August 18 2004
Orlando – Newark
Boeing 737-800 (N17244) – Suppose to be a 737-700
Scheduled Departure Time: 13:20
Actual Departure Time: 13:50
Scheduled Arrival Time: 16:05
Actual Arrival Time: 16:15 (Parked at 16:25)
Photo © William A. Jones
Check In: I arrived at check in and went straight to an e-ticket machine. The machine flashed upgrades for both flights and I was able to adjust my seat selection to my liking. As my boarding passes were being printed an agent came over to me and asked where I was heading and proceeded to label my check in bag. Once she checked my I.D, I dropped off my bag at the TSA machine and headed towards security. With no line I was on the tram towards the gates within no time.
As the train pulled up to the main terminal, I saw workers on the roof of the terminal. I took this as a sign that the terminal suffered at the hands of Hurricane Charley that hit central Florida a few days ago. I did not realize how bad it was until I stepped into the gate area. The sight was sobering, tiles were ripped open, the roof was leaking and the carpet was soaked. Half of the chairs were covered with plastic and huge cans of plaster from the roof were all over the place.
Boarding: As boarding was scheduled for 12:35, I arrived at the gate at 12:40 thinking boarding was about to begin. However that was not the case as there was no plane at gate number 9! I quickly checked the monitors to find out that the plane was going to land from Newark at 13:06. Even with the impending late arrival, the monitor continued to say “Scheduled.” This is typical of MCO, half of the time the monitors are displaying incorrect information.
Boarding commended at 13:20, our scheduled departure time. I was not by the greeted by a male Puerto Rican flight attendant who just stared at the ground. I took my seat and read the in-flight magazine while the coach passengers walked by. Once all the coach passengers had boarded, a middle-aged African American flight attendant came around with a tray of ice cold water. She also added “I can get you something else if you prefer?”.
Soon the jet-way was pulled back at 13:40, but was re-attached three minutes later and the door was opened. An Irish family of four came running through the door all sweaty. The door was closed as they tried to take their seats while trying to store their luggage in the already filled overhead bins. At that moment the Puerto Rican flight attendant decided to make a smart ass comment over the P.A.
“Once those select few passengers decide to take their seats we can leave!”
I was shocked at that comment. You do not make comments like that no matter how late the passengers are. After all, they were just trying to store their luggage which is a regulation. After he put the P.A. down he comes over to the couple and says:
“Do you want to get off the plane? Cause if you don’t, you need to take your seats now. Otherwise you need to get off the plane!”
As the entire First Class section watched this theatrical display by the arrogant flight attendant, the lady tried to get a word in while the F/A is going off at them.
“Look, let me try to explain to you what happened. We were booked on the 14:45 flight but when we got to check-in; they asked us if we did not mind getting on this one. We agreed and ran to the gate. The jet-way was pulling away at that point, so we told them it is all right, we will just take the 14:45. Instead they insisted we get on and re-attached the jet-way back. The moment we got on you do not help us store our bags nor do you tell us anything, instead you decide to make smart-alec comments on the PA. We were doing what Continental told us, we were agreeing to their wish, and because of that we are treated like second class citizens by you.”
The flight attendant paid no attention to them and just walked away. We push back and Gordon Bethune appears on the screen again, but he is abruptly stopped in his tracks and the video is fast forwarded to the safety briefing. We took off a short while later.
The Flight: After takeoff the movie screens were lowered for “Starsky & Hutch.” Being uninterested I instead I tuned into Channel 7 for some good music. The African American flight attendant came around took and took our drink orders and returned with a glass of ice tea and a packet of pretzels.
Glasses were refilled and she did a good job of walking around and refilling our glasses. She had a continuous smile on her face and with plenty of “your welcome.” At this point the Irish man asked for a comment card and this blonde flight attendant came and gave it to him. Now I have no problem with people chewing gum, but god, this flight attendant was chewing her gum like a cow grazing in a field; wide, loud and wet. The guy asked for the Puerto Rican’s name and she gave it to him. Back in the galley the blonde F/A asked the Puerto Rican F/A what happened, and while I could not hear what he was telling her, there was a lot of arm waving and loud words. So the blonde flight attendants decides to head over to the couple.
“So what happened? He says he did nothing wrong.”
The lady went on to tell her what happened and the comments he made about them.
“Well by FAA regulations you need to be seated so the plane can push back. You were not seated so he told you to sit down.”
“If ‘do you want to get off the aircraft’ means ‘sit down,’ he needs some lessons in manners.”
“Well what did you expect him to do?”
“We expected him not to snap at us especially for something that we were not responsible for. He could have apologized for his comments, which would have made a world of difference, instead he decided to snap at us for something that was out of our control. There is just no excuse for his rudeness, especially since we were trying to help Continental out by volunteering to take the earlier flight to free up some seats.”
The blonde nodded her head and walks away snapping her jaw like a St. Bernard.
Arrival & Transit: Decent started around 15:45 into a cloudy New Jersey. It was a little bumpy and we had a very big downdraft a few feet from touchdown where our pilot revved the engines up as we neared the runway. We touched down and started the ever so common hard breaking that one is accustomed to at Newark. We taxied off the runway and headed to gate C86. As we taxied, there were a number of international airlines.
KLM 767-300 to Amsterdam
TAP A340-300 to Lisbon
Air France A340-300 to Paris CDG (parked at a DL gate)
Alitalia 777-200 to Milan MXP
Privatair 737-700 to Munich
Privatair A319 to Dusseldorf
Lufthansa A340-300 to Frankfurt
Two SAS A330-300’s to Copenhagen and Stockholm
British Airways 777-200 to London LHR
Air India 747-400 from Paris CDG and Mumbai
I got off the aircraft and checked the closest flight information board to make sure my gate was still what was printed on my boarding pass. What do you know? It sure was, C128, maybe the farthest gate from C86 where we ended up docking. This always happens. Boarding was listed as 16:25 and as it was 16:30 the moment I stepped off the aircraft, I guess it was time to head to the gate at a brisk pace.
(Northwest 7881, Air Europa 3165, and Alaska 3123)
Newark - Seattle
Boeing 757-200 (N17139)
Scheduled Departure Time: 17:10
Actual Departure Time: 17:25
Scheduled Arrival Time: 20:04
Actual Arrival Time: 20:12
Boarding: I managed to get to the gate at 16:40 where, surprise, surprise, they were only just boarding wheelchair passengers. 16:45 rolled by and it was time to push the coach passengers out of the way so we First Cass and Elite passengers could get through. I swear some businessmen are ruthless with their lap top cases. There was a line on the jet-way as First Class was full today. Once everyone was settled in, a middle aged flight attendant came around took everyone’s drink order, mine being water. It was placed on my armrest with no facial expression even after I said “thank you.” Snap out of it Anosh, this is not KLM or Cathay Pacific, just take what you get! A menu was handed out a few minutes later. The captain welcomed us on board a minute later with his thick British accent. He informed us of a slight delay and we pushed back 15 minutes later.
After the usual Gordon Bethune message and safety video, the flight attendant came around to take dinner orders. She started taking orders from the rear of the cabin which I thought was unique. Thus being in row one did not pay off for me.
“All I got left is steak or pasta.”
“I’ll have the steak please.”
“Would you like blue cheese or vinaigrette dressing for your salad?”
“I’ll have vinaigrette please.”
“What about a drink?”
“You got it hon.”
Hey there’s a smile! We entered the take off queue which was rather short for EWR. Take off was minutes later.
The Flight: There were layers of clouds above the New Jersey sky which created a bumpy ride up. Once we were cleared, the screens were lowered and the preview for today’s in-flight movie was shown, “The Johnston Family Vacation.” While headphones were passed out in the back, drinks and trail mix were passed out in First. Service started from the front this time and continued this way for the rest of the flight.
Warm roasted nuts served with your preferred cocktail or beverage
Smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar, accompanied by creamed horseradish
Mesclun salad mix with English cucumbers, red onion rings, Roma tomatoes and Kalamata olive
Offered with your choice of champagne vinaigrette or blue cheese dressing
Ciabatta bread, multi-grain and pretzel breadsticks and assorted rolls with butter
Sterling Silver grilled rib-eye steak seasoned with pepper,
accented by red wine sauce with chanterelle mushrooms
Cheddar cheese mashed potatoes with chives
Grilled green asparagus spears
Surf and Turf
Grilled shrimp and Sterling Silver tenderloin of beef
complemented by Cajun Hollandaise sauce
Sautéed baby spinach with garlic, onion and salsify
Oven-roasted carrots, jícama and turnips
Herbed Breast of Chicken
Enhanced by curry sauce, presented with apricot basmati rice,
peach and pepper chutney and sautéed Swiss chard
Pasta shells filled with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese,
complemented by spicy eggplant arrabbiata sauce,
tossed with sautéed baby spinach
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese will be offered with your pasta
Vanilla ice cream offered with your choice of toppings
Freshly brewed Timothy’s Custom Roasted Milano Blend Gourmet Coffee
Timothy’s Verona Blend Decaffeinated Coffee
Tea with your choice of milk or lemon
Pink table cloths were laid by an Asian male flight attendant with a large smile. First the trail mix and drink were delivered.
Once those items were collected minutes later, a tray was delivered with the appetizer and salad on it.
The bread basket came by a few minutes later and I opted for a slice of Ciabatta bread. The salmon was tasty and the creamed horseradish added a nice touch to it. The salad was fresh and lathered in dressing just the way I like it. The salad and appetizer plate were collected and the main dish appeared a short while later.
There was a spoonful of mashed potatoes and a few pieces of asparagus. The steak was large but a bit on the fatty side. I left 1/4th of it as it was pure fat. However it was well done, which unfortunately is not the way I like it. I prefer mine pink from the middle, but regardless the steak was not leathery dry like so many other airline meals it was also smothered in only pepper making it a bit dry. The mushroom red wine sauce printed on the menu failed to appear with no reason given Soon enough the tray was collected.
“Would you like some dessert today?”
“We have a choice of strawberry, caramel, or chocolate sauce. Which one would you like?”
“We also have whipped cream and nuts as toppings.”
“No nuts but yes to the whipped cream please.”
“You got it sweetie.”
The sundae was delivered a few minutes later.
I was happy that this time round I could actually cut the ice cream with my teaspoon. Normally it is frozen solid causing major headaches trying to cut the ice cream. Last time the passenger next to me broke the glass trying to get some in his spoon. Hopefully this is a permanent change.
One interesting note is that bread was never passed around a second time. I don’t know if this was a cost cutting measure or just a slip up. Everything was cleared once I was done and a glass of water was delivered a minute later as per my request. The glass was constantly refilled as the crew did constant walk-arounds checking up on all of us. The movie finished and I pulled my lap top out and started writing this trip report. The first sitcom shown was Reba followed by news and some Continental features. Once that was done, Frasier was shown. About 45 minutes later, decent started. One interesting note on this flight was the fact that every audio channel worked with the exception of Channel 7, the channel that I listen to.
Arrival: We touched down just as the sun was setting and taxied to our gate in Concourse B. I walked off the plane into the large construction area known as Concourse B. I then met my friend and walked down to baggage claim. Baggage claim was more than a little crowded as the 753 from Houston has landed moments before us. Houston bags came out first and then the ‘Priority’ bags from Newark started appearing. Mine was one of the first Newark bags to appear which was a nice change compared to Orlando, where ‘Priority’ tags mean nothing.
August 23 2004
Seattle – Newark
Boeing 757-200 (N17122)
Scheduled Departure Time: 22:15
Actual Departure Time: 22:15
Scheduled Arrival Time: 6:06
Actual Arrival Time: 6:05
Photo © Stuart Lawson
Check In: I got dropped off around 18:30 and headed over to the deserted Continental check in counter. I did the usual e-kiosk thing and noticed neither of my upgrades had cleared. A friendly male agent came over to me a moment later.
“Need any help sir?”
“Actually yes, could you please tell if there are any seats left in First Class?”
“Where are you flying to today sir?”
“Orlando via Newark.”
“Yes, the Newark flight is pretty full today. Let me see if I can do something for you. It actually looks like you are not even on the upgrade list. Let me add you.”
He did a large amount of typing and came back a minute later,
“All right sir, I have added you to the list. It is not hopeless, you do have a chance.”
“Thanks. What about the Orlando flight? That was not upgraded either.”
“Orlando should be no problem. There are eight seats left in First. I imagine you will have no problem in Newark.”
“Ok. Thanks for the help, much appreciated.”
“No problem sir, have a nice flight.”
I went through security a few minutes later which was equally deserted. Surprisingly they made me take my sneakers off which has not happened in a long time! Nevertheless, it was fast and I decided to head on over to the new Terminal A. Sat down at the American gates near some “Bistro Bags” carts and thought, who better to call than a devoted AA flyer. You know who you are. Talked to him for a while and then decided to recharge my phone and take some pictures.
At 20:45 I decided to walk back and stop at the shops on the way. I got to the gate around 21:15 and saw the 752 had just landed from ANC and passengers were still disembarking.
Boarding: Around 21:30 boarding was announced for transit passengers. Then suddenly “Passenger Tamboowala, please see the gate agent at B11.” I headed on over, handed my boarding pass and she printed a new one with 6B on it and handed it to me with a smile. “Perfect, thanks,” was my response.
First class was announced shortly thereafter and I proceeded to the blue carpet. I was greeted at the second door with a smile and a “hello.” At least that was a good start. This particular 757 had not been updated with the new seats which meant no lumbar support and no headrests, something that comes in handy for me on an overnight flight. Soon my neighbor popped by and for once I had to get up to let him in, rather than the other way round. The flight attendant came around with a menu and re-appeared a few minutes later.
“Would you like to have a soup and sandwich after take off?”
“What would you like to drink?”
“Ice Tea would be great.”
‘You got it’ was his answer with a beaming smile from ear to ear.
The door was closed at 22:10 and Gordon was up boring us frequent Continental flyers to death again. Lights were dimmed and we took off into a pitch black sky around 22:20.
The Flight: As soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off the preview for today’s movie was shown, Starsky & Hutch. The same exact movie I had a few days ago flying to Newark! I plugged into Channel 7 which was actually working this time. Pink table linens were handed out and the tray appeared a short while later.
Warm roasted nuts served with your proffered cocktail or beverage
Late Night Snack
Hearty vegetable and beef soup
Hot turkey sandwich
with Swiss cheese and guacamole on rye bread,
accompanied by Cajun remoulade sauce, cabbage salad and dill pickle
Freshly brewed Timothy’s Custom Roasted Milano Blend Gourmet Coffee
Timothy’s Verona Blend Decaffeinated Coffee
Tea with your choice of milk or lemon
Will be offered prior to arrival
The soup was all right, but it did not help that I have had it a couple times already in the last two years on numerous CO flights. The sandwich is good the first time you have it, but not the third. I had this exact sandwich on my last LAX-IAH flight last August. The one thing that was new was the coleslaw, but I cannot say it was an improvement over the potato salad it replaced. One bite and I put it back down never to touch it again. The bowl of salted cashews was great though and went well with my ice tea. The one improvement that I did see was the chocolates. No more of those ‘Pecan Delight’ things I have been having for two years. Now it was ‘Lily O’Briens – Finest Irish Handcrafted Chocolates,’ a much better product than those Pecan Delights, thank you CO!
The trays were cleared and the window shades were lowered. My glass of water was brought right out and I reclined my seat and tried to nap as best as I could. I can’t sleep in a Business Class seats let alone these domestic First Class seats. Never the less, I tried. I was not very successful, however my glass of water was constantly refreshed which is something I have never experienced on a domestic flight; normally I have to ask.
Decent started around 5:45 and the flight attendant came around with a tray of water and juice followed with a basket of mini, mini muffins.
“Which would you prefer, a banana or corn muffin sir?”
“Just a banana one for me please.”
The muffin was finished in two bites, but at least it was hot.
Arrival & Transit: Once again we touched down with the usual extreme braking. As we taxied over to gate C75, there was a nice array of planes.
Hooters Air 757-200 to Myrtle Beach
Air Jamaica A321 to Montego Bay
British Airways 777-200 to London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic A340-300 to London Heathrow
EL AL 777-200 to Miami from Tel Aviv
The flight attendants were all smiles as we disembarked. I stepped into a pretty deserted Newark Terminal C, a first for me. I headed on over to a monitor to check on my flight status and gate which was still listed as C98. Once I got to the gate I headed over straight to the agent,
“Good Morning. I was wondering if my upgrade had cleared.”
She looked at my boarding pass and types away into the computer.
“Yes, looks like it did.”
Prints out a boarding pass with 1B.
“Actually, by chance do you have a window seat available please?”
Rips up the old boarding pass, types some stuff into the computer and prints 3A
August 24 2004
Newark - Orlando
Boeing 757-200 (N67134)
Scheduled Departure Time: 7:30
Actual Departure Time: 7:29 (Actual take off: 8:00)
Scheduled Arrival Time: 10:05
Actual Arrival Time: 10:03
Boarding: Boarding was announced around 6:50 and started off with First Class rather than children. The gate agent explained that this courtesy would not be in effect as there were many families flying with children today. I made my way through the crowd and boarded the aircraft with no greeting from the crew and found my seat. A friendly male Flight Attendant came over and asked if I wanted a drink. My glass of water was brought over a minute later.
A little bit about these BusinessFirst seats. They are very nice and plushy, definitely one of the best seats on a 757 anywhere in the world. They did seem a bit narrower than the 767’s but they were still much wider than Delta’s BusinessElite seats on the 767’s. The seat recline was decent, obviously not as good as the 767 or the 777, but still very nice for business class. The seat had a leg rest and lumbar support which is a must in Business Class these days. The only negative aspect I can come up with this seat is the legroom which seemed much shorter than the 767 or 777. It was still a decent amount for coast to coast flight, I am not sure I would find it comfortable on a Trans-Atlantic run to say Düsseldorf (when it was served). The reason I say that is when the seat in front reclines, it leaves you virtually no room to get out, let alone stand. In all fairness though, there is nothing much CO can do about this without removing an entire row of seats which I think would just cut revenue. Still a very nice set up on the whole.
The door was closed at 7:25 and Gordon was fired up on the video monitors followed by the usual safety feature. As we taxied to the runway the flight attendant came around to take our orders for breakfast. We spent the next 30 minutes taxing to the runway and took off into a smoggy New Jersey sky around 8:00am.
The Flight: As soon as the seatbelt sign was turned off, hot towels were passed around which was a nice treat. Wait a minute; none of the other three flights had hot towels! The movie started a minute later and what a movie it was, “The Johnston Family Vacation.” I just plugged into channel 7 as I did not want to see the movie for a second time in five days. We were asked to lower our window shades so folks could see the movie. I obliged and lowered the window to my left and leaned over to lower the window in front of me. Amazingly enough it did not have a window shade!
Breakfast appeared a short while later.
3 pieces of mango
2 slices of oranges
2 pieces of melon
a bunch of seedless grapes
Bagel with Bagel Shoppe – “Real” Cream Cheese
Simple enough breakfast. The fruits were nice. The bagel was heated and the cream cheese out of a packet was unique. On the whole it was a decent breakfast, if maybe a bit on the meager side. The apple juice was fine, but it did taste a bit watered down. The trays were collected and I just sat back to take a power nap. I woke up just as decent started into a very sunny Orlando.
Arrival: We touched down and had a quick taxi to the gate.
The tram was quick and painless today without people crowding around and trying to shove their large Disney bags into your legs with a mumbled “sorry.” I was the first one at baggage carousel number one, mainly due to the fact that I was the only who knew where to go. For the first time in the last two years, ‘Priority’ tags were some-what followed. My bag was one of the top 20 to appear. I grabbed my bag and headed to the parking lot for the long drive back to Daytona Beach on I-4.
Verdict: I have said it time and time again, Continental does have its flaws but overall they have a good product. I was pleased with Continental, but the amount of ‘dodgy’ flight attendants is becoming rather shockingly high these days. “Meals at meal times” most certainly is that! Two years ago I used to get a sandwich in coach on a Florida – EWR run. Now in F it is a packet of ‘low fat pretzels.’ It just seems to me that Continental has given up on trying to be special. They just do not seem to have that ‘drive to be the best’ attitude they had once upon a time. Some employees still go out of their way to make Continental a great airline to fly, but there seems to be growing number that have lost all interest in their job and company.
Will I fly Continental again? Absolutely! I still believe in rewarding those employees that try to make Continental a great airline and I have always maintained they are the reason I keep returning to Continental. After 50 flights in the past two years I can say that overall CO is a good carrier and has a tremendous amount of potential. I just hope they try and improve on their minor flaws which tend to dent an otherwise excellent product.
Check In: 10 (E-Check in with friendly agent)
Boarding: 10 (Done by rows with early boarding for FC)
Seat: 10 (In good shape)
Food: 2 (Nothing, but at least peanuts and pretzels were offered)
Service: 7 (Not very good, but one F/A saved the final score from being lower)
Entertainment: 10 (Music along with a movie, what else do you need?)
Boarding: 10 (FC boarded first with the rest by rows)
Seat: 9 (Looking worn but clean)
Food: 9 (By domestic standards excellent)
Service: 7 (Efficient with a few smiles here and there)
Entertainment: 7 (One movie with Continental vision. Channel 7 not working!)
Arrival: 7 (Lack of space but Priority tags worked here)
Check In:10 (Agent was friendly and very nice)
Boarding: 8 (Little chaotic with transit passengers from ANC)
Seat: 6 (Run down and showing signs of wear and tear. Old seats too)
Food: 8 (Choice would have been nice, and maybe something different- had this exact meal before)
Service: 9 ( Pretty good with constant walk around to see if we needed anything)
Entertainment: 5 (Quality needs to be updated)
Seat: 10 (For domestic excellent, but long haul could be a bit cluttered)
Food: 6 (At least we had something)
Service: 9 (Smiles all round with constant checking up on passengers)
Entertainment: 4 (Why no PTV’s? The flight is long enough!)
Arrival: 8 (Priority tags were followed and my bag was among the first out)
181/230 = .78 = 78%
[Edited 2004-09-15 07:27:29]