Earlier in the fall, I decided to visit the Northern part of Guatemala (El Peten). I saw that Continental offered a nonstop flight from IAH
to Flores (FRS) and back, every Saturday. By the time I was ready to reserve, the flight had almost doubled in price, so I fiddled with Continental.com and bought the ticket for the original price, but coming back from GUA
Later, in travel forums, I discovered that my flight to Flores, on November 25, was the last scheduled Continental flight to Flores. Who knows what would have happened if I had reserved earlier, returning from Flores on December 2?
LAST FLIGHT TO FLORES
Too excited to sleep at all, I left home at 2:00 a.m. I parked at the long term parking at BWI
, and I was one of few waiting for the Continental windows to open at 4:30. Security, at that time, was a breeze.
CO527 Nov. 25 06 BWI-IAH
Gate D14 Seat 19C
Scheduled 6:00 - 8:30
Actual 6:10 - 8:10
Nothing special there. Many Latinos on the quiet flight, due to numerous connections in IAH
. Nice, smiling cabin crew. One lavatory inoperative. Movie "Little Man" on drop screens, but few takers for headphones. There was a shallow but low cloud ceiling, which we entered, and then poof, landed a few seconds later.
In Houston, I enjoyed the train to terminal C, but the terminal itself was disappointing, doubly so when I found out my flight was delayed, due to fog (at both ends). I expected to get a glimpse Air China and PIA, but I saw only one non-CO tail, a NW
CO2198 Nov. 25 06 IAH-FRS
Gate C62 Seat 1A
Scheduled 9:40 - 12:50
Actual 11:25 - 2:15
The young pilots looked fresh out of high school, and the cheerful F/A was a bit confused (kept saying Flores - Guadalajara instead of Flores - Guatemala). The flight was very cold for a while. For most of the time, we hugged the Gulf Coast. When we got closer to FRS, I was thrilled to see jungle landscape. For me, there is nothing quite like the sight of what appears to be a broccoli forest: the promise of a great time.
No, no, it's not the same picture. It's the same breakfast on a different flight!
I also adore jungle airports: no walkways, no glass in the windows, huge weapons in the hand of juvenile gendarmes, a feeling of impending thrill and general mildew.
Now, since I have you here, a few photos from my trip:
I loved everything about Guatemala except driving through Guatemala City (no beltway, unfortunately). I spent my last night in the touristy volcano town of Antigua. I hired a shuttle to the airport for $10, which I ended up riding alone, through the most depressing cityscape: an endless boulevard of broken dreams.
CO459 Dec. 02 06 GUA-IAH
Gate A Seat 17D
Scheduled 1:30 - 4:29
Actual 1:37 - 4:10
terminal is drafty, ratty, and undergoing renovations. Long wait at the Continental window, possibly due to a lot of extra luggage. The purported $30 tax is included in the ticket, but you need to pay a 20 Quetzales security fee ($3). Security is similar to here. The line was short (it's a small airport, actually). There were fighter jets practicing hi-speed touch and go, making the building rattle. Not much spotting: just a couple of DC-3s in the distance. Lining up for take off, the pilot did a little swerve to gain extra few feet, and he revved up the engines with the brakes on. We took off like a rocket.
The 100% male F/A team didn't crack a smile, but they did the job very well. No movie: episodes of The King of Queens with no sound. What the @#*&?
Immigration at IAH
is the smoothest I have ever experienced in a large airport, in a bright and welcoming terminal. Shame on ORD
by comparison. Terminal E was a joy to wait a couple of hours in. I bumped into a couple with whom I had climbed the volcano the day before (you need to keep walking or your soles melt). I witnessed a golden Texas sunset, and watched a lot of CO
jets take off and land.
CO526 Dec. 02 06 IAH-BWI
Gate E8 Seat 15C
B737-800 N??? never had a clear view of the tail
Scheduled 6:59 - 10:58
Actual 6:59 - 10:30
Cheerful waiting with the Riverdale Baptist Basketball Team. I already felt so far from Guatemala. Since the plane was unevenly seated, I moved to seats 11D-E-F, and slept through "Talladega Nights." Back to deserted and chilly Baltimore. Who said the best part of a journey is to come home? Not I!
CONCLUSION: It's the first time I go on a big trip with a small plane. I had a wonderful time in Guatemala. Aviation-wise, it was not that much of an adventure, but Continental gets the job done. Latin flights are always very quiet, with well-behaved travelers. I have no definite plans of where to go next year, but if CO
, I will certainly be tempted.
[Edited 2006-12-07 02:13:08]
I've flown thousands of miles and I can tell you it's a lot safer than crossing the street!