Saturday, April 26, 2003 TPA-IAH-LAX
After leaving from Daytona Beach on April 24 (final exams at ERAU), I had one day to unpack my items, and then repack for this trip. On April 25, there were severe thunderstorms in the Tampa Bay metro area. The residuals of the storm would still linger early morning on April 26. This morning I would get up at 4:30 am to freshen up and get dressed. I was particularly watching the news to make sure the storms have dissipated. After packing the luggage in the car, my mother and me left the house at 5:20 am, with me driving with my keys. The construction on Interstate 275 for Busch Boulevard and north of Busch has dissipated, and construction is now progressing for Malfunction Junction (intersection of I-4 and I-275, infamous for trucks flying off the overpass from I-4 to I-275). We arrive at the airport 20 minutes later, and I take my luggage and say goodbye to my mother at the Red Side Area of Continental. As I head for the E-tickets, I realize that all of the ticketing desks for Continental have E-ticket computers, and the line for them was long. Supposedly, Continental has combined the E-ticket line and the paper ticket line. Anyhow, after waiting for 20 minutes, I get to the counter and get my boarding passes, where an agent runs over and places the tags on my bag to LAX. She says that she does not collect the bags anymore and that I must take them over to the TSA EDS area down in front of some empty ticket counters. She also states that the bags must be unlocked. After realizing that I did not have my keys (I had left them in the ignition when I got out of the driver’s side so my mother could drive), I cursed myself, scaring the agent! I apologize to the agent, and scurry outside to use my cell phone (My cell phone does not work inside an airport). During the process of taking out my cell phone, I had also unknowingly pulled out the disposable camera that was also in my pocket. The same agent who handled the bag tags chases me and calls me over, stating that I forgot my ticket. I run over, only to step on the disposable camera. Damn! There goes money down the toilet. After getting a hold of my mother (good thing her cell phone was on), she rushes back to the airport to give me the luggage keys. I say goodbye to her again, and then I rush back inside to the line for the EDS scanning. The TSA agent, an elderly gentleman, directed me to unlock my bag. He told me that the bag should not be locked since it must be checked for bombs. As he took away the bags, I headed my way up to Airside A. After the fiasco ended, it was 6:20 am. I increased my pace up the escalator to Airside A. After going through the ticket checkpoint outside the shuttle (very quick line), and going through security, also very quick, I proceeded to Gate A-6.
Continental Airlines Flt. # 1407
Departure Gate A-6
Scheduled Departure: 7:00 am
Pushback: 7:00 am
Takeoff: 7:15 am
Scheduled Arrival: 8:18 am
Touchdown: 8:10 am
Gate Area: 8:15 am
Arrival Gate C-21
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Art Brett
Boarding commenced as I approached the gate area, passing Gate A-3 where there was a Frontier A-319. From my vantage point, it appeared to be the Swan tail.
Photo © Aaron David Mandolesi
As I continue towards A-6, I can hear the announcements already. First Class, elite members, and priority boarding passengers were already onboard. When the agent called for the first ten coach class rows, all I had to do was continue walking to the line. There was quite a crowd lingering around Gate A-6, so I knew this flight would be pretty packed.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
Onboard this flight was an all-young, good-looking female flight attendant crew. I can hear the welcome music playing, which were different mixes of oldies. When I got to my row, I went ahead and put my carry-on (a beach bag) in the overhead bin. I had to be careful as I was carrying a bottle of cologne in the bag. I sat down and looked to my right, which was a Northwest A-320 parked at gate A-7. I also noticed bags being put into the aircraft with the usual “thump” noise. To my left next to the service road, there was a Continental 737-500 and a Continental 757-200 on hardstand. Interestingly, I did not see any Beech 1900’s. As I turn my head back, there was a male who slammed his rolling bag into the bin. Being a little nervous, I decided that I would take my bag out of there, hoping that the cologne bottle was not smashed. I told the guy that I would move his bag over so that I could put my bag underneath the seat. He gave me an eerie look, and said ok. By now, my seatmates have arrived and were ready to put their bags in the overhead bin. A gorgeous female flight attendant came around, offering passengers pillows and blankets. She also stated her name in front of the back cabin, and said that if we needed anything, do not hesitate to call her. (Since when was CO having this type of service?!) Anyhow, a flight attendant came on the P.A. and stated that since this would be a full flight, some passengers may have to take their carry-ons to remote bins.
After an agent walked on board to resolve a passenger issue, we were ready to push back. The cargo bins close, and we start pushing back, only to abruptly stop after an America West A-320 dashed past us. We continue to pushback, turning 180 degrees to face a taxiway, and the monitors from the overhead bins come down to show the safety demonstration. The flight attendants stood in the aisle as the demonstration is being shown. We taxi down taxiway Charlie past the many Southwest planes on hardstand at the former Airside B. One can also notice the half-torn Airside C. We turn left onto another taxiway, past all of the artificial sand dunes on the left side of the aircraft and that tall machine used to grind things into sand (If anyone can clarify this I can greatly appreciate it). We turn right to get into the queue for Runway 18R. This morning there are two WN 733’s in front of us. As we wait in the queue, there is a U.S. Airways Express Dash-8 pulling out of the cargo area (?!). At the time, there was an Emery DC-8 on the ramp. After the second WN 733 started its roll, we put ourselves in position for takeoff. When the WN 733 lifted off, we begun our roll with the usual tossing back into the seat that one experiences on the 757.
After a ten-second roll, we lifted off, immediately followed by the slight right noise-abatement turn. One can see the Courtney Campbell Causeway, the Howard Franklin Bridge, and the Gandy Bridge. When we flew over the Gandy Bridge, we turned 90 degrees to fly over Saint Petersburg. One can see PIE very clearly, as I was able to spot the UPS DC-8’s on the ground.
The captain got on the P.A. and welcomed us onboard, also telling us that the flight will be a little “shaky” as we approach the cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. He also advised that we will be in Houston early and that we have a good flight. After passing the coastline, the flight attendants came around with headsets for $5. I purchased one, as I do plan on reusing it in the future. As the video monitors came down again for ContinentalVision, I put on the headsets and listened to Channel 3, only to have problems as we flew more and more away from mainland. I then changed the channel to watch ContinentalVision, which consisted of an episode of “Home Improvement”, a CNN exclusive on pet hotels, and a Food Channel cooking show on how to make a salmon with what appeared to be French Fries on top of it. Shortly thereafter, the flight attendants commenced a beverage and light breakfast-snack service. I had an orange juice (refilled twice) and a cold honey bun in a plastic wrap. The flight attendant was handing out the honey buns with a tong. After the service, the flight attendants collected the garbage and I went to take a brief nap, taking off the headsets. When I awoke, I can see the mainland again. We had already started descent.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
We crossed over near Galveston and maintained a northerly course. As we approached IAH, there were the landmarks that I had remembered from my last trip, such as the myriad of water towers and lakes. We flew over a subdivision, which was still under construction. One can see the many cul-de-sacs inhabiting the subdivision. About 10 seconds prior to touchdown we flew by a high school, and crossed over the Eastex Freeway. The pilot decided to bring the flaps down all the way prior to touchdown, so the plane’s nose took a dive, thus scaring some passengers. We touch down on runway 27, and the pilot makes good use of the reverse thrusts. We pull off into a taxiway and taxi over the east-west entrance of IAH. To the right side of the aircraft one can see the ongoing construction of Terminal E. We pass by Terminal D, and I get a quick glimpse of the 767-400 that would take me to LAX, parked at Gate D-12. Also parked at Terminal D was the Peter Max 777-200, parked somewhere in between D-5 and D-7. There was the usual array of CO 737s and MD-80s parked at the North Concourse C and D. We pull up to gate, where I wait for about 15 minutes before deplaning.
I get off at Gate C-21 and proceed to the monitors that are across from the CO Customer Service Center. I look for my flight, which will be boarding from Gate D-12. I proceed calmly past a busy food court, and turn left down the D concourse. As I make my trek towards my gate, I almost get ran over by a woman hastily driving a golf cart, honking at everyone to get out of the way. I notice flights on the D concourse going to SJU, CUN, MEX, and LGA. The end of the concourse appears to be dead except for a couple of gate agents waiting for passengers to board the flight to LAX.
Continental Airlines Flt. # 1495
Boeing 767-400 (originally scheduled as a fully-loaded 777-200)
Departure Gate D-12
Scheduled Departure: 9:10 am
Pushback: 9:10 am
Takeoff: 9:30 am
Scheduled Arrival: 8:18 am
Touchdown: 8:10 am
Gate Area: 8:15 am
Arrival Gate 69
Load Factor: 100%
Photo © Ben Wang
The gate area is very secluded. I was unable to spot the 764 from the boarding area. When I approached the gate agents, I asked if the flight was overbooked. (Having booked my tickets originally for the 777-200, the flight was full and then was downgraded to a 764!) A female gate agent told me in her southern/Texan accent, “I’m sorry suga, but today ain’t yer day. But enjoy yer flight to L.A.” Once I past the doors, I had to make a left turn, then a right turn, then down an escalator, then a right turn following the signs to the jetway for D-12.
GROUND, TAXI, AND TAKEOFF:
All I have to say about the 767-400 is “amazing.” It’s been a long time coming for me, having flown my last widebody on a DL 767-200 on TPA-ATL back in early 1997. I would experience the 767-400, which I knew roughly two weeks prior to the trip. The interior gave me the feeling I was flying on a new type, having no significance to the old 762 interiors I’ve experienced with DL.
I was greeted at the door by a middle-aged female flight attendant. She had a smile on her face and her arms side by side, not the usual slouching on the side of the aircraft giving a fake greeting. She directed me down the first aisle to my seat. There were three flight attendants working the rear cabin that were distributing pillows and blankets and introducing themselves to passengers. One female passenger got into a brief conversation with a female flight attendant, commenting on the nice weather that would be anticipated in LAX. There was probably a new flight attendant introduced to this aircraft type, as she was having difficulty using the overhead bins. Another flight attendant directed her to push a little harder to shut the bins. I had no problem operating the overhead bins, as my bag fitted in over my seat area with no problems. I decided to take my seat and observe all of the outside action. I noticed bags being loaded on the rear port side of the aircraft. I also noticed a mobile lounge bus that was pulling out from Concourse D, most likely destined for an international COEX arrival.
This morning I would sit next to a middle-aged woman who came in from RSW. Her adult daughter was sitting on the other side of the aircraft. She marveled at how this aircraft was quite a change from the aircraft she just came in from. She also noticed the PTV’s and was quite confused as to how to operate it. I can hear the same welcome music that I heard from the previous flight. To my right, I notice bags being loaded on the rear portside with the usual “thump” noise. With my arms on the armrest, I realize I was missing the control to my PTV. I wound up looking for the control to my seat. I found my control on the floor, with the cable that connects to it a bit torqued. I fixed it, and the cable with the control slid back into the armrest smoothly.
We were ready to pushback as soon as all of the connecting passengers were onboard. We begin our pushback, turning approximately 300 degrees to line up parallel to Terminal D. During the movement I observe a CO 764 and CO 762 on hardstand, facing Terminal D, chalked up with their port side engines spinning slowly. At the same time the engines started with the usual roaring sounds. With pushback ending and the aircraft on its own, we turn to a taxiway that will lead us directly to the takeoff runways in use. We pass by several COEX ERJs that just arrived on hardstand facing Terminal D. The passengers were disembarking the aircraft and onto the mobile lounges that will take them to Terminal D. We taxi past the northern concourses of Terminal C, Terminal B, and Terminal A. I notice an Allegiant Air MD-80 parked at Terminal A, along with a United Airlines 737-300, which had the “Shuttle By United” scheme pushing back. There was also a Southwest 737-200 pushing back, destined for DAL. We taxi past the fire station to our right and into the newly constructed holding area for runways 15L and 15R. There is quite a queue line ahead of us, a series of COEX ERJs, CO 737s, and one CO 757. We briefly hold for several aircraft ahead of us to take-off nearly simultaneous. I notice that an aircraft on 15L will start to roll followed by an aircraft on 15R. To my right I notice an ERJ with its pilots having a discussion of some sort as both are using a lot of hand movement. After a hold of about ten minutes we move straight ahead into position onto 15R. An automated aural announcement comes over the P.A. system, stating, “Flight attendants, please take your seats for take-off.” After a CO 737-800 starts its quick roll, we begin our roll. The 767-400 is quite more powerful than I had anticipated. As the CO 738 lifted off and immediately did a left turn, we lift off and do an immediate right turn. There is a good view of Downtown Houston as the aircraft lines up for its GPS route to LAX. I turn over to the ceiling monitors, which show “Ground Speed 288 M.P.H., Altitude 2000 feet.” Another look outside the window shows what will be a near-cloudless flight.
After passing through 10,000 feet and the use of electronics is allowed, the flight attendants issue headsets. I take my headset purchased from my previous flight out of my pocket for use with the PTVs. A video was shown on how to use the PTVs.
Even with the video being shown, there were passengers who still did not have a clue as to how to use them. The woman sitting next to me kept asking me how to use it. She wasn’t alone. Just about three-fourth of the passengers in the rear cabin were going around, asking each other how to operate the PTV’s. I was a bit confused myself, so I was unable to provide much help to the others. The flight attendants then make an announcement that the movies will start shortly. Finally, everything seems to work well. “Catch me if you can” was being shown on Channel 2, and “Maid In Manhattan” was being shown on Channel 4. I decided I would watch “Maid in Manhattan” for this flight.
After everyone’s qualms about the PTVs were settled, the flight attendants came around with a light breakfast service. The service consisted of a cereal (Special K) with a banana and milk in a plastic white basket tray. I drank Minute Maid Orange Juice with the light meal. After the service, I continued to watch the movie, with the occasional glimpse outside the aircraft to view the desert lands. The flight attendants were very attentive after the service, coming around with two more beverage cart runs, and then switching to water on trays.
After “Maid In Manhattan” finished, I switched it to Channel 2 to catch the ending of “Catch me if you can”. The flight attendants came around with trash collection, and I looked up at the ceiling monitors, which showed the aircraft had already started descent into LAX, 20 minutes out.
APPROACH, LANDING, AND TAXI TO GATE:
Some flaps were brought down when we were around 9000 feet. I did notice that the raked wingtips did a little pivoting (probably part of the wing flex). During descent, I got a glimpse of Palm Springs Airport and the mountain range overlooking the city, El Toro Airport, John Wayne Airport, and Long Beach Airport. I saw another airport but I don’t know if that was Ontario or not. Anyhow, flying over Los Angeles was a good sightseeing tour, with many canals, residences, and freeways dotting the path. Before touching down, we fly over a soccer/track field, the San Diego Freeway (?), and a vintage warbird restaurant before touching down on Runway 25L. We reverse-thrust past most of the cargo terminals before pulling into a high-speed taxiway. Looking behind, I can see that a United Airlines 747-400 landed right after us. As we taxi past the Tom Bradley Terminal, I can see two Korean Air 744s and two Qantas 744s parked together in the south concourse. In the north concourse of TBIT, there are two Air Tahiti Nui A340s. In the center of the concourse are buses waiting for passengers to be transported to the individual satellite terminals. At the individual satellite terminals, there are two Qantas 744s. There are also a myriad of American Eagle Saab 340s at its satellite terminal. We taxi past Terminal 4 were there are plenty of AA 757s. We taxi past Terminal 5 were there are DL 738s, 757s, 767s, and 1 MD-11. As we approach Terminal 6, there is a lone CO 73G parked at the “newer” portion of the pier. We pull into gate 69, with another United Airlines 747-400 parked a couple of jetways down from us.
I go down the jetway and into Terminal 6, and whoa, what a blast of the past! It felt like I was in the ‘60s for a moment. I notice most of the ceiling P.A.’s didn’t work because there was an announcement for a United Airlines flight and I could hear it through a speaker that was placed on top of the gate desk. Anyhow, I make my way towards the baggage claim area, passing by the central “dome” that dot most of the old terminals at LAX. I go down the escalator and to the left was the sole Continental Airlines baggage carousel (Bag Claim 5). We were sharing the carousel with another CO arrival from CLE, but this carousel was big, so there wasn’t an issue of crowding. I got my bag swiftly and headed outside to catch the Green Bus Line to the Aviation Station of the Metro Rail Line. I would stay in L.A. for the E.R.A.U. trip to A.A.A.E. (American Association of Airport Executives).
-I can definitely tell that there are some flight attendants who actually care and enjoy their positions (as I have experienced).
-The E-ticket/desk combination setup at TPA cancels the efficiency of what E-ticket was designed for (waited in line too long).
-The 767-400 was a phenomenal plane!! It’s nice to have widebody aircraft every now and then on domestic routes. Although I wish I still experienced the 777-200.
-Terminal 6 at LAX definitely reminded me of the older terminals at JFK. I noticed there are some light bulbs missing out of the sockets on the ceiling. Cost-cutting measure?
-Also at Terminal 6, there was a group of escalators that lead down to an underground level, although it was blocked off. Was this the old way to get to the baggage claim before the upper-level connector, or “newer” portion of the pier, was built (before 1984 Olympics)?
I would write a return trip report but my summer has been very busy. I’ve had no time at all. But, I can tell you that I flew the 764 to IAH and a 739 (first time) to TPA. The 739 is a good plane, probably better than the 752 in my opinion. Both flights were adequate, and although the service was attentive, it was not as attentive as the previous two flights.