To get me the rest of the way to Paris, I purchased a ticket on easyJet BRS-CDG and one on British Airways CDG-LHR to get me back to London to meet up with NW at LGW.
The day of departure arrived, and I knew that the weather the previous night in the northeast had been bad, so I checked the website that morning and found out that Continental's 10:30am DFW-EWR canceled, though I was on the 12:15pm. It was 90 minutes late leaving EWR on its way to DFW, however. Knowing how bad EWR and New York area ATC delays are, I planned this flight with a 4 hour layover.
Itinerary for this outbound DFW-EWR-BRS-CDG
- DFW-EWR CO 1136 737-500 N14604 22JUN Seat 22A
- EWR-BRS CO 76 757-200 N13110 22JUN Seats 4A/B (I'll explain in the report)
- BRS-CDG EZY6221 A319 G-EZMS Seat 6A
CO 1136 DFW-EWR
Check-in at DFW
At DFW, they had a very long line, but luckily I was booked in BusinessFirst (Continental's Business Class) and was eligible for the "special" line that all the Elite members pile into. I sensed that the lines were long today because of the EWR mess they were dealing with. There was only one gentleman ahead of me, and he was being assisted by the agent allocated for the Elite line. In CO's DFW Elite check-in, they have two self-service machines, and all passengers are basically forced to use the self-service machine, so I stuck my passport in the machine and attempted to check in. It told me "your reservation requires special assistance. Please wait for an agent." I told the agent, and she seemed somewhat flustered, so she told me to check in again, that sometimes it doesn't "take" on the first try. I did again and read her the result. She told me she would be with me once she finished with the gentleman she was helping.
The guy ahead of me was heading home to Birmingham, UK, and she insisted that he would not make his connection due to the delay. He was upset but remained polite. The agent's exact words were, "I can either get you to Birmingham tomorrow, or I can get you to some other city in London today. Where else in London can you fly? Is Manchester OK?" He ignored her lack of geography and surrendered to the suggestion to fly to Manchester. She tagged his bag and he was on his way. Just a note, as I might forget later, after landing in EWR, we arrived a good 45 minutes before the BHX flight departed. I felt real bad for the guy, because he could have made it to BHX.
The agent got all frustrated with me, because I had been "waitlisted" for first class for this flight, so there was something she had to work on in my PNR before I could check in. She fixed it, with a visible effort, and then gave me my boarding passes. She did not offer to put me on standby for first class for this flight. She did not inform me that I had free access to Continental's President's Clubs in DFW and EWR. Nor did she inform me I had access to priority boarding on the DFW-EWR flight. The only reason I knew that last bit was that the self-service machine told me I had the benefits of Elite Access for my flights, even though it didn't print on my boarding pass.
After check-in, the security line was not bad--it never is in DFW, since there are so many entrances. I took the train over to Terminal D to buy some Euros. I had a huge ATM fiasco at Gatwick last year so I don't use my ATM card in Europe unless it's an emergency. Now I just pay the fees at the currency exchange. I'll either keep doing that or get a new bank--haven't decided on that one, but I digress.
Then I made it back to Terminal E and went to the Continental President's Club. I used my Priority Pass card, because I didn't realize I had free access with my BusinessFirst ticket. I have the unlimited membership so it didn't cost me, but I think Continental should have told me I could use it. The last time I flew on a confirmed business class ticket on American Airlines (some years ago), they made a big deal at check-in about me being able to use the Admiral's Club.
I was still nervous about my flight, which was running late flying to DFW and running the risk of being further delayed by afternoon ATC problems, so I offered an option to the President's Club agent. I told her that BRS was not my final destination, but that I was continuing on to Paris, and had purchased a ticket on easyJet. I told her I booked BRS because it was the only destination with Business class available. So I said I would be willing to be rebooked onto the 777 IAH-CDG if she needed seats on the EWR flight, given that the previous flight had cancelled. She replied that if she had seats on anything to IAH and if there were business seats IAH-CDG, she would have gladly rebooked me. I was only bringing a carry-on with me, and with no checked luggage it would have been very simple. She said that there was no way to get me to IAH and the CDG flight was full anyway. The 11:00, 12:00 and 13:00 DFW-IAH flights are all on regional jets, so they didn't have very many seats to begin with. I accepted my fate on the EWR flight and thanked her. Then I grabbed a comfortable seat with a view of the east runways and watched DFW air traffic until my CO 737 landed. When it parked, I went to the upper level of the Skylink to grab this shot of it, and to jot down the registration. I couldn't see it from the gate.
Yes, I realized that evening that I had the annoying Date/Time set on that camera.
When they announced "Elite" boarding, I puckered my lips, stuck my nose in the air, held my head with a lilt and walked up to the agent, handing him my boarding pass, which lacked any reference to Elite Access, but also showed him I was booked in 4A on a transatlantic flight, and he let me through.
Everyone getting settled in for the 3 hour flight to New Jersey.
This view outside reminds me of the times I would catch an MD88 or 727 from this gate bound for SHV on DL.
Scheduled Departure was 12:15. We pushed out at 13:40. A quick taxi to DFW's runway 17R had us wheels-up at 13:49.
Route of flight. Cruising Altitude of 35000. Flight time of 2hrs 52mins.
About an hour into the flight we cross the Mississippi River.
Here is the famous Continental Airlines cheeseburger! The burger was OK I guess. I really wonder about this offering instead of a classier turkey or ham sandwich or wrap. But this is the most American of meals, I suppose, and people do brag about this offering. I paired my hamburger entree with a recent-vintage Pepsi. The salad, if you look for yourself, looked a bit pale and so I avoided it. I did enjoy my "fun size" Milky Way candy bar. I think it's great that Continental serves a hot meal, and I'm sure lots of people have made CO their airline of choice if food is a big deal to them, but the one thing about the hamburger that I have a problem with is that it seems like it's on par with a gas station convenience store hamburger that you stick in the microwave. Don't worry--I won't be trash-talking Continental's food for long. Their food on the transatlantic flight was way above my expectations.
Here's a big airport we flew over and I have no idea where it is. It was 30 minutes after the Mississippi.
And another one closer to New Jersey.
And another one an hour after that last one--not long before landing.
Finally I could see the New York skyline and we made a right turn, sort of setting us up on left base for runway 4R at EWR. I saw a four-engine jet in front of us and an aircraft ahead of it, as the air was very clear and skies were just partly cloudy. After landing I saw the Singapore A340-500 ahead of us taxiing to the gate. Of all aircraft to land behind, I came in behind the longest flight in the world!
Here's a video of the landing.
As we taxied in, I saw lots of airlines that I didn't expect. I guess I hadn't prepared myself for the diversity of airlines at EWR, and it's rather outstanding. Other than the SQ A345 mentioned above, notables were Silverjet, L'Avion, LOT, TAP, SAS, AI. It's a great airport for seeing international carriers.
The flight pulled into Terminal A, which CO shares with other US carriers. They did not read out any gate connecting information, but I knew my 757 would be at Terminal C. I found the "gate" where you catch a bus to Terminal C. In case you are wondering, they do check your boarding pass to make sure you are actually connecting to Terminal C. Just FYI for spotters wanting to "move around."
We boarded the bus and I was eager to see all the aircraft close up on the ramp at EWR, especially as we drove around or beneath Terminal B, which is the international terminal.
Here's inside the bus.
See how it picks you up right next to a jetbridge.
As I got off the bus, I climbed the stairs and found myself in the US Helicopter gate. The gate is shared by US Helicopter and CO for the A-C terminal shuttle.
I walked down the terminal a few gates until I got a good view of some international heavies.
And then........I couldn't believe it. I saw it.
Before I tell you what, and assuming you didn't read my post in the Aviation Hobbies forum, one of the primary focuses of my plane spotting, is the BA 777. I usually only get to see the Gatwick birds, so I'm used to G-VIIA through G-VIIF and it's a treat to see a Rolls Royce or any Heathrow 777.
Well, pushing out of Terminal B was.....G-RAES! That's the most unusual registration in BA's fleet. It's the 12th 777 in BA's fleet, so it's not the first or anything. It's also a GE90, which is the most common, but its registration is completely unique. If you're not into the registration thing, you might not understand, but if you are, it's a big deal.
Here it is:
G-RAES with a CO 777 taking off.
Another CO heavy 777. (They only have 20 of them)
A Sung 757. (Not Song anymore, so it's Sung).
One of the few airlines that doesn't fly to EWR, JAL, flying overhead either to or from JFK. JAL 747 in the new paint.
Another BA 777 that's important (to me). G-VIIY. I flew this one last year IAH-ORD-LHR and did a trip report about it. I never actually got a good shot of it from the outside because it parked at a corner gate in Houston, so here it is! Here's the link to that trip report.
Then I ventured over to the Continental Express terminal, which is part of Terminal C.
Here they are all lined up in a row.
And here's inside the concourse. Not the most inviting in the world. They do, however, fly to some unique places and I'm really impressed that they fly to Moncton and St. John's, and have added an additional flight to St. John's.
Then I went back to check and see if my 757 was there. It was. Here it is with the catering truck.
Still having an hour or so to kill, I went to the President's Club.
It is built upstairs in a circle with a vacant center, looking down at the food court.
Here's the view looking down.
And here is the bar area. The P-club isn't the best for airplane spotting.
Back in the early 1990s I was a huge fan of CO's EWR Terminal C, but now it's starting to look dated and needs some updates. Houston's Terminal E is much nicer than this, as well as DFW's Terminal D. They made a great terminal about 15 years ago, but it seems like they were satisfied and left it there. There are nice shops and all, but it's just starting to look old now if you ask me.
CO 76 EWR-BRS
N13110 Seat 4A/B
One empty seat in Business. I'm under the impression that Coach was about 80% full. In Business most passengers had British accents, suggesting that Bristol really supports this flight.
Scheduled Departure 2055. Actual Departure 2108.
Wheels up at 2135 Runway 4L
On Stand at 0913 (short taxi!)
Continental has a policy such that each passenger must check in again at the gate to have their passport inspected prior to boarding. I noticed this in Houston a while back, and remembering this, I left the President's Club about 45 minutes prior to departure and got in line with the gate agent. When they checked my passport, they announced boarding for Business class, and I was in seat 4A, so I just stepped to my right and handed the agent my ticket. It buzzed as if the EGR didn't take it, and she said, "I'm sorry sir, the video unit is inoperative in your seat, so we moved you to 4B." I gave her a startled stare. I really wanted a window seat, but started thinking that it would be OK. I'm in business class at least. Then she said, "Seat 4A is broken and nobody will be sitting there." And then I understood! I had 2 business class seats to myself!
After boarding, the agent, whom I think was a lead agent because she was dressed in a business suit rather than a normal uniform, thanked me for understanding. I asked her if it would be OK if I took the window seat during takeoff and landing, and she said that's fine. She said nothing's wrong with the seat other than the video unit. As you can see in this picture, I was able to turn the video unit from 4B so that I could watch it from 4A. I just plugged in my headset across the armrest to 4B and it all worked just great.
As you can see the seats are spaced enough so that it's roomy. Continental is using the 757 so much, and on so many important routes such as EWR-LGW and EWR-CDG that I'm not cutting them any slack by assuming "it's just a 757 route. The 777 would be nicer." They have put so much into the 757 that I had a mind to really be critical of their service onboard. It's not like AA's one 757 that flies transatlantic. CO runs several cities with these aircraft.
Anyway, they shortly presented me with a headset and an amenity kit plus a menu. The amenity kit was really nice. It included all the usual types of products that I'm used to when flying in First or Business on AA, but in a nicer box. Sorry I don't have a picture of it. The headsets surprised me. I had recently bought a pair of Bose QC2 headsets and nearly didn't bring them on this trip because I was in Business class on CO and NW. I assumed all airlines give out Bose headsets to premium customers, but apparently that is only on AA. And here I was thinking that was an industry standard, so good job AA, in that respect.
The menu was really nice. It lacked a wine selection. I am judging everything in comparison with AA, with whom I work, and using my travel benefits, I have made about 5-6 roundtrips to Europe in First or Business. The food selection, however, looked better than what I am used to. Unfortunately the menu is lost. I had it out where I was going to put it in my bag, but the FA took it while cleaning up while I was asleep. I'll just have to show you some pictures.
It started with some amuses. Here we have some skewered breaded shrimp and a mushroom soup that you drink from a cup. It was quite nice.
Next is a very nice, fresh, mixed-green salad with a balsalmic viniagrette. It was a crisp and fresh salad. Look how much silverware I had. It's nice to see silverware back on airplanes! Oh and Continental uses real hot towels, not the crummy disposable hot wet-wipes that American used to use (I've heard those are gone now). Also you can see the bread and wine selection.
Next we have the main course, which was a wonderful fish selection. Tilapia and lobster tail with fresh asparagus on top of some jasmine rice. At this point the flight attendant could tell I was really enjoying the food. I was one of the few people in business class eating, because most of the folks in the cabin decided to sleep for the short all-nighter.
Next, the flight attendant, who was working very hard, came up to me with a smile, and asked "Can I interest you in a cheese course?"
I was really astounded that they offer a cheese course. I responded, "Of course I would." And she responded, "I'm not going to give it to you unless you try this really good port wine we have paired with it." I accepted her offer. It really was a nice port, and the cheese was a great selection. I don't remember what they are, and I'm not sophisticated with cheese, but there was one of each type of cheese (hard, soft and runny, mild, and pungent--my categories), and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Once that was all done, she asked if I would be interested in dessert at this time. I was quite satisfied by this point, but I couldn't turn her down, so I said yes. She asked if I would also like some petit-fours. I said, sure, why not. The one thing I had to turn down was coffee or tea or an after-dinner drink, as I wanted to get some sleep. Breakfast couldn't have been that far off by this point!
So she made me a sundae and I munched on some chocolates.
After the exceptional meal service, I watched some TV. The TVs feature on-demand service and they have movies plus TV shows along with audio and the flight map. I watched some Mr. Bean and Malcolm in the Middle during the meal. Then I watched a Discovery channel show on real world robots. After that I turned on a movie, but then decided that I needed to sleep a couple hours so that I could enjoy my day once we landed, and I shut it off.
I think I slept a couple hours. One of my rituals in crossing the Atlantic (do you have those too?) is I always try to spot St. John's Newfoundland, as we always seem to fly over it as the last North American city before the crossing. This time we were flying south of it, but as I was sitting on the left side, I could make out the glow of the city coming through the clouds in the distance.
Here's our route, from flightaware.
I need to make a comment about the seats. They are the wide, huge seats like AA has in domestic first class on the 757s, but with legrest and foot rests, and they recline very far back. One problem is that I think they recline too far back. The recline makes it comfortable, but there were two times where I saw different passengers from a window seat climbing over the back of their seat to get out, rather than try to get across the aisle seat. I think the guys knew the people behind them, but still, to have a passenger climb over the back of the seat in a premium cabin is a bit much.
The seats almost go back to horizontal. The seat in front of you gets within inches of your knee if you have your legrest extended. Other than that, it's a very comfortable seat. Many people on airliners.net have been giving poor feedback to their impressions of AA's new 767 business class, because it is hard to get out of the window seat with the aisle person reclined, but if this is the alternative, then give me the AA 767!
Moving on. I wake up, take off my eyeshades that CO provided in the amenity kit, and open my window shade. It's already sunrise on this day after the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere June 22nd.
Sunrise shot with the Rolls Royce engine and the winglets over the North Atlantic.
Continuing our southern track toward Bristol.
South of Ireland, the same, industrious but cheerful flight attendant served breakfast.
It was, as you can see, an assortment of fruit, some meat with cheese, some yogurt (or yoghurt now that we're approaching the UK) and a sticky danish with water, orange juice, and tea, just to make sure that I'll need to find a restroom while going through customs and immigration!
If you look at the napkin, breakfast also came with something like 27 spoons and 42 forks as well. I actually dropped about 3 pieces of silverware on this flight and they all went under the armrest in the center. I never found them again. NO I didn't take them with me, though they did have a Continental name stamped on them. I was tempted, but I didn't take them!
Finally, we land at Bristol. I haven't been to Bristol in about 10 years, and that time I took a Thames Train from Oxford to spend the afternoon there. I had forgotten how hilly and picturesque it was there. Here's a video of the approach and landing:
I don't think they used reverse thrust and I was under the impression that this is a short runway at Bristol. I guess the pilots know what they are doing without my help.
Here are some pictures as we taxied in.
First Choice was going to Palma. We parked next to it.
There are no jetbridges at Bristol, and I always consider deplaning onto a ramp a treat, so I was happy with this.
Here's my plane.
I really don't think there's much in the way of connecting international traffic at the Bristol airport, so I went ahead through passport control and customs. When entering the building, I could see that the international area was right there, and if I asked around I could have probably been allowed in, but I didn't bother with it. I printed out my easyJet boarding pass from home in Dallas, just in case. Thus far, from DFW-EWR-BRS I had carried my 22" American carryon plus my camera bag as a "personal item." Now I was in the UK and I had to check my carryon.
At the BRS airport, they have some restaurant facilites upstairs with a great view of the ramp. I sat there for an hour or two watching the planes before checkin for my easyJet opened. I could also tell that my view from where I was, was better than any view from inside the gate area.
This XL was off to Rhodes
EasyJet clearly dominates Bristol, and so I saw up to 5 of them on the ground at a time. One of the notable spots was G-EZBV, on June 23rd. It was delivered to easyJet at Bristol on May 23rd, so the airplane was just one month old! There were some First Choice 757s that used to be Air 2000 such as G-OOOZ and G-OOBC.
I checked in at 11:10am for my 1:10pm flight to Paris. At EasyJet, check-in opens 2 hours before departure, so I was there right on time. The agent was confused that I printed my boarding pass at home, but needed to check a bag. I didn't go into the details with her that I wanted to just stay in the international zone and carry my bag to Paris. The check-in line was quite full, but moved quickly and I was through in about 15 minutes. Security was no problem either. Maybe it took 10 minutes. When through, I looked through the duty free shops, thinking there might be something I'd want for my room in Paris, but decided not to buy anything. Then I went to the lounge upstairs to do more planespotting, as Priority Pass has an agreement with the Bristol lounge as well. They have agreements in nearly every airport round the world it seems. I'm very pleased with my membership.
Parked on remote stand and we rode a bus.
I paid for "Speedy Boarding" which is the gimmick costing $5.00 or 2pounds 50p to board in the first group. easyJet has open seating, so paying $5 got me better chances of having a seat of my choosing. It paid off as the flight was almost completely full.
Just arriving onboard.
Nice engine view.
Another easyJet parked next to us.
So then we taxied out and took off on 27. Here's the takeoff video:
We were quickly in the clouds, which didn't let up until we were over the Channel.
On easyJet everything is basically buy-on-board, so I didn't bother. I was well-fed on Continental, and even though it was past lunch time I didn't feel like eating anything. I had a bottle of water with me I got in the lounge at BRS.
The flight was about an hour. I don't have much comment about easyJet's crew. They were young and friendly. The bright colors of their uniforms and the cabin environment cheered up the place, in my opinion. I really don't like the color orange, so I've never been a big easyJet fan--and I know that's a wierd reason to not like an airline, but there you have it. My airline of choice would have been FlyBE, but they do EXT-CDG rather than BRS-CDG. Shortly after I bought my easyJet ticket, Air France announced ATR service BRS-CDG, so I didn't get a chance to fly with them. A one-way ticket, when I priced it out, for the day I was traveling, was $700. Also, the one-way price going CDG-LHR the day I was traveling was around $500, so I didn't fly Air France this time. The UK carriers had cheap one-way prices.
Making our way into CDG I noticed how much countryside surrounds CDG. It's really surrounded by fields, which seems rare nowadays. Here's the landing video:
We landed on 27L and parked at Teminal 3 (Remote) where all the charters go. We had a longer taxi than I think is possible at even DFW. I'm still a bit unfamiliar with CDG, having only flown there a couple times, but it seems really spread out.
There were some unusual airlines parked out there too. One was Air Memphis from Egypt in a MD80 that looked to be formerly a USAir paint job. It's just next to the XL in the picture below.
And here is where we parked.
Previously I forgot to mention, but in Bristol, Passport control and Customs was the easiest experience I've ever had. The opposite was true in the "barn" where our bus let us out at CDG. About 5 aircraft had come in ahead of us and we had to wait in the bus for a bit, but finally we unloaded into the customs "barn" for the charter arrivals at CDG. There were a total of 2, yes 2, inspectors working the crowd of probably 300 people. It took an hour to get through, and that's no exaggeration. I had a book with me and read a chapter or two while waiting in line. The last time I came through, I entered in Terminal 2E or 2F and it was a breeze, other than the fact Air France lost my carry-on bag that they forced me to check.
But I was finally through after a while and made my way by foot to my hotel! I stayed at a spotter's paradise hotel, the Sheraton Paris CDG airport hotel. I highly recommend it. I don't hear much on airliners.net about the best hotels for us aviation geeks to be able to sit in a hotel room with aircraft just outside, but the Sheration CDG is in my top 3. The other two in my top 3 would be the Renaissance LHR (they even offer the "Spotter's Package" with a guaranteed room looking at runway 9L and a club access, etc). Also the DFW Grand Hyatt would be the other one in my top 3.
I'll post some pictures from my room on the return trip report. This one is huge already, and I still have a bit more to do.
I want to add some pictures from the Paris Air Show. I went to the show on Sunday. I've already read a trip report from some fellow A.netters that went on Sunday so I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to read up on airliners.net to see who all was going and maybe meet up, but there's always Farnborough 2008? right?
I got there a couple hours before the flying display so I went to the museums first. I wanted to do the Concorde tour, but it was closed during the show. I guess I'll have to come back some time to see inside the two Concordes. One is Air France F-BVSD, I guess? Last two letters SD. The other is a prototype, I think it's F-WTSS but might be wrong about that as well.
Look at the I Love New York sticker on the front of the nosegear of this Air France Concorde. It looks worn out as if it was on there for a couple of the last missions.
This 747 was open for visitors, unlike Concorde. I noticed they have repainted it since I was at Le Bourget in 2005. The line was so long I didn't bother. I figured I would check it out next time I come to Paris when it's not for the Air Show.
Leaving the museum and going to the static displays here's a Mesaba CRJ 900 still in Canadian Registration.
I'm not really sure what the Belgian A330 with ZERO-G was for.
A nice new Lear with that "new jet smell."
A festive ATR 72 with rainbow blades. I remember photographing these or similar ATR blades at Farnborough last year. I don't remember it being Kingfisher last year though!
Looking over at the Air France/Air Inter nostalgia area. Some interesting planes out there.
Nostalgia at its finest. A fully airworthy Constellation!
Here she is in the air!
And the big draw for the Air Show. One of the 2 A380s. This one was on static display and the other did the flying display. The two A380s were F-WWEA and F-WWJB. I have seen F-WWOW at Le Bourget in 2005 and saw F-WWJB at ORD on March 20, 2007.
I find it interesting to look at the listed buyers here in this shot.
Here it is from the other side, without a few thousand people beneath it in the grass.
See, I knew American Eagle was first class all along!