Continental Flt. 314
Dallas/Ft. Worth-Houston Intercontinental
Scheduled/Actual Dep. Time: 7:00AM/7:02AM
Scheduled/Actual Arr. Time: 8:02AM/8:17AM
Flight time: 1:15
Departure Gate: E9
Arrival Gate: C38
Photo © Morris Biondi
I arrived at DFW at around 5:30AM. This was my first time departing on Continental since they moved to Terminal E. There was no line at the check-in kiosks and I was able to move to a bulkhead seat for my flight to IAH, but there was only a non-recline exit row window for my flight to San Jose. So for the time being I decided to keep my window seat in the back of the cabin for the flight to SJC. The chatty agent checked my bags through to SJC, however she never checked my ID (oops!). I proceeded through security in a couple of minutes, and proceeded to the Presidents Club.
The new President's Club at DFW is pretty nice and I was surprised on how big it actually was. I grabbed a plain bagel and got some orange juice, unfortunately they don't start serving alcohol until 7AM--I wanted to get something with alcohol in my system so that I would be able to sleep on my flight to San Jose. I sat down by one of the windows and watched the 6:00AM NW flight pull out for its flight to MSP. After leafing through the Star Telegram for about half an hour I proceeded to E9 for boarding. On the way out I had the greeter in the front of the President's Club print out new boarding passes so I wouldn't have to deal with the cheap, flimsy ones I got from the kiosk.
On my way to the gate I noticed that my OnePass number was not noted on my boarding passes, so I had to make a quick stop to have the gate agent put it in the system. Boarding was announced at around 6:30. Since I was in the bulkhead row of the 737, I had to wait for the close-to-full load to board before they called for all rows.
I settled into my seat only to find that the guy sitting next to me was a bit on the portly side. It didn't matter too much considering that its only an hour or so down to IAH. Unfortunately, he was sitting next to a business associate of his and they were talking loudly during the entire flight, making sleep impossible. We taxiied out and after a short wait, only a few planes were ahead of us, we took off to the north before making a quick turn southward. Despite the fact that there was moderate turbulence the entire flight, the flight attendants served a choice of drinks. Last month, on the same segment on AA, the flight attendants didn't even make an attempt to serve drinks. I leafed through Michael Savage's first book and got through about fifty pages before we began our descent into IAH.
Unfortunately, like most flights from DFW/DAL I have been on with Continental/Express we landed on a runway (I don't know which number) that was about a 20 minute taxi to the terminal. I was a bit disappointed that we did not park at Terminal E, but my flight to San Jose was out of C36, so it wasn't too bad, at least I didn't have a long walk ahead of me.
Continental Flt. 1731
Houston Intercontinental-San Jose
Scheduled/Actual Dep. Time: 9:23AM/9:20AM
Scheduled/Actual Arr. Time: 11:33AM/10:58AM
Flight Time: 3:38
Departure Gate: C36
Arrival Gate: C17
Photo © Jerry Search
After deplaning my flight from DFW, I proceeded to the P-Club next to C33. I entered and the greeter insisted on seeing my ID, not believing that I was 21. The club itself was packed, with what mostly looked vacationers. The Presidents Club looked modern, but it was a bit run down. After getting a well-concocted screwdriver from the bar I was lucky to find a seat next to a window where I continued to read my Star Telegram and made a couple calls on my phone. Three screwdrivers later, I was on my way back to C36, where boarding was already well in progress. I decided that I was willing to sacrifice recline for leg room and changed my seat to 12F.
I was pleased to find that the middle seat was unoccupied after the door closed. The announced movie on today's flight was scheduled to be "X-Men"...no thanks. On departure, we were behind about 10 planes for the runway, but the line went quickly. After takeoff, the flight attendants started the movie and came the aisles through to serve the meal. Today's meal consisted of Corn Flakes, milk, and a good sized ripe banana (how often do you get that today!?). After the trash was collected, I fell asleep, but I awoke a few minutes later to see the guy next to me trying to close the shades because he was trying to watch the movie. I slept for about an hour and a half and didn't wake up until we were over the mountains in Nevada.
We were well ahead of schedule and since the movie was over I watched the beautiful landscape slip below me. The captain came over the PA and announced that since we were so ahead of schedule and our slot at SJC was occupied, he was instead going to take the plane down to 16,000 ft. and give us an aerial tour of Yosemite National Park. The weather was clear and the views were absolutely stunning as the captain completed a series of S-turns and pointed out various features of the park. Twenty minutes later, we were back on our way to San Jose, cutting through the valleys on approach. We turned onto final and got a great view of downtown San Jose before touching down. The flight attendant got on the PA and asked us to thank the captain for the tour of Yosemite to which everyone applauded, then asked us wish the Rice University baseball team who was also on our flight good luck for their game--to which no one applauded.
We pulled onto the tarmac and the airstairs were pulled up to the forward door. We walked the short distance to the disappointing terminal and proceeded to baggage claim. Interestingly, the conveyor belts at San Jose are very small and the belt got congested with luggage quickly. I collected my small roll-away bag, and was looking for my small tripod bag. It never came. They put it on the "oversized luggage" belt, how a small two and a half foot tripod bag is considered oversized luggage, I will never know. But at least it arrived.
I walked across the busy terminal access road and hopped on the courtesy bus to the really, really crappy Hyatt San Jose.
I spent the remainder of the day in “exciting” downtown San Jose before going to the Islanders-Sharks game in the evening.
Southwest Flt. 1610
San Jose-Los Angeles
Scheduled/Actual Dep. Time: 8:30AM/8:35AM
Scheduled/Actual Arr. Time: 9:45AM/9:42AM
Flight Time: 1:07
Departure Gate: A3
Arrival Gate: 2
Photo © Dimitris Triadafillou
The hotel courtesy van pulled up to Terminal A shortly after 7AM. I made a resolution to myself not to criticize Southwest too much considering that my one-way ticket cost less than $40. I proceeded up the escalator to the check-in counter where I stood on line for 15 minutes before being assisted. When I finally got to the agent, she didn’t have any of that fabled Southwest charm. I wrongly stated that I was on the flight left at 8:30AM to Los Angeles. After looking for my reservations for several minutes, she tersely responded that they don’t have a flight to LAX at 8:30. Sorry, my fault, 8:45AM. I was lucky enough to get a boarding card in group A, and quickly proceeded through security to the airside part of the terminal. I went to the McDonald’s and got a Sausage McMuffin off the limited menu. For some odd reason, they only serve Egg McMuffins, Sausage McMuffins, and hotcakes. No bacon, no biscuits, go figure. I then settled in at an internet terminal and responded to my email until boarding was announced.
I slipped in front of a couple people in the ’A’ group boarding line and they either didn’t notice or didn’t care. Once aboard, I settled down in the first forward facing window seat on the left hand side of the aircraft. I was hoping the rear-facing seat across from me would go unoccupied, and the woman sitting next to me actually voiced these sentiments. Slightly believing in karma, I’m glad I held my tongue. It turned out that a couple sat across from us, using the middle and the aisle seat. I had an empty seat across from me to stretch my legs out on. Multiple times during the pre-flight announcements the flight attendant referred to our flight as Ontario-bound only to have to correct herself, not only that but she read the safety briefing off a sheet. I guess she was new.
Once aloft, the flight attendants came through the aisles to offer us a choice of water or orange juice. The woman next to me asked for coffee, the response she got was “We’ll see.” Of course, the flight attendant never returned until it was time to come through the aisle to collect the trash. I tried to fall asleep, but the woman next to me was chatting loudly with the woman in the aisle seat about her mansion and her husband’s great job. Later in the flight, when the woman still hadn’t received her cup of coffee, she remarked that this is why she always flies American Eagle to LAX. The skies were relatively clear and I had a nice view of inland California. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles area was shrouded in low clouds which precluded me from getting a nice view on the approach. Not surprisingly, we touched down on the north complex after holding for a few takeoffs, we quickly taxied to Terminal 1. Since I was in the second row, I was able to get off the aircraft quickly, only to have to wait half an hour for my luggage to arrive.
Los Angeles was a lot of fun, I visited a cousin of mine, went to a non-sunny beach, saw a hockey game (Islanders beat the Ducks!), and took a lot of pictures at LAX. Unfortunately, at LAX there was only about 8 hours total of sunshine during my stay.
Continental Flt. 1746
Los Angeles-Houston Intercontinental
Scheduled/Actual Dep. Time: 1:30AM/1:25AM
Scheduled/Actual Arr. Time: 6:30AM/6:11AM
Flight Time: 2:46
Departure Gate: 62
Arrival Gate: E6
Photo © Paul Harvey
Having to drop my rental car off at 8:30PM in order to avoid getting charged for an extra day, I had a bit of extra time on my hands. I had already checked in online earlier in the evening at a Kinko’s I had already secured my precious door-exit row window for the red-eye to IAH, I just had to stop by the counter to check my luggage. There were only two agents at the counter, but no line. The woman who checked my luggage had a very thick Filipino accent and I could not understand her instructions to remove the strap from my tripod bag. At this time, the agent got really pissed off, took the bag right out of my hand and took the strap off. Geez. Like all flights departing LAX, you have to have your bag checked by the TSA in the terminal before it can be placed on the conveyor belt to airside. With nothing better to do, I headed to the parking deck across from the Tom Bradley International Terminal and took some pretty good night pictures by balancing my camera on the top of the third story wall (an accident just waiting to happen). Police were all over the place, so I counted my lucky stars not to have an encounter. Although, LAX police, to their credit are very friendly and will usually just ask to check your ID. By 10:30, it was cold, and nothing was scheduled to arrive or depart for a long while, so I decided to go back to Terminal 6 and head to the Presidents Club, which mercifully was open until 1AM. The LAX metal detectors always seem to be set on extra-sensitive and this time was no different, it turns out my evil belt-buckle was the culprit this time.
Terminal 6 is very disappointing, its an early 80s relic, but at least its fairly clean, and it was uncongested at that time of the night with the only departing flights being mine to Houston, Cleveland, and Panama as well as a few United red eyes. Before heading to the President’s Club, I made a quick stop at the gift shop and bought my girlfriend a tacky present (an Emmy award trophy with the subtitle “World’s Greatest Girlfriend.”) and hammered out a couple emails from an internet terminal next to a United gate.
The woman at the desk of the Presidents Club was very friendly as she checked my ID and reprinted my boarding passes. She asked how I enjoyed my time in California and what I was doing out here. Admittedly, I was dressed relatively inappropriately for the Presidents Club--my fraternity’s baseball style shirt, khaki shorts, a baseball hat, and flip-flops. From the few passengers in the club, I got the “What the hell are you doing here?” look. I didn’t mind, I just wanted to unwind and read more of my Michael Savage book before boarding the flight in a few hours. I asked for a Vodka and lime juice from the attendant at the bar, but instead got a really, really, really strong screwdriver. After wincing down a couple sips, I brought it to the tray at the snack bar and returned to the bar for the first of a few Heineken’s (you can’t mess those up!) and settled down with my book glancing out the window to check out the Delta red-eyes departing.
At 1:00AM the Presidents Club representative announced that the club was closing and that we should proceed to gate 62 for immediate boarding to Houston. I made a quick call to my parents who were vacationing in Hawaii and boarded the flight which only appeared to be half full. I was extremely happy to have landed 7A, the best coach seat on the 24F version of the 757. it’s the door exit row, which also happens to be the door utilized for boarding. Lots of legroom, and a well placed window (rare for the exit row). I was also pleased to find the middle seat empty after the door had closed in front of me. The only unfortunate thing is that this 757 was not equipped with winged headrests. We quickly taxied to the east end of the airport for takeoff, and were aloft in a matter of minutes after leaving the gate. Once we were in the air, the captain announced that if we needed to use the lavatory to use it now because the seatbelt sign would be on for the rest of the flight because moderate turbulence had been reported from Arizona all the way to Texas.
I fell asleep before snack was served, which from glancing into the galley appeared to be packets of pretzels and beverages. When I woke up, we had begun our rocky descent into IAH with the sun beginning to come over the horizon. Like at LAX, the ceilings were very low at IAH, and it seemed like we were only at 500 ft. when the runway became visible. Once on the ground, I was pleased to hear that we would be arriving at the “new” terminal E. At the gate, I was first in line to exit of 2L, that would be the case if three elderly Chinese women didn’t shove me out of the way.
Continental Flt. 1815
Scheduled/Actual Dep. Time: 7:50AM/7:52AM
Scheduled/Actual Arr. Time: 8:59AM/9:03AM
Flight Time: 1:11
Departure Gate: E20
Arrival Gate: E9
Photo © Andy P. Jung
After being fourth off the 757, I made my way down the beautiful new terminal to the Presidents Club in between the two fingers of Concourse E. The agent welcomed me to the Presidents Club, checked my ID, pulled out a binder and wrote something down--what it was I don’t know (probably about the way I was dressed ). The Concourse E Presidents Club is great, its three stories, newly furnished, with great views of the tarmac. I grabbed a glass of water, a muffin, and a copy of the Houston Chronicle and relaxed. I gave a fleeting thought to taking a shower since I hadn‘t had one in about 20 hours, but I find something odd about taking showers at airports. Forty-five minutes later I was on my way to the gate.
Our flight to Dallas was nearly completely full with a lot of families returning from Hawaii and the South Pacific. I sat down at the gate and read my paper until final boarding was called. There was considerable turbulence throughout the flight although that didn’t stop the flight attendants from offering beverage service. I was pretty wiped out, but stayed awake thanks to my portly neighbor taking up the armrest to the left of me. Eventually, I gave up trying to sleep, and read my book instead. Unfortunately, the winds were from the south at DFW and we had to overfly the airport and then make our approach from the north. Usually, if you are just coming from the south and the winds at DFW are from the north, the flight is usually only around 45 minutes. After an incredibly smooth landing we taxied to the gate. It took about a day and a half for the bags finally to appear on the conveyor belt, incredibly there were about twenty coolers on our flight which came up before my bags did. All of them were transfers at GUM or HNL, so I assume a lot of people brought some fish back to be stuffed.
It was a great trip (although I suppose a trip to Europe would‘ve been better). Continental didn’t disappoint, as usual. And Southwest, well, you get what you pay for.