Keep in mind, some of these thoughts were written kinda randomly.
Continental flight 414
August 9, 2002
N33209, Delivered Aug-31-00
DFW Terminal B Gate 19 departure, IAH Terminal C Gate 35 Arrival
Photo © Chris Coduto
My girlfriend and I arrived at Dallas/ Fort Worth airport about two hours prior to departure. We checked in at the eticket check in kiosk outside of security, with the aid of an older gentleman who was very helpful. We checked her bag and proceeded through security. As always, she made it through just fine. I, on the other hand, did not. I neglected to give my cell phone to the hungry Xray machine, and so the metal detector went off as I walked through. So I had to be “hand-checked” with the smaller handheld metal detector. It went ballistic over my belt buckle. It made similar protests at the sight of my metal shoelace eyelets. Shoes had to go through the Xray machine. Belt had to come off. Other than that, no trouble. Once inside, we took a short walk around the terminals, as the Starbucks in terminal B had a broken Coffee machine. We went to Frulatti in terminal C, and hurried back to our gate. Once there, we realized that just a few months ago Gate B19 at DFW belonged to USAir, not Conti. This is probably due to TWA moving its gates immediately adjacent to AA’s gates in the B terminal. We stood around for only a few minutes until they called boarding. As we were in row 19, and Conti still boards by rows, we were in the second or third group called. We walked down the Jetway to our 737-800 and waited while the passengers in front found their seats, et cetera. I took 19B, and my girlfriend 19A. The 737 was clean inside, and attractive to look at. This was my first flight on the Next Generation 737. The seats Continental has chosen are comfortable, however the winged headrest is nearly as firm as a two- by- four. For you Europeans, here in the States the term “two- by- four” is a generic phrase that refers to a piece of lumber, two inches by four inches. NOT comfortable. But the chair itself was nice- back didn’t get sore. I really liked the new sculpted ceiling panels and overheads, and this Continental example has been kept clean. The engines were started, and much to my pleasure, I found them slightly quieter than those on the previous generation 737s. Flaps went out, and as we were immediately behind the wing, I could see all of that going on. The safety demo was given over the flip down LCD screens. We took off briskly. The flight to Houston was about 50 minutes in duration. The screens came back down shortly after takeoff to display the GPS linked map. I was really surprised to see all the information that CO gives on the map; groundspeed in MPH, altitude, MACH speed, rate of descent/climb, time to destination… all of these were given at the top of the screen. Drink service, with peanuts, was given. We touched down in Houston- IAH- ontime. Deplaning was about typical- let’s all rush to climb over each other and hit one another with our carry-on bags falling from the heavens ONLY to stand in the aisle and wait for ten minutes while first class pax leisurely disembark.
Once in the Intercontinental/ Bush airport, I used the restroom. It was nasty. The place was dirty, and badly in need of renovation. The airport itself is not impressive. The food issue has been inadequately addressed. That is, the number and location of restaurants is sub par, as is the variety of food types. There’s some sort of bar/grill in each wing of the terminals. Other than that, you’ve got popcorn stands, which smell HORRIBLE and are responsible for several fire alarms. While we were in the bar/grill, the fire alarm sounded twice as the woman making popcorn frowned. The clam chowder served in the bar was decent, and quite cheap.
Continental Flight 1206
August 9, 2002
N37408, Delivered Oct-04-01
IAH Terminal C gate 36 departure
Photo © Richard Silagi
On the above picture, NOTE the window between two blank spaces. I highly recommend this row, as it offers a great view of the engine/ reversers in operation. It's 12A. Perfect.
This was a pleasant flight. I really enjoy the 737-900. I was certainly pleased when I booked the tickets to see this flight was on a 739, and this swayed my buying decision sharply. We boarded to find this aircraft just as clean as the last. Before departure, I made use of the mid-cabin lavatory. I really like vacuum lavs. The lav was clean and well designed, though the plastic piece that holds hand towels in place fell onto the floor as I took towels. “Oh, behave,” I exclaimed as I replaced it, hoping the next passenger would not be subjected to this rash display of anger. I took my seat, 12A, to find myself in the perfect place. If you look at the port side of the 739, you will see places that don’t have windows. I was the first coach row to have a window, and I could see the thrust-reverser PERFECTLY- JUST what I had hoped for. The screens gave the same safety demo, and then retracted neatly into their modern concealment. The screens came back down just as on the earlier flight after takeoff to display the map. Engines started, slats were deployed, and we taxied to the runway and made a smooth roll into the sky. Weather was brilliant for our flight. My only disappointment on this flight was that we had just a drink service, and the flight was nearly two hours. But the plane was clean and comfortable, and the flight attendants friendly. We landed in Tampa on time. The landing was smooth. I certainly watched the reverser in action.
Upon arriving at the bag claim, we were notified that her luggage was lost in Houston, but would be delivered to our address when the next plane came in. It got to our house at about 10PM that night.
Continental Flight 1707
August 13, 2002
N14831, Delivered May-05-87
Arriving IAH terminal C gate 30.
Photo © Mark Abbott
We got to Tampa int’l about two hours early and used the electronic check in thing again. Security in Tampa is now under federal control. I had much more difficulty getting through this time. My shoes gave the agent great difficulty, though he was generally concerned about the security AND also friendly. He waved his wand over my shoes, and couldn’t get it to behave, so he asked me to give them to him. He ran them through the Xray. The metal detector also went off around my ankles, which caused problems. I think it was set too sensitive. The only metal near my ankles is the Magnesium deposits in my bones! But he patted around my ankles and legs, and discovered quickly that I was not carrying a gun or knife or anything. I joked that I could take off my socks if he wanted, but that he might regret it, as I left my odor-eaters at home. Hehe. My belt buckle also gave trouble. I undid my belt as instructed, and held it out of the way. The detector continued to sound its alarm, however, much to both of our dismay. He pointed out that it might be the button on my jeans. At this time I was thinking, “you know, I am going to have to have a strip search done because of all this danged metal.” He warned me before he pushed on my pants to see if anything was in there. Fortunately, nothing was in there… nothing that didn’t belong, anyhow. So he passed the wand over my pants again, and it still went off. So now he asked me to turn the top of the jeans down, exposing the back side of the button. Of course, no security threat was found. I have learned my lesson- don’t wear those shoes, that belt, and those jeans on a plane. By the time we got to our gate, they were already boarding our MD-80. I really like MD-80s. This one had relatively new interior walls that matched those on the 737NGs we had been on. Seats were different from those on the 737NG. The headrest was much softer, but the seat had a terrible lump in the lumbar area that made both or our backs hurt after just an hour. It was impossible to get comfortable in those seats. We were in row 25, seats A and C. Fortunately, we could see the flaps in action. We encountered a little bit of turbulence and also rain during the flight. While at the gates, they played music over the speakers, as they had done on both of the previous flights. Again, only a drink service to Houston. This flight was a bit late. There were thunderstorms in Tampa, and the ground crews had come in out of the lightning for safety. This delayed the loading of baggage. We were about 20-25 minutes late. As we only had 1 hour ten minutes connection time, this pushed us back to only having about 40 minutes. Continental board very early, in the case of this flight, they started boarding about the time we arrived from Tampa. She had to use the restroom- which she says was disgusting. Then we inquired of the agent handling our inbound flight as to what gate the Dallas flight was leaving from. She said “C37- go all the way down this hall and make a right at your first opportunity.” She was very helpful.
Continental Flight 1715
August 13, 2002
N33714, Delivered Sep-28-98
Departing IAH terminal C, gate 37; arriving Dallas terminal B, gate 19
Photo © AirNikon
This was my least favorite of all the flights. First, when we were done using the restrooms in the terminal, we made a mad dash, only to find they were already boarding. Oddly, they were boarding ALL rows of the 73G. So we got on- I took the window, she the middle. We had row 10, which is good in a CO 73G, but I would probably recommend row 9 for a good view of the engine. This plane was not as clean. The seats and floors were clean, but the overheads were stained brown with what looked like coffee. The plane also made noises. Flaps ground, landing gear clunked. We taxied out, only to find IAH is a busy place at 5:30 pm. We saw a SpeedBird 747-400 in Bennyhone tartan colors with sleek Rolls Royce engines take off. We lined up and felt the engines roar up. Two times I felt as though the plane were skidding sideways on the runway, but could not verify that feeling by looking out the window. Perhaps it was wind. But the second time I felt that, I was more concerned. But we lifted off safely. Gear whined upward. Unfortunately, the screens never came down, and no map was shown. Drink service was again given. An unusual thing happened with my drink service. I asked for, and was given, a Coca-Cola. She handed me a cup full of ice, and the can. I poured the drink, and drank some. Later, I drank some more. Then I looked at the can. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that EVERYTHING WRITTEN ON THE CAN WAS WRITTEN IN ARABIC. I mean, the coke logo was standard, but everything else looked Arabic. I was NOT happy. All of a sudden, I was imagining some terrorist weirdo running a coke bottling plant of his own and including anthrax in the ingredient list. And I was the unlucky American he targeted. I decided not to say anything. I thought that if I said anything, I might appear to be the security risk. Looking back, I should have said something. I should have asked a flight attendant what the hell an Arabic Coke was doing on our airplane from Tampa. There was a large ring of terrorists in an apartment in Florida, if you all remember. Running some sort of planning operation, they were. BUT- that flight was about 40 hours ago, and I am still breathing. Surely I am okay. We landed at DFW on time. Baggage took only a little while to start going, and fortunately, her bag made the short connection transfer in Houston and successfully made it to Dallas with us.
AIRCRAFT: I really like the 737NG. I have experience now on all three generations, as well as the competing Airbus products. I have to say, I think I prefer the 737NG to the A320 that United flies. The A320 is a great plane, no doubt. But the 737 has a nicer interior, in terms of sculpted panels, et cetera. It was a quiet plane, whose engines have lost the traditional GE roar/buzzsaw sounds. The MD-80 is also a personal favorite. I love the plane itself, it's old-tech simplicity, the sound of the pratt engines. The lavs on the MD-80 showed their age. The first three planes were very clean, far cleaner than most of my AA experiences. The 737-700 was reasonably clean.
AIRPORTS: DFW is my home airport, I won't comment much except that the CO area is quite nice and that terminal B is FAR nicer than any of the other three terminals. Houston IAH is nothing to write home about. It's okay. She and I walked through the new D area, and it's much more pleasant. But the restrooms are dirty and old, with leaky faucets. The terminal shows its age. The number and quality of restaurants is seriously lacking. TAMPA however, is terriffic. I really like the airport. It's very modern in the terminal area (red terminal, I should point out, rather than blue). Restrooms are modern and clean. The restaurants are nice- they had TGIFridays, among other things. Also, there is a hotel connected to the terminal, and I hear it's really nice.
CONTINENTAL: I would say that, overall, I like this airline. My girlfriend and I deliberately chose Conti over American because we have recently had REALLY FRUSTRATING experiences with American. They screwed me out of 30,000 AAdvantage miles and out of my first class seat (another story) and they ripped her family off. To compare the two.. here goes. Continental's planes were cleaner. They were nicer than the equipment AA offered. I wish they had offered at least a snack between Houston and Tampa, but I guess I can't expect that in the post 9-11 environment. The only real problem on this trip was the lost luggage that somehow missed a 3.5 hour layover. Explain that one. The flight attendants were nice; the purser on our last flight explained our delay in borading, as many people- including us- were late connecting. I was dissappointed in the level of communication from the cockpit. We weren't told much. The flight TPA-IAH was the exception, the captain told us what we would be flying over, and announced our cruise altitude. The other three flights however, received only "flight attendants please be seated for departure." Planes were kept up well. And, in sharp contrast to my recent AA experiences, the aircraft lavatories actually had SOAP, HAND TOWELS and TOILET TISSUE. Woohoo! Yes- my recent flight DFW-HNL on AA was missing all three of these in the aft lavatories.
Overall, I would rate the trip a 7/10. No food- for whatever reason- uncomfortable headrests, dirty restrooms in IAH, and lost luggage are responsible for the three point subtraction.
I will certainly fly Continental again, IF it is convenient and reasonably priced. I had a slightly better experience than these on United, however that was BEFORE 9-11 and the subsequent cutbacks. And, I like a 737-800 over an A320 now that I have flown on both.