SEA-EWR-IAD-EWR-SEA CO - first time with CO
I recently made somewhat last minute travel arrangements to Washington DC as part of my holidays away from good old Victoria BC. Holidays called for 2 weeks away from home, specifically in Seattle WA, but eventually, the plans included a trip to DC with friends from Seattle.
The trip from Victoria BC to Seattle WA was quite different from those I had done before: take the Victoria Clipper ferry service direct from downtown Victoria to downtown Seattle. I usually take a ferry up to Vancouver, then drive down to Seattle, but since this was not a hectic break and I did not need a car of my own, decided to sail all the way. The cost is quite competitive (yet still expensive) at around $100CDN return, with forfeiture of ticket if a no show. Hmmmm, I first thought, it's not like I'm flying with an airline! But boy, this ferry service is quite different than others, as they strive to make it look like airline service.
Aug 24, 2005
Victoria BC - Seattle WA
Depart 11:30AM, Arrive 2:15PM
Arrived at the ferry terminal at around 1:30PM by cab. Upon entering the terminal, was delighted to see an airline style checkin area, with a large number of checkin agents. Very friendly folks, line up was minimal - as most folks had arrived early and were all lined up for US immigration. Checked luggage in, given claim tag as well as boarding passes for both outbound and inbound sailings (had purchased the ticket online). By this time, there were only about 30 people ahead of me for immigration, where I lined up. Miss immigration officer was alright, asked the usual 'what do you do for a living' questions, and went 'alright!' when I answered that I had no criminal record. No need for me to get fingerprinted nor smile for the camera. Once through immigration, boarded the Clipper ferry swiftly. The ferry is a double decker, with a smaller cabin upstairs. Seats are airline-style, with 2-4-4-2 arrangements, and some with tables and rear facing [kinda like those front seats at WN, but with a big table in between]. Uncomfortable as hell, with no room to put your legs under the seat in front of you. Got a window seat, and swore at the fact that the seat was at a distance from the window, and that I could not lean on the window and sleep. So we got off on time, with the attendants doing a safety demonstration a la airlines. Free coffee and water was available as self serve. Eventually, staff were going about the cabin, asking each and every person if they wanted anything to eat/drink, kinda like flight attendants: the only difference is that once you told them what you wanted, they would take your money and go to the rear of the ferry to fetch your goods. No cart to roll. After almost 2.5 hours, we got to Seattle, on time. Got off the ferry, only to line up and wait for luggages to be unloaded by a crane: while you pass immigration in Victoria, customs still awaits in Seattle. Went through a hall, picked out luggage, spoke with a smartass customs agent and went on with my vacation.
Aug 31, 2005
Continental Airlines CO1580
Seattle WA - Newark NJ
Depart 8:30AM, Arrive 4:07PM
B752 - Seat 17D
This is an early flight for me, as I always opt for mid afternoon to red-eye flights. However, at a price of $299CDN for the whole trip on CO, I did not have the luxury of choosing the flight I desired. My travel partners and I were dropped off at SEA at around 7AM, early enough as we had already checked in online. Having arrived at the ticket counter to check our luggages though, we were disappointed to see that there was no dedicated machine to print off our boarding passes, and check our bags. The machines were right on the counters, so ended up lining up with the rest of the pax, and finally got through. Having never flown with CO, I did not know how things worked with them, and was still somewhat half asleep, but still did not like it - Air Canada, the airline I fly with most, has its self serve machines away from the regular checkin area, so it is pretty easy on the lines, and once you check in, there are dedicated staff a few steps forward for checking your bags and having them tagged. IIRC, UA was like this as well at IAD a few years back. At the counter, I was shocked at the fact that CO allows only 50lbs per checked in bag: again, foolish me, did not read their rules. I was at 64lbs [70lbs was always the number I went by]. The agent was quite adamant that I had to do something, and with those light suitcases of my travel partners already gone on the belt, I had to either pay $25 or take some items out and carry them with me. I opted for the latter, and did the Nigerian thing at KLM counters [I always see Nigerians at KLM counters with 3-4 suitcases open, trying to balance weights across]. Once at 49.5lbs, we went towards the security line, with a few pairs of jeans in hand, and a few other items in a shopping bag. Seattle Airport has greatly changed over the last few years, for the better. It now has a great appearance, one security check point, and a nice lounge area post security. With a missed shot of Starbucks [yuck], headed off to concourse B where DL and CO fly in and out of. Pax were still boarding, boarded and got comfortable in my seat. First impressions: clean aircraft, nice southern crew, kinda reminds me of a few NW flights I loved. Travel partners were in emergency row 16 in front of me, the seat to my right was free, and the window seat taken. Flight was about 95% full. Took off on time, and decided to sleep all the way. Now this would have not been a problem had it not been for the family of 4 behind me, with two small kids. I should say a mother and three small kids, since the way the father spoke was more annoying than that of the kids. And once the girl started kicking my seatback, it just ruined it for me. Went for caffein in flight, which was too watery. There was a movie playing, and got my free headset from the FA, but never watched any of it. We landed at EWR on time, and enjoyed the great view of AZ, KL, TP, AF, BA aircraft which I do not get to see out in the west coast that often. Got to our gate, but it was occupied, so we waited quite a bit for the aircraft to clear. Oh, how could I forget, the Captain flying us was retiring at the end of the flight, and all crew were going gooogooo gaga over it, as almost every announcement had to touch something about him. He gave a long speech at the begining of the flight, the first officer did the same thing towards the end, which included a biography, and applauses were heard too many times (I did not applaud! I was cranky!). Upon landing, went under a water cannon salute, which was nice for the Captain. Anyhoo, I said, my trip and certainly my career were far from being over, so it was time to move on. Deplaned pretty quickly, to see that our flight to IAD was delayed. Also, it may be a Jersey thing, but I saw that people were somewhat worn out. Maybe it's the heat. Being hungry, we decided to go to the terminal from which our flight to IAD departs. Had to go out of the secure area in Terminal C to the WAS/DAL/Chicago terminal A. The train car we were in had no air conditioning, but we survived. Got off at Terminal A, went for some crazy fast food, and headed towards our gate area after passing through more security. Newark is a dump, compared to other airports. Even Seattle has cleaned up. I remember LGA being somewhat of a dump too. Flight got delayed further, called the car rental agency to advise of same, and waited. Aircraft was not even at the gate. What was nice however was the fact that CO has customers service agents in the terminal, so we went over to secure exit row seats for our return trip. Our Jungle Jet finally arrives at around 7:40PM.
Aug 31, 2005
Continental Airlines CO1213 [operated by ExpressJet]
Newark NJ - Washington Dulles VA
Depart ~8:10PM, Arrive 9:00PM
ERJ145 - Seat 12A
As anyone who knows me best would guess, the one highlight of today's trip for me would have been catching Ethiopian Airlines' B763 at Washington Dulles, as this was a Wednesday. But thanks to the delayed flight, it was not meant to happen... well, almost... Once our plane arrived and whoever was on deplaned, we were called upon and headed down the jetway. The exit row seat on the 145 is like heaven, although I had to lean forward to look out the window, which was alright considering the previous flight - I needed to stretch my back. The 1-2 seating is fine, but was awckward walking down the aisle, as the aisle is weirdly placed and tall folks have to watch out for the bins on the left side. Flight was almost full. Pushback was quick at the sun set down, and a quick roll later we were up and flying. Dosed off for a bit, and awoke as we were on final approach. A smooth landing later, we were on our way to our gate. With my eyes wide open, I looked and looked for my beloved, to only see it from its rear, as it was leaving its stand. We were at a great distance from eachother, and the only thing I could see was her tail, which was illuminated. Then we were blocked by this terminal between us, and once we were clear of it, she was no longer there. The one time I had prayed for ET to be delayed, it was not meant to happen. I sighed, and a few minutes later, was in the terminal having deplaned - a beef I have with a la carte checkin [or whatever it is called at CO] is that I have to wait inside the aircraft while those carry ons are unloaded for the pax to take them: let us all out and have them hang around the door while we go our way into the terminal for christ sake! I thought that I had one more chance to see my beloved from IAD's famous self-raising busses, but that was not meant to be as our terminal was directly connected to the main terminal through the underground walkway: is this walkway new? Cause I do not recall seeing it. At any rate, one loooooooooong walk way, although I did not walk as I made the people mover do its work. Went straight to baggage claim, to only find that my luggage did not make it through, while my travel partners' did. I wondered if weight was an issue, since the flight was almost full. Filed a claim, did not leave delivery address as I did not know it yet, and headed out to Thrifty car rental on their shuttle. Upon arrival, was surprised to see their lot almost empty, with only a few vans and premium vehicles left. I had requested an intermediate car, Dodge Stratus or similar. No line ups, and the agent, after having verified my identity and swiped my credit card, 'offers' me a minivan. Now come on, "I am not going to be seen around DC in a minivan" I told him, while he still tried to push it my way. He tried to sell me, but I did not budge: not only would it affect my reputation, I do not intend to get a car that does not fit my trip requirements and that takes up a gallon or so just to get warmed up. I am all for upgrades, but to a minivan? No thank you! So he tells me that he is giving me a Sebring, and I agree, sign the sheets and haul myself and my two travel partners to the car. A convertible. We look at eachother, although I did not know what their feelings were, but as far as I am concerned, I was in DC, not Miami, and a convertible was not going to do it for me. But then considering the state of the lot, this may be the best we can get. And seeing that there were a few people behind us, I am sure they would take it up quickly and we would be left with a minivan. Major concern was the space in the rear seats: we are in DC to hang out, party etc, and we do not want to be crammed in some convertible. And where I come from, a convertible can be something of a showoff. So I decided that we were not taking it, especially having seen SUVs parked in the lot: while expensive on gas, they would still be comfortable and much much better than a white Dodge Caravan. I walk back into the office, and tell my now nervous and acting up agent that I was not going take a convertible (and he had not told me it was one). He tells me he has no other cars, and that since I had secured a very low rate [$98 for 6 days], it was pretty much anything that was available that I would take. I did not suggest an SUV nor another car, but remained firm and told him that I opted for an intermediate because I wanted an intermediate, and had I wanted to rent a full size or any other car for that matter, I would have selected that upon booking since their rates were not too far off from eachother anyway. He's getting all snappy by this time, tries to call another lot, which does not answer, all the while I was calm and making it known that I was not budging. He finally says "I'll be back" and walks out with a key. I go outside to get some fresh air [it is almost 10PM by now], and discuss the matter with my partners. At this time, from god knows where, I smell Ethiopian food being prepared. I knew I was in DC, or close by, but this smell in the middle of a vast airport field? My my my, I cannot wait to get to DC and quench my cravings. A few seconds later, I see my agent flying out and back into the lot to the back of the building in a grey Dodge Stratus. A nice looking one too I might add. Walks back into the building from the back and tells me he is having the Stratus cleaned up for me. Hmmmmmmmmm now where did this intermediate car come from? Who am I to ask, and why would I want to start my break in DC on a sour note? We got our car, and off we went to DC.
Sep 6, 2005
Continental Airlines CO1210 [operated by ExpressJet]
Washington Dullles VA - Newark NJ
Depart 3:40PM, Arrive 5:00PM
ERJ145 - Seat 12A
When you're in Rome, act like Romans. When you're in DC and are Ethiopian, act like an Ethiopian. Living in Ethiopia does not entail being pressed for time, with everything being laid back and the joy of life, friends, and family coming before everything else. So with the DC area having the biggest Ethiopian community outside Ethiopia, it is only normal to live as if you are in Ethiopia, since everyone you deal with would understand, and would live the way you do... except that not everyone really goes by your philosophy. Having checked in to our flight from our hotel and then checked out of the Marriott, we planned to go for lunch with old friends one last time, with 1:30PM as our deadline to start driving to the airport. As with any good trip, the last minutes are the sweetest, and before we knew it, the clock had ticked to 2:15PM. We got out of our seats, jumped in our car, and started the trek to IAD with yours truly at the wheels. Now one thing we did not account for was getting lost, which is quite normal in DC. However, with the Washington Dulles highway being exclusive for cars going to the airport only [there is another toll highway for local traffic], we thought we could still buy time. But then again, who left out the time required to fill up the tank and drop off the car? We all share the responsability. With all of it done and after a speedy rideon the Thrifty shuttle, we arrived at the checkin counter [once again to check our luggages] 5 minutes before departure. And God that line in front of the CO desk! And the fact that each agent, instead of checking pax themselves, teaching pax how to use the system! Ridiculous! So it was our turn. I quitely hand the boarding passes to the agent K-----, who smiled and told me that we missed our flight. Her reaction told me that we would still be ok, somehow. At least I was not yelled at like that NW agent years back. The agent's sytem was malfunctioning, and a techie was trying to help out. After having been at the counter for about 30 minutes [every time other pax came, she would stop working on our issue and help them out]. Also, while we were at the counter, there were still people trying to use the automated machines that are at the counter, what a nuisance! After a while, she calls me up and says that she will put us on standby via IAH, then again on standby to SEA, but that she is having trouble getting our luggages go through since we are standby, and needs some sort of override from a boss-type. I see our luggage beign checked through to SEA, and we get our boarding passes to IAH. Yay! But the thing is, we do not know our fate ex-IAH. And there was only one flight we could get on to SEA out of IAH. Oh well...
Sep 6, 2005
Continental Airlines CO1519
Washington Dullles VA - Houston TX
Depart 5:54PM, Arrive 8:12PM
B735 - Seat 21F
One thing that has not changed at IAD is the long lines to get through security. We waited and waited, TSA staff were exhausted, and a few quite snappy. Made it through without secondary inspection [although I saw an almost 6 yr old kid going through it!]. A stop at Starbucks and a long slooooow walk to our terminal, we finally got there, to only realize that our flight was about to leave, and everyone had already boarded! OMG not again! It looked like the gate had been closed, not a soul at the gate, just a couple of agents at the counter. Ran towards the door, to see this one agent waiting for us to giver our boarding passes. Whew! Board the plane, which was about 70% full, kick some dude off my seat [he gave me that 'I thought D was a window seat' look] and settled in. He moved to another row that had no one in it, and sat at the window. I had three seats to myself, which I used well by stretching and dosing off. We were served Ham sandwiches, which were quite good, and no IFE. Crew was cool. Upon arrival at IAH, saw that our flight on to SEA was on time, and headed towards its gate.
Sep 6, 2005
Continental Airlines CO467
Washington Dullles, VA - Newark NJ
Depart 8:45PM, Arrive 11:07PM
B753 - Seat 10A
On our way to our gate, we could not help but notice Popeye's Chicken closer to the gate at which we arrived. We said however, that we would first get our boarding passes - remember, still stand by, and only 1/2 hour to our SEA departure. We arrive at our gate, boarding had not commenced. We tell the agent of our situation, and he proceeds to get our boarding passes. However, he cannot find us on the flight. Hmmmm, are we really meant to spend the night in Houston? We give him our boarding passes from the previous flight, and voila he is able to find us: he says the problem was that we were not checked in for this flight. So he checks us in, the agent next to him tells him that he could seat us at seats she had blocked off for families, and we get 10ABC. Yay! We on our way to SEA! But first things first, Popeye's calling. We run back to the other gate, order our goods, and walk back to find that almost everyone had boarded! I swear we would have been screwed if we were a couple of minutes late. Jumped on board, took our seats and we were on our way to SEA. Pretzels were on the menu, as well as three rounds of drinks. Not a bad way to keep the FA's busy. I recall a late night flight on AA where the FA's served pretzels and drinks once, dimmed the lights, and were never to be seen again. Departed on time, and arrived in SEA on time, only 10 minutes later than what our original flights would have brought us back. I did not get to feel the length of the B753 however, having been seated just 3 rows from the exit door. Luggage took ions to arrive at SEA, and we were on our merry way by 11:45PM, me knowing that I had an 8AM ferry to catch back to Victoria, very sad, as I was exhausted and willing to skip all of the next day's events.
Sep 7, 2005
Seattle WA - Victoria BC
Depart 8:00AM, Arrive 10:45AM
An uneventful sailing, although I did not get a window seat. Ferry was jam packed. Checkin agents were not as nice as their Canadian colleagues, and the minute I hit my seat, I was knocked out. Woke up some 15 minutes before arrival. Canadian customs and immigration was awaiting, thus getting off, claiming luggage and getting on with the process took forever. Immigration officer was nice, not too many questions, and I was on my way home.
Overall, trip went well. As for Continental, would definitely fly them again if I have the chance (and will collect my Worldperks). The agent at IAD made a difference - calm, yet helpful. CO meals served at meal times is great [no charge]! CO needs to however rework their self checkin layout, or just dedicate counters to them and have agents help those who do not wish to use them. Also luggage situation at SEA needs to be rectified. This trip leaves me with one more major I have not flown, DL. We'll see if I can get on it soon...