caio86
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Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Fri May 30, 2008 7:46 pm

US-based carriers are often compared against Asian and European airlines—and more often than not, the former are trounced. I could think of many excuses to pardon the sometimes awful hardware and software—poor leadership, rising costs, tough competition, byzantine labor rules and regulations—but alas, sometimes I cannot forgive my share of horrendous experiences. Many times it seems as though the glamour and mystique of flying are taken out of today’s American airlines—the immaculate suit has been replaced by the disheveled tracksuit.

With that being said, without the bad times, how would we know the good ones? Initially I was going to write about the new media system in Continental’s economy class. Finally, Continental was upgrading its hardware in the face of competition from upstarts and legacy carriers. But, unfortunately for that report and fortunately for me, I was upgraded, erasing the memories of the bad times with Continental.

Continental Airlines CO89, May 15th, 2008
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
Gate C75(? Apologies, I lost my ticket-The gate across from the Nathan’s for those familiar with EWR)
Seat 10E (BusinessFirst)
Departure (Scheduled/Actual): 12.15/12.28
Arrival (Scheduled/Actual): 13.50 (+1 day)/13.49 (+1 day)

I arrived at Newark pretty early, and in my experience individual check-in with Continental has never been that difficult, as they dominate the pretty expansive terminal and allocate a lot of check-in desks and staff. Security had a long line, but it moved relatively quickly. I made a quick stop at the President’s Club (the Continental lounge) and was shocked that they reintroduced food and that it wasn’t excessively crowded. Granted the food was a bagel, but a vast improvement over the very dodgy-looking Cabot cheese and crackers.

The plane boarded early, amid some confusion over the fact that American passport holders had to prove that they had valid Chinese visas. I suppose this is a necessary annoyance, as it would be pretty bad to fly all the way over there to find out that you can’t enter the country. The plane was delayed a couple of minutes, not because weather or a long line of departures, but because of a BusinessFirst passenger that decided to go to the President’s Club amidst the commotion caused by the visa inspection.

I sat in my economy seat and was surprised at the new inflight entertainment system, as I had dreaded the endless loops of CSI and How I Met Your Mother’s. As I began to explore the already activated system, a flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder. “Seat 10E is open. Hurry up!” I often question the upgrade policy of Continental, upgrading mileage club members when the BusinessFirst area is relatively empty, as this encourages people not to buy the BusinessFirst seat. Although this practice is noticeably on the decline, it still occurs. The last time someone invited me to the front, during a school trip to Chicago on Continental, I genuinely thought I was in trouble and asked, “WHY ME?”

Settled into the comfortable seat (albeit outdated compared to the slick offerings by other international carriers), I was greeted by a barrage of gifts—a bilingual menu, an amenity kit, a blanket and pillow set, a headset and a choice of newspapers. It had been too late for me to get a welcome drink, but I noticed they were in glass cups, and not plastic ones like Delta’s domestic BusinessElite. Once the plane took off, the chief purser came around and greeted everyone by name and asked them if they were comfortable and stopped for a good ten minutes talking with the passengers. Another non-Chinese flight attendant who I have recognized from the Newark-Honolulu flights spoke in Chinese to the Chinese passengers.

Fiddling with the seat controls like a brat on a sugar high, the attendants took my lunch order and I started to look at the IFE. There was something like 300+ choices for movies alone, and an equal number of television shows. The content was pretty foreign language friendly for an American carrier, but it was obviously geared towards an American audience with a lot of HBO and Disney-ABC choices. All-in-all it was items that people actually wanted to watch—ranging from cinema classics to what was in theaters a couple of months ago.

I’ll be honest, the food was alright, and this is an airplane food lover. Some items tasted a bit burnt or overcooked, but in their defense, I would never ask for a steak rare in a germ-rich environment. The service however, was top notch—a combination of very old-school formal but also very relaxed and friendly. The attendants also took subtle cues and asked if I liked it or not and then inquired about my food preferences, which turned into a friendly discussion of our favorite restaurants in New York and Honolulu (as most of the female and a couple male FA’s were from Hawaii). Some flight attendants even gave me their business cards so I could contact them for food or drinks, which I thought was a nice touch.

Most people quickly passed out after lunch was served, but the attendants kept on working, setting up a mini-bar and walking around the cabin to see if those who were awake needed anything. They slipped a bottle of water in my seat's pouch while I was asleep.

The combination of friendly flight attendants, lots of food and entertainment options, and a comfortable and sleep-inducing seat (at least for me), the 15 hour flight came and went all too quickly. Soon enough we were approaching the impressive Beijing Capital International and cutting through the smoky haze that envelops it.

While I don’t think the front has spoiled me for life just yet—I still have to go back on economy, and experiences like this are few and far between—it’s both reassuring and inspiring that good service DOES exist on an American carrier, contrary to many people’s opinions.

Photos

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4374.jpg
President's Club

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4375.jpg
Limited food offerings

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4383.jpg
Storage space

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4385.jpg
Seat back

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4386.jpg
Better view

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4389.jpg
Inflight power

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4390.jpg
Nuts

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4391.jpg
Some sort of Chinese appetiser

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4393.jpg
Salad

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4394.jpg
Steak

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4396.jpg
Sundae with green tea

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4397.jpg
Headset

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4398.jpg
New and improved IFE

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4400.jpg
Snack-Chinese noodles

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4401.jpg
Post-snack cheesecake (they do try to fatten you up here I suppose)

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4403.jpg
Fruit course of breakfast

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4406.jpg
Congee with duck

And Beijing pictures (I have been here already a couple of times and haven't done much sightseeing this time around)

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4441.jpg
Forbidden City

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4465.jpg
???

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4469.jpg
It's H&M's Chinese cousin—W&H!

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4477.jpg
Olympic Stadium

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4491.jpg
Water Cube

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4492.jpg
Quanjude Peking Duck

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4499.jpg

http://i216.photobucket.com/albums/cc225/caio868/IMG_4527.jpg
Mutianyu section of the Great Wall

Comments, questions, concerns greatly appreciated and wholeheartedly welcome.
After sex and drugs comes rock and roll
 
JetBlueAUS
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Fri May 30, 2008 9:19 pm

Glad you enjoyed Continental to PEK!  Smile
Not all of us can be heroes, some of us can only stand on the sidewalk and clap as they go by.
 
caspritz78
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Fri May 30, 2008 9:49 pm

It seems Continental is the lonely sparkling star in the dark sky of American commercial aviation.

Nice report.
 
semsem
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Fri May 30, 2008 10:24 pm

They certainly do a great job fattening you up in C. However in Y they do an excellent job in starving you.
 
Ryanair!!!
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Fri May 30, 2008 10:42 pm

I love your shoes!!!

I have heard about CO's service levels. Comparatively, despite the rather antiquated offerings in JCL, they are the best service wise across the Pacific. Your trip report seems to sing the same song. The REAL test would be a trip on YCL, I suppose?
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
 
triple7man
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Fri May 30, 2008 11:01 pm

Inflight upgrading, like yours does happen, but not very often. On AA premium members (Executive Platinum and Platinums with 2 million miles) get electronic upgrade certificates which can be used for a 1 class upgrade based on availability. Also, if the flight is oversold, the gate agents will usually do a 1 class upgrade for premium members. Those are complimentary
Have you kissed a 777 today?
 
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Coal
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 1:42 am

Thanks for sharing. I'm flying continental this summer connecting from SQ coming from SIN to SFO and then onto CO to FLL via IAH, then back to SFO to go back to SIN. We'll see how the service is, as last time I flew them was about 11 years ago.

Still, I find two things unacceptable: The seats, and the lack of noise-canceling headphones.

Cheers
Coal
Nxt Flts: MI RGN-SIN | SQ SIN-RGN-SIN | CX SIN-HKG-PVG | SQ PVG-SIN
 
AFKLMLHLX
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 2:21 am

Good trip report! I recently flew CO BF EWR-HKG and I have to say that when speaking of their service in terms of perfection, there could be a lot that could be improved all the way from the headphones to the chocolate upon the last meal service. However, for a quasi-Business-First product, CO is definitely up to standard with UA's first in some ways. I think that the whole grandure of flying "First" class is something you pay for in itself, but I enjoyed flying BF with CO more than just the "material" items such as food and amenity kits (which did make the experience a lot better mind you) but it was just the whole ambiance of flying in the forward cabin. My flight was delayed five hours so I took off at night and the meal service was conducted at night, which I think changes the whole memory for me in a way. I just remember eating my sundae as we cruised over the North Pole which was just a really cool feeling.

I have to say that I agree with you that the food service could be better. But then when I compare it to many other American carriers in Business or First of BF, CO is the best in terms of meal service. I think it is a hit or miss thing with them as the menu changes every month. Also, I had all of the Chinese options available to me, but I think that on flights such as those to Italy, India, other places in Europe and Tel Aviv, the meal service is a little better overall (in terms of choices). Also, I feel that although the CO seats do not look as sleek as some other airlines, they are very comfortable do not look outdated. The only complaint I have about them is that the footrest does not go to 180 degrees as that would have really helped me sleep. However, I just enjoyed being in BF too much to sleep on the flight!
 
davescj
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 9:22 am

Great TR! I is cool to see CO on an Asian route!

Dave
Can I have a mojito on this flight?
 
dimoko
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 12:07 pm

oddly enough, CO trip reports are a rare thing around here, great to have one on a long haul!
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be." -- Douglas Adams
 
EXAAUADL
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 2:48 pm

I hate the second meal being breakfast on transpacific flights on CO/NW and some others...AA does a seond lunch/dinner.....
 
PITingres
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 3:27 pm



Quoting Semsem (Reply 3):
They certainly do a great job fattening you up in C. However in Y they do an excellent job in starving you.

I can't agree. I was on CO89 the very next day (may 16th) in Y and I felt like we got plenty to eat. If you need something extra, the snack basket is out in the back, you don't even have to ask the F/A's.

13+ hours in Y is not my idea of fun, but it was a lot better than my last trans-pac experience which was some years back in a united 747 to Oz. That was awful. CO is doing a nice job with EWR-PEK in my opinion.
Fly, you fools! Fly!
 
AFKLMLHLX
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 3:57 pm



Quoting EXAAUADL (Reply 10):
I hate the second meal being breakfast on transpacific flights on CO/NW and some others...AA does a seond lunch/dinner.....

I know! I know that airlines do not just do things nonchalantly but something as big as giving people breakfast at 6 PM? Honestly, it made me feel sick having breakfast then. They should at least have a lunch/dinner option.
 
semsem
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 5:41 pm

I only know the catering on CO Y on European routes and I find them together with Swiss to be the worst of the lot.
 
ba319-131
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sat May 31, 2008 7:36 pm

Nice report, enjoyed the read, thanks for the pictures.

Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter):
Many times it seems as though the glamour and mystique of flying are taken out of today’s American airlines—the immaculate suit has been replaced by the disheveled tracksuit

- That sounds about right.

Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter):
The last time someone invited me to the front, during a school trip to Chicago on Continental, I genuinely thought I was in trouble and asked, “WHY ME?”

- Funny!!

CO's product looks ok, but seat wise it is still miles away from the likes of BA's Club World product, given the choice it would be BA every time, however CO vs UA etc might go CO's way.

Rgds

Mark
111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
 
AFKLMLHLX
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sun Jun 01, 2008 4:13 pm

I am still confused as to why you were upgraded. How did the FA know you were a milage member and what does that have to do with getting an ungrade (unless you were Elite)? That is 10,000USD ticket and it is just odd that an FA would be that nice to just pick a passenger and upgrade them. Were any other passengers mad? I would be!
 
klkla
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:39 am

Great pics and report.

Continental's food presentation looked great. I hope it tasted as good as it looks.
 
CAP2008
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Mon Jun 02, 2008 12:59 am

Great TR,

CO really puts out a nice display for meals, the mini salt and pepper shakers are a nice touch. That headset looks pretty cheap though.

Thanks for sharing.
The mother of the last KC-135 pilot has yet to be born.
 
christao17
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Mon Jun 02, 2008 4:35 pm

Hi there - nice report. I feel like I should know this, but are those seats angle-flat or just regular recliners? If they aren't at least angle-flat I'd say that's a major knock against them on a long-haul flight, although it sounds like the interpersonal service was top-notch.

Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter):
I could think of many excuses to pardon the sometimes awful hardware and software—poor leadership, rising costs, tough competition, byzantine labor rules and regulations

Those reasons don't excuse the poor hardware and software; they just explain them.

Quoting Caio86 (Thread starter):
There was something like 300+ choices for movies alone

Wow! Realy? That's huge! Very cool, indeed.

I look forward to your next report.
Keeping the "civil" in civil aviation...
 
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readytotaxi
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:49 pm

Very nice trip report, your photos clearly show the quality of the food service and how the seat sadly lets the airline down. I remember fondly my trips from LGW-EWR in Business first because of the great service and food, but the seat now is so out of date I will not fly with them until the upgrade takes place.
Thanks for sharing with us.  Smile
you don't get a second chance to make a first impression!
 
coolfish1103
Posts: 162
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Tue Jun 03, 2008 1:40 am

Cabin upgrade is always a great addition to the journey (if they don't pull you down at last minute for paid passengers). It doesn't look like a lie flat to me, right?

That chicken you had ??? is called Chef's Choice of Sauteed Chicken, in which it costs 42 for half and 70 for full.
 
Lp0815
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Wed Jun 04, 2008 1:33 am

"The advertisement burns the child chicken"?
That's a good one.
I am in shanghai right now and yesterday evening on of the items on the menu for dinner was "Temple explode diced chicken" - not bad either methinks.....

Tks for the report, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Best,
Ludwig
Time waits for nobody
 
plateman
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Wed Jun 04, 2008 4:45 am

Great TR...thanks!

What is that water cube thing?
"Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain
 
PITingres
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Wed Jun 04, 2008 1:40 pm



Quoting PlateMan (Reply 22):
What is that water cube thing?

The swimming venue for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Offically, the National Aquatics Center.
Fly, you fools! Fly!
 
jumbojet
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Thu Jun 05, 2008 5:40 am

I'm very surprised that CO doesnt have the noise cancelling headphones that most international carriers are now offering, including Delta. Also, is CO offering a comforter and oversized pillow or the standard biz elite product?
 
AFKLMLHLX
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Thu Jun 05, 2008 5:27 pm



Quoting JumboJet (Reply 24):
Also, is CO offering a comforter and oversized pillow or the standard biz elite product?

CO's blanket is the same as Y. The pillows are a little better than Y. The headphones are just like Y but are a little easier to put on. Also, the bathrooms are identical coach. I actually like CO's seat unlike most of you. If you they could just make the footrest go up to 180º then it would be really good. I think the styling of the seat looks CO and looks very regal. I also like CO's china and meal preparation. It could be a little more shnazy and modern looking, but I like the traditional look to it. The actual content of the meal could improve in some areas however.
 
caio86
Posts: 43
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:29 pm

Thanks for the replies, to answer a couple of still unresolved queries:

Quoting AfklmLHLX (Reply 15):
I am still confused as to why you were upgraded. How did the FA know you were a milage member and what does that have to do with getting an ungrade (unless you were Elite)? That is 10,000USD ticket and it is just odd that an FA would be that nice to just pick a passenger and upgrade them. Were any other passengers mad? I would be!

I'm not that sure as to the specifics, but this sort of upgrade has happened to me before and usually the FA is holding a list. I think it helps if you are sitting in the forward part of the coach cabin. Although I'd like to say that it's because I'm so devilishly handsome, it's probably because I fly back and forth to Hawaii/Asia/California a lot on CO and I like to sit in the front of the coach cabin. Although I didn't conduct a survey, as it happened relatively quickly, I think most people didn't notice or care.

Quoting Christao17 (Reply 18):
Hi there - nice report. I feel like I should know this, but are those seats angle-flat or just regular recliners? If they aren't at least angle-flat I'd say that's a major knock against them on a long-haul flight, although it sounds like the interpersonal service was top-notch.



Quoting Coolfish1103 (Reply 20):
Cabin upgrade is always a great addition to the journey (if they don't pull you down at last minute for paid passengers). It doesn't look like a lie flat to me, right?

It's not lie flat, it is angled and it doesn't go fully 180 degrees. It is 170 degrees and 22 inches wide (sorry metric people).

Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 4):
I love your shoes!!!

Thanks!!!
After sex and drugs comes rock and roll
 
tristanhnl
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RE: Spoiled For Life? BusinessFirst CO89 EWR-PEK Pics

Mon Jun 16, 2008 7:04 am



Quoting AFKLMLHLX (Reply 25):
CO's blanket is the same as Y. The pillows are a little better than Y.

Actually the blankets are bigger and slightly thicker, at least on the flights I've been on on the 767's and T7's. And I feel the pillows are significantly larger as well. The ones in Y are puny!  Smile
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