TVs down the aisle a la 757 aircraft, but the FAs discovered while playing the safety video that only half of the screens were functioning, so mid-way through the video they shut it off and started over manually (with the demos in the aisle) and as she was reading it Diane provided a few more outakes. Finally we were Florida-bound. The breakfast failed to impress me; its basically the same as Northwest serves DTW-PBI except CO uses a muffin and NW a bagel, both served with Raisin Bran Wheaties and a bananna. However, CO came around twice with drinks and gave the whole can both times. The smooth flight ended with us pulling into gate B6 at around 12:10, around 25 minutes off schedule. Bags came out quickly although the flight was never listed on the CO carousel
Overall 7 out of 10
Friday March 2nd
Scheduled departure time: 12:35 P.M.
Actual departure time: 12:35 P.M.
Terminal at PBI was packed with vacationers returning home, and luckily our flight was seemingly the only one to get out on time. This aircraft had no IFE and was a white interior (except for greyish side walls like the other 737s) but the overhead call buttons were like the -500, different from the -300 on the way down. It was probably about 60-70% full (23E was unoccupied as were many middle seats) The flight was rather choppy at times, but the lunch, a turkey sandwich with 98%fat free meat was perhaps the best meal I've eaten on any flight ever. Two drink services, and we were into gate C14 (same as when I left CLE) at 3:14, five minutes early. The plane was turning around going to MCO.
Overall 10 of 10 (I actually LIKE turbulence; it adds fun)
Scheduled departure time: 4:50 P.M.
Actual departure time: 5:00 P.M.
Tried to get on the 4:15 CoEx ATR flight to DTW but it was full...concourse D (regional terminal) at CLE is the nicest part of the airport. The NW section, the first few gates of the C terminal, is depressing. I sat at gate C6 waiting for departure. It was almost a full flight, but seat 21E was open so that was nice . There were at least 10 or 12 NW employees non-reving on the flight, many uniformed flight attendants heading home. Despite the nice spanking-new interiors of the Northwest nines, I was depressed to be heading home and also to be flying Northwest. Don't get me wrong, I like Northwest, and I can see now where they are taking some cues from CO, but just like Coca-Cola says, you cannot beat the original. Continental is a great airline. You can see it in their product right down to the expressions on the FAs faces (CO- happy, NW- neither happy nor sad really). Another striking difference is the flight crews. The nine or ten CO flight attendants I came into contact with on my three CO flights were all younger than all three FAs on this flight and for that matter 75% of the non-revers too. Interesting. Anyhow, visibility problems closed a runway for a few minutes and that kept us on the ground in CLE for about 10 minutes after pushback, but we more than made up for it in the air with a short flight which afforded great views of downtown Detroit and Windsor (we made one circle of the city). Touched down early, passed by the new midfield terminal (some jetways attacheed now; approaching 75% completion) and pulled into gate F10 at 5:50 P.M., three minutes ahead of schedule. As most people who deplaned the flight were connecting passengers, my bag was waiting for me when I got to the baggage claim (unheard of in DTW). The flight continued on to Dallas.
Overall 9 of 10.
Boy, I loved Continental. Next year I'm going to Cancun, and I'm gonna try to fly through Houston on CO and avoid the charter flights which seem to be delay-prone. Continental really does a nice job. Their employees work hard to ensure that their passengers fly right