Continental Express Flt. 2088 (op. by ExpressJet)
Dallas Love Field-Houston Bush Intercontinental (DAL-IAH)
Scheduled Dep.-Arr. Time: 11:25AM-12:25PM
Actual Dep.-Arr. Time: 11:33AM-12:37PM
Dep. Gate: 27
Arr. Gate: B69
Flight Time: 1:04
Photo © Nicolas St-Germain
I arrived at Love Field a couple of hours before my flight was scheduled to depart to Houston. The agents had just finished dispatching the previous flight to IAH as I arrived at the queue-less ticket counter. I requested an exit row window seat and recieved 12C. Not exactly ideal, as I prefer any seat on single seat side of the aircraft before any seat, including exit row, on the double seat side. Instead, I decided that I would try my luck at the gate. I went through security with no problems, and headed up the escalator to the tiny gate area. Continental has two gates at DAL, scaled down from three (when they were still operating CLE-DAL), which is on the other side of the airport from WN's large operation. In the CO part of the terminal the only concession airside is a small cafe.
I read a book and watched the meager DAL traffic from the window for the next hour and a half. The ERJ arrived from IAH 30 minutes before our flight was to leave. With still no sign of a gate agent to try to change my seat assignment. Instead, I exited through security and went out to the front counter. I asked the guy behind the desk if there was any exit row seats availible on the one seat side of the aircraft, preferably 1A (the best seat on CO's ERJs), when the woman who was working at the next position said quite emphatically that 1A was not availible. I told the agent that any seat on the single seat side of aircraft would be okay, and he handed me a boarding pass for 5A.
We boarded the aircraft on time and I was quite annoyed to see that 1A had not been occupied. Clearly, it had not been assigned to anyone, and it was apparent that the ticket agent was planning on assigning it to a deadheading crew member (which seem to be a fixture on DAL-IAH flights) instead of a paying passenger. The only advantage I suppose to not recieving 1A is that I did not have to gate check my bag, which might have caused me to miss my connecting flight.
My experiences with Continental Express flight attendants have either been feast or famine....damn good or damn awful. This woman was definitely the latter, and one of the worst F/As I have ever flown with. During the entire flight she was wearing a big black puffy Fubu jacket over her uniform...no joke. I doubt that it would be very fire resistant. It would've been okay if she was just wearing it during boarding because DAL was a bit nippy that day....but the entire flight. C'mon! This woman...errr...girl (I really think at age 20, I was older than her) also had an indecipherable Spanish accent which made the safety briefing nearly impossible to understand. That and the fact that the PA system kept fading in and out. We took off and made the quick easterly turn to avoid the city, about a minute later, I looked out the window and I could see SMU and the block that my parents house is on in Dallas. Unfortunately, due to the trees, I could only see my specific street and not the houses on the block.
Once airborne, Christina came through the cabin to offer us drinks and peanuts. As she came to my seat, this was her question, "Drink?" "Peanuts?" I recieved the whole can of Coke and two packets of peanuts. The ERJ is reasonably comfortable as long as you are seated on the single seat side of the aircraft. All of the seats are either light blue, dark blue, or gray leather. They are quite narrow, but despite that, I think that they are some of the best for a commuter airline.
The actual flying time to IAH was only around 45 minutes, but unfortunately, since we landed on the opposite end of IAH, we had to taxi by way of China to get to our gate.
Continental Flt. 50
Houston Bush Intercontinental-Newark Liberty (IAH-EWR)
Scheduled Dep.-Arr. Time: 1:15PM-5:45PM
Actual Dep.-Arr. Time: 1:17PM-5:23PM
Departure Gate: D4
Arrival Gate: 136
Flight Time: 3:06
Photo © Royal S King
I had only a forty minutes to make my connection at IAH, but something was holding me back...the fact I did not eat breakfast that morning. After jumping on the TerminalLink to the mainline concourse, I headed over to the food court in Terminal C. From previous experiences, I knew that the fast food at IAH is weak at best, but I was in a rush, so I had to find the counter with the smallest line. I ended up grabbing a cheese pizza at Pizza Inn and wolfed it down at a table in about five minutes before resuming my trek to Terminal D.
Luckily, I made it to the gate just as the gate agents were announcing the final boarding call. Although the 777 looked nearly fully booked when I checked the numbers the previous night, it was only 70% filled by the time I stepped aboard. We pushed back on time for what would become a fairly annoying flight.
After takeoff we were served a rather delicious, albeit small, warm pastrami and cheese melt with Ruffles and an apple. It was a nice break from the usual meatloaf or breaded chicken sandwich that is usually served. Following our snack, I fiddled with the PTV only to see that like every other US airline and like my previous CO flights, the only movies showing are of the B-rate action and romantic comedy variety. I decided that a nap was definitely in order, and just tuned my PTV to the airshow. While were still at the gate I didn't realize that the man sitting next to me was mentally disabled, I just thought he had a strange look to him. Unfortunately, he didn't quite seem to grasp the concept of personal space as his legs were stretched out in my way and one of them was under my seat for nearly the entire flight. His caregiver in 41C obviously didn't notice or didn't care. I decided not to raise an issue of it, and I just stared out the window and read a book most of the trip.
Upon further review, despite my misgivings about previous CO 777 flights in economy, it actually isn't too bad (despite the poor PTV offerings). The seats are fairly comfortable and supportive although a bit narrow. Again, I do wish that they had personal A/C vents as it can become a bit stuffy.
Following a smooth touchdown at EWR, the captain informed us that we were instructed to hold at the hard stand until our gate became available. If you are in the rear of the cabin, as I was, it takes about a day and a half to disembark from the aircraft. As a matter of fact, by the time I got off the plane and got to baggage claim, my luggage was already on the carousel. Either it took a long time to disembark the aircraft or the Continental ground staff at EWR was working extra hard…and I know from past trips to EWR that the latter definitely was not true.
Continental Flt. 807
Newark Liberty-Washington Reagan National (EWR-DCA)
Scheduled Dep.-Arr. Time: 3:45PM-4:49PM
Actual Dep.-Arr. Time: 4:11PM-5:03PM
Departure Gate: 82
Arrival Gate: 11
Flight Time: 0:52
Seat: 14F (moved to 17E)
Photo © Tim Samples
I took the AirTrain from Penn Station and arrived at EWR a couple hours before my scheduled departure. I arrived at the check-in counters, which are all now kiosks, just in time to see a man and a Continental agent in an animated argument over the fact that he was not allowed to check in since he arrived 10 minutes before his scheduled departure. The police were called over to escort the man out of the airport. He was absolutely irate when he was informed that because of this disturbance he might not be to fly out for the rest of the day. Despite the fact that all the check-in counters are now operated by kiosks, it was still a good 15 minute wait before I could check in. I’m not a big kiosk fan because of the cheap reciept-style paper that the boarding passes are printed on. However, unlike some other airlines, CO at least allows you to select exit row seating at the kiosk--which I did for my DCA-IAH and IAH-DAL (allowing me to garner my precious 1A seat) legs.
After checking my luggage, I headed to the security checkpoint where the idiots at the TSA were in their true moronic form. As I placed my backpack on the belt. The woman told me to place my shoes on the belt. I explained to her that I knew as a fact that my shoes did not contain any metal and therefore it was not necessary (it is not a requirement anywhere that you must put your shoes through the X-ray machine). I said, “No. They do not contain anything metal. I guarantee you.” She said, “You must do this. It is a requirement. We can do this the easy way or the hard way.” I was rather angry at this point, but not to the point where I wanted to risk missing the flight. I took off my shoes and slammed them in the plastic container.
I continued down to the gate, and marveled again at the job that Newark had done renovating the terminal. Its still not world class, but at least they didn’t half-ass it. When I arrived at C82, I asked the gate agent to reprint my boarding passes (my copier tends to tear the receipt-style paper). Which she gladly obliged after I told her about my copier. Before the flight boarded, I walked down to the end of the terminal and took a few pictures of some aircraft taxiing. I checked the flight information board only to notice that the next two Express flights to IAD were cancelled, I didn’t really give it much thought.
Once on board, the man sitting next to me asked if I would mind trading seats with his wife who was in 17E. A middle seat. I didn’t really care, I thought that I would probably be able to get a window or aisle seat because the flight was not full at all when I was looking at the seat map at the kiosk. I stood in the rear galley for several minutes and explained to the flight attendant that I was just going to wait until everyone was seated in order to avoid the middle seat. She then explained that the flight would be full because of the IAD cancellations, so I might as well go sit down. The middle seat wasn’t too bad, as I was seated between two rather attractive blondes. Before the flight several announcements were made as to the fact that we were flying to DCA and that no one could get up for the last 30 minutes of the flight. The captain then came on the PA and announced that if anyone needed to use the toilet that they should do it before push back because the seat belt sign would be on during the entire flight. In front of me was a Chinese man who clearly did not understand English. He didn’t buckle his seat belt until the flight was on its takeoff roll and only re-buckled his seatbelt when the flight was on final approach (rather dangerous…read on). I was worried that he would get us diverted with military escorts.
Once we took off, the flight attendants came through the cabin to offer people their choice of drinks, but no snack was offered. As we began our descent into DCA, the captain again came on the PA to announce that there were 25mph winds with 35mph gusts at the airport, therefore we should expect a rocky landing. Rocky didn’t even begin to describe the approach. As we flew over D.C. on our downwind leg (with a beautiful view of the National Mall, the Washington monument and the Capitol) we were rocked by strong wind gusts. The girl in the window seat was giving the armrest a death grip and had a deathly look on her face. As we made our turn onto final we had several abrupt drops in altitude and the captain slammed the aircraft on the runway as we bounced three times before staying on the ground for good.
We taxied to the gate and I looked at my watch, 5:03PM… It looked like my connecting flight might be a pretty tight connection.
Continental Flt. 1259
Washington Reagan National-Houston Bush Intercontinental (DCA-IAH)
Scheduled Dep.-Arr.: 5:20PM-7:34PM
Actual Dep.-Arr.: 5:31PM-7:36PM
Departure Gate: 14
Arrival Gate: C24
Flight Time: 3:05
Photo © Tony Zeljeznjak
After I disembarked flight 807, I sprinted down a couple gates to gate 14 to make my connecting flight. As it turns out, there were quite a few IAH connecting passengers onboard the EWR-DCA flight. It turns out I could’ve taken my time, and at least used the restroom before boarding, but I did not want to chance it. I settled into 14A, which does not have a seat in front of it, so I had plenty of legroom. Very comfortable! The same guy who asked me to trade seats with his wife was sitting next to me, again. Luckily, he said he wasn’t going to ask me to move. Good, because I probably would’ve said no. I don’t care if I’m stuck in a middle seat for an hour flight, but 3 hours on a 737...I’d prefer an exit row, or at least some form of monetary compensation. We took off to the north and there was very little turbulence because the captain had the throttle around 100% until we were at 10,000 feet. Again, the same DCA rule was in effect, and no one was allowed out of their seat until 30 minutes after takeoff.
The flight attendants came through the cabin to offer us “dinner”--which turned out to be a cold turkey or ham sandwich, with potato chips, and a small nugget of chocolate. I removed the damp lettuce from the sandwich and it was quite bearable, perhaps because I did not eat lunch. Following the meal and beverage service, the flight attendants came through the cabin for headset purchases. Tonight’s movie was X2--no thanks. Instead, I focused on studying for my MIS final and flipped through the Continental in-flight magazine. About an hour and a half before landing, I fell asleep, only to be awakened by the flap movements on our descent to IAH.
Houston Bush Intercontinental-Dallas Love Field (IAH-DAL)
Scheduled Dep.-Arr.: 9:10PM-10:01PM
Actual Dep.-Arr.: 9:31PM-10:19PM
Departure Gate: B72A
Arrival Gate: 27
Flight Time: 0:48
Photo © Jorge Rocafort
With an hour and a half to kill at IAH, I decided to get some real dinner. Harlon’s BBQ in terminal B. Following dinner, I walked down to my gate. The gate areas in Terminal B are pretty disappointing, as there are not enough seats for the 12 gates that they cram in the small pier and there are only a few windows. Therefore, I found myself standing up and reading a newspaper until boarding was announced.
Before I boarded, I gate checked my backpack because of there is no overhead space near 1A. I took my seat on the full ERJ and watched the galley to the right of me as a food service guy hurriedly replenished the galley, slamming the cabinets open and closed. Unfortunately, he didn’t close one of them all of the way. As we were taxiing out, I was thrilled to look back and see the winglets on the ERJ. My first trip on an XR! (the cabin is the exact same style as the normal ERJ)
With very little traffic, we were on the runway promptly and powered up for takeoff. It was one of the smoothest takeoffs I could ever remember. Then I looked to my right, saw a cabinet open and a gallon jug of water came crashing out of an upper cabinet and burst on the floor, splashing everything in the galley. Apparently, the flight attendant did not think much of it when she returned to the galley from her jumpseat. The water had traveled to the rear of the cart storage as the nose was up. She began serving people drinks and handing out packets of peanuts. Once the ERJ leveled off at 28,000 feet, however, the water began to creep back into the rubber-floored galley and aisle while she was still in the back of the aircraft. When she returned, she wiped up the giant puddles of water that were in the galley.
It was a relatively clear night as we flew over downtown Dallas on our approach to Love Field. Again, I saw my block, but it was nighttime and I certainly was not going to be able to spot my parent’s house. Once on the ground at DAL, I collected my backpack and walked down to the baggage claim where I saw the same man from my earlier flights. He thanked me again for surrendering my seat to his wife on the flight to EWR. I collected my luggage, which I was concerned didn’t make it on the flight to IAH, and headed for the exits to drive back to school.
This trip overall was pretty good, Continental didn't really disappoint me, although the first flight wasn't good by any stretch of the imagination.