(sorry, no reg.)
A death in our family meant Mom & I had about 24 hours to get to New Jersey for the funeral. We've driven from Toronto to NJ so many times, but knew better than to try it in February. Getting snowed in in Syracuse ain't fun.
I surfed for flight options, and AC wanted over $500 each way per person, and they no longer offer bereavement fares (?!), unless it's overseas. "Instead, please refer to our new, simplified 5-tier fare structure"...umm, right. CO is the only other carrier that flies YYZ-EWR, but was still very expensive, being so last minute. That's when we considered driving to Buffalo, where CoEx would get both of us there & back for about $500 US in total. It just seems odd that a flight that's 10 minutes longer and crosses the border almost triples in price.
We got to BUF almost 3 hours before our 5:30pm flight - and an agent stood by while I used the kiosk. This baffled mom, who marvels regularly at the pace of change in today's world. We checked in our bags at the counter & then headed to security, which was busy but moving quickly.
Getting Mom through security was a little hectic - and the TSA agents were a little rough with her - barking at her to take her shoes off 'now!', then yanking her aside because her bionic hip set off the alarm. I was left to juggle coats, bags, her cane & both of our pairs of shoes, knowing all the while that it was all a bit much for her. Ten minutes later, with everything put back together, we spotted one of those über-golf-carts and asked them to drive us down to the gate which, of course, was at the very end of the terminal. We passed several gates being used by WN, packed with people headed for Florida. Saw their Sea World Shamu 737 on the way.
Once we were settled at the gate, I noticed that there was a 4:30pm flight to EWR, so I went up to the desk & asked if we could be standby-listed, which the agent did, but said it wasn't likely as that flight looked pretty full.
With tons of time to kill, I looked around for a place to have a smoke, but the entire terminal, including bars & restaurants were smoke-free, so I headed back outside into the freezing cold. On my way back through security I was behind Megan Mulally ('Karen' on Will&Grace) and her entourage, but decided not to say anything. Apparently she'd been in Buffalo doing a cabaret/comedy show. What struck me was how petite she was, with the tiniest hands...
Wandered back to the gate, where the 4:30 flight was about to board. I looked outside & saw a few flurries, which turned into a full-blown lake effect snowstorm within about 20 minutes. Watched the 4:30 flight leave & wondered how we'd fare with the change in the weather. Sure enough our plane was delayed arriving, and our departure time was delayed twice to about 7pm. In the meantime, I thought 'oh, screw it - I'm going to the bar', where I had a pint of beer.
Photo © Daniel Wojdylo
Photo © Ben Kaufman (JBLUA320)
Finally, just before 7 we were called for boarding. As it takes a little longer to get Mom settled, we took advantage of the preboarding call & were first down the jetway, where our FA - Jill - welcomed us aboard. This was my first time on an Embraer 140. At 6'4" I could only stand up with my head bent completely to the side. Liked the interior, though - seemed very new & clean, and I liked the dark purple CO uses for the seats & blankets.
Went to the very last row & took our seats, 19B & C. I took the window & Mom took the aisle. The plane filled up to about 90%, and among the passengers was a high school girls' basketball team who were a little rowdy. Everyone settled in and the FO came on to say we'd have to wait to be de-iced, and that we'd hopefully be in the air by 7:30. While we waited, the basketball girls, who were now shooting the ball back & forth across the aisle, were chanting some of their shout-outs, with one of them stomping the cabin floor keeping the beat. I thought this was a bit much - I mean, I'm all for team spirit, but is this their first time on an aircraft? There was no sign of a coach travelling with them, which seemed a little strange. The ball tossing & foot stomping continued, so I pulled a Judge Judy from row 19.
"Yo Ladies! We have a very nervous flyer back here,
so whoever's keeping the beat with their feet is NOT helping!"
This put an end to most of their hijinx as they shushed each other a bit...but not completely.
We were eventually de-iced and pushed back. Jill dimmed the cabin lights, and apologized on the PA for the delays & said she'd be along after takeoff with drinks 'on the house'. I wondered if that decision is at the FA's discretion, or if it comes from the cockpit (?) Sitting in the last row was loud but exciting. We did a rolling takeoff, and the engines were given full throttle a second or two before we were completely lined up. Wow, what a rush - I'll never tire of that feeling...
I didn't count the takeoff roll, but we were up in the air pretty quickly. The snowstorm had cleared, and so we were up into the night sky towards FL220. In any case, as soon as the 10k' ping went off Jill started the service from the front, while I climbed over Mom & took the single A seat. It took her a while to get to the back, as she took her time chatting with just about every passenger as she served them. Sure enough, when she got to us and had served each of us a bloody mary & bag of nuts, she lingered & chatted for a good ten minutes. Even in heels there was still a good 6 inches between the top of her head & the cabin ceiling - she really was so petite, and up close looked barely 20 years old. I found out she's based out of EWR, and she asked me what kind of work I did. She asked if I worked in the fashion industry, which is really an oblique way of saying "you're gay, aren't you?" - between what I wear & my grooming I guess I stand out from the average schlep in a baseball cap & track pants ( not that there's anything wrong with that!) Once Jill had finished the service she remained up front for most of the remainder of this short flight. She was chatty without overdoing it, and gave efficient service while having a very casual & friendly exchange with each passenger. I was pleasantly impressed.
I just sat sipping my drink, looking out the larger than usual window - are they larger? They seemed sort of square shaped, and bigger than windows on A or B planes...
It was a very clear night and all I could see were clusters of lights on the ground in the ink black night. Kept an eye out for recognizable landmarks, but nothing really stood out. After passing throught the cabin on her trash roundup, Jill did the "we've begun our descent" routine, and I tried to spot the Manhattan skyline, but it didn't really appear until the final moments before touchdown. The captain came on the PA to say it would be a little turbulent on approach, as we descended heading almost due south towards EWR. Mom shook her head, looked at me & said "it's always bumpy approaching Newark" - anyone else notice this? I'd take a guess & suggest it's the weather mix from being by the ocean (?) It did in fact get really bumpy right over Newark Bay, but we were on the ground within seconds.
We pulled up to the middle arm of Terminal C but had to wait for another Embraer to pull away from our gate. Hadn't been to EWR in years - still have memories of Mom & I flying down to NJ on Allegheny Airlines DC-9s way back in the early 70s, when EWR was still relatively new.
Photo © Ger Buskermolen
Photo © Art Brett - Photovation Images
Mom trumped me & reminisced about her very first flight from the old North Terminal, back in 1954, when women wore white gloves & big hats when they travelled. I'd bet there's a trip report tucked away there, maybe I'll ask her someday to dig up a few memories.
Photo © John F. Ciesla
Once we deplaned, we requested a wheelchair for Mom for the long walk to baggage claim, which was an absolute zoo. Five flights were listed on our carousel, among them a packed flight of bronzed passengers returning from Aruba, but no bags were coming out. We waited & waited, until I spotted our bags going around on a different conveyor, which was a little annoying. We then had to go back upstairs to get the AirTrain to get our rental car, which offered a great view of the Terminal A & B aprons. I was glued to the window, of course, watching a BA 777 pulling up to its gate, and an Air India 744 lifting off.
Enjoyed my first time on Continental - All the people we dealt with were friendly & professional - the strongest impression was Jill's, who went about her duties with efficiency & grace. Also enjoyed my first 'Jungle Jet' experience - liked the 1-2 layout, seats were comfortable & liked the large windows.
Altogether, 11 hours door to door. We could've driven it in eight hours, but flying was definitely more fun...
I know it's not the most exciting, exotic trip report, so thanks for reading ~
[Edited 2006-05-26 20:54:29]