16 Aug 2006
|Flight track CO3231|
At noon on a Wednesday, check-in and security at MSN were a breeze, and I had time to watch the plane land from CLE and taxi up to the gate:
|ERJ-135 at MSN|
Boarding was called about 20 minutes prior to departure, and the door was shut 10 minutes before departure. We were rolling down the runway at departure time with either a full or nearly-full load. It was a crystal-clear day, and I got some great photos of my neighborhood on the climb out. I even got this photo of the lakes in Waukesha and Washington Counties, outside Milwaukee, and I did a triathlon 3 days prior right down there. The swim was in the little lake in the top-right corner of the photo, and the bike and run were throughout the top part of the photo (it looks MUCH hillier from the bike than from the plane!):
|Waukesha & Washington Counties, Wisconsin|
We passed over Milwaukee and had a beverage/pretzel service before starting the descent into CLE while over DTW:
I had an exit-row seat, which had a generous amount of legroom for a 6'-tall guy like me. The "A"-side of the plane was great, since I was travelling alone.
It was a bit windy on the way into CLE, but I managed to stabilize the camera for a shot of the airport and downtown while on base:
We arrived a few minutes early, so I had 3 hours to check out CLE and get some photos. It is a very easy airport from which to get good photos of planes on the ground and taking off.
|Flight track CO67|
|My LAX-bound 737-800 at the gate|
Once again, boarding began about 30 minutes prior to departure. We flew with a full load. CO’s F seats are much more comfortable than what I’m used to. Pre-departure drinks were served in F. We had extremely polite FA's who did a fantastic job of diplomatically managing a situation with a very rude couple with foul mouths right behind me (so happy to have noise-canceling headphones), whose poorly-behaved kids and nanny were seated in the back and kept running up and yelling and screaming. We were rolling down the runway on-time and made a shallow climb over Lake Erie and then headed southwest. Hot towels were distributed, and drinks were served, along with cashews in ceramic bowls (a nice touch), along with a preview of the flight's movie (definitely not used to IFE on domestic flights).
One of the junior FA’s took care of the F cabin (the lead took coach to help with the situation with the misbehaving parents in F and misbehaving kids in coach) and came around to take dinner orders. I went with the fish and was shocked to have tasty, healthy food on board an airplane! Tasty is possible, healthy almost never, and both at the same time…unheard-of! The meal included vegetable gumbo, a good-quality ciabatta roll, steamed cod with a side of steamed green beans and artichoke hearts, and some fairly-good chardonnay. I forget what the other option was. After dinner was cleared away, they did made-to-order Edy’s ice cream sundaes…yum!!! (Well I did eat a healthy dinner and had to balance it out, after all…) I got up and stretched against the bulkhead (very stiff & sore from a race 3 days prior) and ended up eating my ice cream up front with the FA, who turned out to be a multi-time Ironman triathlete, so we had lots to chat about. Much more chardonnay was consumed in the process. They kept 30-minute sitcoms going on the IFE until it was time to land, and we made a very scenic descent over the Pacific Coast range:
|Pacific Coast Range from CO67|
We landed a few minutes early at LAX. Bags made it just fine. Overall, it was a phenomenal flight that exceeded my expectations.
19 Aug 2006
|Flight track CO1636|
With all the advice I received to make sure to get to LAX 2-3 hours pre-departure because of security, no one told me there’d be a separate line for EliteAccess/First Class! I got checked in and through security in about 5 minutes and was left with plenty of free time on my hands, which was kind of fun. I watched CO board a number of flights, and I could sense a pretty good amount of teamwork and effort in trying to get flights out on time. They boarded us about 30min pre-departure and served beverages while everyone else boarded. The experience was overall similar to the outbound flight and very enjoyable, so I’ll just highlight some differences and share some fun pictures:
|Out of LAX, over the water and turning left|
|Lake Mead and Hoover Dam|
This was a lunch flight. The options were a Philly cheese-steak, which looked pretty good, and grilled chicken and grilled asparagus over salad greens, which I had. The salad greens were fresher than in most restaurants. It was accompanied by a tasty but not-too-heavy cream-of-asparagus soup and bread. Once again, I’m floored by tasty AND healthy airline food! (OK, Midwest also can have healthy BOB meals, always tasty, sometimes healthy…see my trip report on MKE-SFO.) Chardonnay was again my wine of choice, and it was good. I wish I could remember what it was, because I actually collect wines and would go out and buy this one. I had a friendly seat-mate and polite people all around, for a change. The FA was a perfect blend of professional and friendly. IFE was again welcome and made the flight go quite fast:
|Overhead LCD monitors for IFE|
A couple hours into the flight, I was chatting with the FA (a cyclist/runner and aspiring triathlete…gotta love all these CO triathletes…no wonder the airline runs so well), who again kept refilling my chardonnay, and about an hour into the conversation, she grudgingly said she had to bake the chocolate chip cookies (a fabulous YX touch I was thrilled to see on CO). She always burns them and is not a cook or baker, and the other FA’s, with whom she flies a lot, always make fun of her for it. Maybe it was the wine, but I told her, “I can bake, and we’re gonna bake these cookies, and they’re gonna come out PERFECT!” She gave me a quick lesson on the oven in a 737-700, and I taught her how to not overbake chocolate-chip cookies. They were awesome. (I mean the quality of the dough, enough chocolate, and enough salt…although they WERE perfectly baked…grin) The FA was so thrilled that she called the other 2 FA’s up to “please help me serve these cookies,” and they were visibly surprised by what they saw! So much fun! Baking cookies at FL370!
Weather was bumpy on the way into CLE, with clearing rainstorms, but we made a nice landing on-time.
I headed right over to the ExpressJet terminal, and within a few minutes, they were boarding the flight. We had a light load, probably only about 15 people. The pilot came on and said that, since all passengers were on-board, as well as everyone’s luggage (sounded reassuring, even if in jest), we would be leaving early. We taxied out a little more than 10min before departure and had wheels-up about 5 minutes pre-ETD. We climbed quickly out of the weather, finally got into some smooth air, and had beverages and pretzels on the 65min flight to MSN. I didn’t have an exit-row but was quite comfortable in my “A”-side seat. The clouds cleared as we crossed over Lake Michigan, and we descended over the green Wisconsin farmland:
|Our descent over Wisconsin really WAS this steep!|
We flew the scenic approach over Lake Monona to runway 36, with a great view of downtown MSN:
|The isthmus on which downtown Madison is perched, between Lakes Monona and Mendota|
|The lineup at MSN on a Saturday afternoon|
We landed 20-25min ahead of schedule, and I had my bags and was in my car nearly home at our ETA! Love it! Here are some pics of the newly-remodeled MSN airport, done in Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style of architecture and interior design:
|The newly-rennovated check-in hall at MSN, with all the security apparatuses behind-the-scenes|
|Tiffany-style lamps inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright|
|Red W's tiled in the floor...ON WISCONSIN!! GO BADGERS!!|
Overall, I am extremely pleased with CO’s service, not to mention their on-time performance with this trip (the same can’t be said on MSN-EWR in the evenings, but that’s not the airline’s fault) and their modern fleet. I’ve got several more trips coming up this fall/winter, including 1 and possibly 2 trips to Rome in BusinessFirst (please see my post under Polls/Prefs requesting advice on SkyTeam carriers’ international business class service). I’m looking forward to more flights on CO. This is way better than what I’m used to.