I had been looking forward to this mission trip for several months. My group of 16 people had been meeting together for several months to plan lessons, skits, and music that we would teach to the kids at the Christian Schools, affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, in the DR. After meeting as a group for prayer the evening before , we all went home for a good few hours of sleep.
Meeting at church the night before leaving
At 1:00 am my alarm woke me up. The realization struck that I was about to leave for my first trip overseas, and only my second trip without my parents! After the three hour drive to Detroit, we arrived at the McNamera Terminal. When the CO ticketing personnel arrived at set up the line ropes, we got in line to check in. I asked for a window seats on both flights. The agent said sure, but apparently she had forgotten that the second leg (EWR-SDQ) was on a 767. An F seat is not a window on a 767! After we passed through security, I went to one of the gate desks to ask them if they could change my seat assignment to a window seat. She said she could give me one located a few rows back from the row that I had been assigned. After accepting the new boarding pass, I realized that I had been given yet another F seat! Finally, after returning to the desk again, and being told that I “really know my planes,” I was given an L seat!
My friends in the ticketing lobby of DTW at 4 am
Continental (ExpressJet) Flight 2046
April 1, 2005
Photo © Jason Bisson
View off the wing at the gate at DTW
This was my first flight on the ERJ-145. I thought it was much more comfortable than the CRJs that I have been on before. I liked having an “A” seat-a window and an aisle in one!
We had kind of a long taxi out at DTW…from gate B5 to runway 21R. The ERJ seemed to have a pretty powerful takeoff for a regional jet. The flight was very comfortable, and we were offered orange juice and, if I remember correctly, a small cinnamon roll.
Continental Flight 1950
April 1, 2005
Photo © Balazs Pinter
The best shot I could get at EWR due to the location of the gate
We were a little concerned about making our connection in EWR, but fortunately we arrived on time. We were relieved to find out the day before that our flight to SDQ was scheduled to depart from the closest gate possible to the ExpressJet concourse: C120.
This was my first flight on board a widebody aircraft. I was surprised at how it really didn’t feel like we were flying compared to narrowbodies. It took quite a while for us to taxi out, as there was a ton of traffic (which I hear is quite normal for EWR). We taxied past the Fedex terminal on the way out. I thought it was pretty cool how the planes pull right up to the building.
The weather in EWR was overcast, and we were on top of the clouds within moments of our liftoff from runway 4L. I thought it was fun watching our flight progress on the “AirShow” channel. In my opinion, the IFE offering was so-so. The music and tv offerings didn’t really fit my tastes. On the other hand, the lunch service was very good. I believe it was a ham sandwich, with fruit and pasta salad.
We landed on runway 17 at SDQ, and did a 180 on the runway so that we could taxi back to a paved taxiway! SDQ has a pretty nice terminal, but the airfield could use a little maintainence.
After purchasing our tourist cards and passing through customs, we boarded the mini-bus that we rented to travel through the country. Before the trip, someone on Airliners.net commented to me that whenever a Dominican arrives back from the U.S, their whole family is waiting for them on the curb outside customs. They were right! The area outside the terminal is packed.
Shot of our plane from the parking lot at SDQ
Loading the bus in the parking lot at SDQ. I am the person with the laptop bag over my shoulder
We stayed at the Christian Reformed Ministry Center.
Throughout the week we traveled throughout the country to six different Christian schools. It was definitely a worthwhile trip. We connected with so many kids in such a short amount of time!
Me with a girl that I played frisbee with
The last night of the trip we stayed at the Hamaca Coral by Hilton in Boca Chica. Not a bad place, but it leaves some things to be desired. Some other people in our group had their sink start spraying water all over in the middle of the night, and our shower in our room only had hot water (quite a change from our extremely cold showers earlier in the week!)
[b[Continental Flight 1951
April 8, 2005
Photo © Tino Dietsche
CO Ship 152 arriving into gate A6 at SDQ
When we arrived at the SDQ curbfront, we had to have our bags pass through an outside xray machine operated through a cooperative agreement with the USDA. Not quite sure what that was all about. I guess the agriculture screening is done at the point of origin, rather than when you get to the US.
We checked in with Continental, and proceeded to the gate. On the way to the gate, we had to pass through security and exit customs. I had an overpriced hot dog meal (I think it cost me $7 for a hot dog and fries) at the café on Concourse A. After the plane arrived from EWR, it was quickly cleaned out and we boarded. This time I was given a window seat on the first request.
The IFE on this flight was exactly the same as on the way there. I thought it would be different, since we were flying in the opposite direction, but I guess it doesn’t work that way for flights to the Caribbean. The meal service on this flight was also very good, with the choice between chicken sandwich and ham and cheese sandwich. The person who I was sitting next to didn’t want his, so I got to have one of each.
Our landing in EWR on runway 4L was very smooth. We taxied in to exactly the same gate that we departed from: C120. Due to its location, it is a tug pull gate. We had to power off a little ways out from the terminal and have a tug pull us in.
The customs area at EWR is very nice. When you arrive, you proceed from the jetway up and escalator. You then walk through a bridge across the concourse area to another hallway, where you go down an escalator to the customs area. The baggage claim area is also very spacious. I dropped my bag off with the TSA, and went to gate C111A.
Continental (ExpressJet) flight 2193
April 8, 2005
Photo © Paul Robbins
Shot off the wing at gate C108
Me looking out the window
There was a little confusion in our group about our departure gate. Since I knew that all of Continental’s operations at EWR (with the exception of a few cities, DTW not being one of them) are in Concourse C, I knew that the “111A” printed on the boarding pass meant C111A. However, a bunch of people in our group thought this meant gate A111 (which doesn’t exist). They almost missed the flight to DTW, but fortunately made it back in time. I sent an e-mail to CO telling them that they really need to make this more clear. The manager who replied said that it was a very valid point and that he would include it in his report to the airport services management team for review and implementation. Not sure if anything has come of it yet.
The gate agent wanted to get our flight out early because of the taxi delays, but we couldn’t board until our whole group was accounted for. He got a little pushy with us, even though we explained the situation. Fortunately, the rest of our group (who had mistakenly headed to terminal A) showed up in a few minutes.
I think it’s nice how CO plays music on board while boarding. Makes waiting to leave the gate a little less boring. It took us a while to get out of EWR. I believe we were number 30 for departure on 4L. The pilot told us that we could use cell phones until we were about to take off, which was nice. The flight back to DTW was pretty nice. I got one of the A seats again.
We arrived back into DTW at Gate B5, the same place that we had left a week, and many memorable experiences, before. This was definitely one of the most memorable and worthwhile trips that I’ve ever taken.
As far as CO goes, I would give them a B+. Their personnel, for the most part, were friendly, and their aircraft were nice. However, their IFE wasn’t that great, in my opinion, and the confusion in EWR could have been avoided if the terminal was more clear on the boarding pass.
Next trip: July 22 MDW-LAX on WN. I’ll try to get a report out a little sooner for this trip.
[Edited 2005-07-13 20:03:57]
[Edited 2005-07-13 20:07:54]