Weekend trip to Sunny California
I N T R O D U C T I O N
After the Peru trip, I was presented with an opportunity to head to LA for the weekend to hang out with my best friend from college and my sister. I asked another buddy who graduated with me and he thought of it as a good opportunity to visit LA for the first time; or in his own words, “being west of Colorado for the first time ever”. So once that was done, it was time to look for flights. I am a United Mileage Plus member, so my choices were going to be any of the Star Alliance carriers – United, Continental, or US Airways. My choice of airports was Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or Akron. Airfares were quite similar and the fact that I found non-stop flights from Cleveland kind of sealed it for me. I couldn’t take a day off from work, therefore I found a flight departing for LAX after the work day was over and then on Sunday departing at almost midnight, thus giving me two entire days in LA. Check and mate. Tickets were booked and I was counting down my time to a fun weekend in LA. This would be my 2nd trip on Continental Airlines and I must say I’m quite impressed by them. So everything set – I was going to be on a B738 to LAX and on my way back, I would be on a B739 (first time on this type of aircraft).
T H E T R I P
So Friday the 24th came, and I had packed the night before. With only a carry-on and a camera bag to take with me, it was a light pack. I only had to pack two day’s worth clothes and it always helps when traveling light. My flight was scheduled to depart at 4:55 pm. I had to be at the airport by 3:55 pm which meant that I had to leave office by 2:45 pm. That plan took a hit as I didn’t leave work by 3 pm. CLE is about an hour and 10 minute drive from where I work. It’s not so much the distance; it’s the roads I have to drive on due to which it takes so much time. While driving on I-480 I hit traffic near the Independence area. It was 10 minutes to 4:00 pm and I knew I was cutting close. I still had about 16 odd miles to travel. Luckily it was just a traffic hiccup and I made it to Airport Fast Park by 4:05 pm. I parked my car and hopped on the shuttle to the airport. I already had my mobile boarding pass so all I had to do was head to security. Boarding time listed was 4:20 pm and at 4:15, I had just gotten in line for security. Luckily the line moved fairly quickly and by 4:30, I was air side walking towards my gate C7. By the time I got to the gate, I saw that boarding had already started. Pheww, talking about cutting it close eh?
Aircraft Boeing 737-800 (twin-jet) (B738/Q)
Origin Gate C7 / Cleveland-Hopkins Intl (KCLE)
Destination Gate 64 / Los Angeles Intl (KLAX)
Route AMRST2 AMRST VWV115 VWV GSH J60 HEC RIIVR2
Date Friday, September 24 2010
Duration 4 hours 37 minutes
Status Arrived 6 days ago.
Distance Direct: 2,050 sm Planned: 2,085 sm Flown: 2,129 sm
Scheduled 7-day Average Actual/Estimated
Departure 04:55PM EDT 05:14PM EDT 04:59PM EDT
Arrival 06:45PM PDT 06:52PM PDT 06:36PM PDT
Speed 471 kts
Altitude 34,000 feet
I had checked in the night before and I switched to seat 8A from 26A. I was both glad and later upset about the seat change. So at the boarding gate, I saw that they were boarding the plane from the rear to the front. Since I was quite up front, I decided to walk across the gate to Hudson News and grab a snack for this flight. I ended up getting some fruit snacks that would accompany me. While walking towards the gate, I noticed a gentleman on his phone and since his arm was up, one got a whiff of his B.O. It was so strong that one could just faint (ok maybe a bit exaggerated; but I was quite potent). So I kindly walked away from the gentleman (trying to catch my breath back after holding it), and stood in line until it was time for me to walk into the aircraft. I scanned my boarding pass and headed towards the jetway. That was pointless as there was a huge line inside. Later on I found out why. So finally I made it close to the door and one of the FAs came outside and said: “Sir, you will have to check this bag in”. I asked why and was given the answer that “the bins are full”. I didn’t mind a free checked bag Therefore I big adieu to my bag and stepped inside the aircraft.
Now I understood the massive line. There was a first class passenger who was walking up and down the aisle with one of his carry ons trying to find a spot for it. The FA told him that there was no room and he had to check it in, and the gentleman replied with: “I paid for First Class, I want my suitcase to be in First Class”. I was shocked. Such a kid this guy was. There was absolutely no room in the first class bins for that guy to put his suitcase. Therefore another gentleman got up, took his carry on out of the bag, and asked the FA to put the other guys’ carry on there. While the FA was putting the other gentleman’s carry on, this other gentleman muttered, ‘I hope your bag enjoys the full meal they will serve on this flight’. A few people had smiles on their faces and the FA had a nice chuckle as well. Eventually the gentleman who took his carry on out, seated, with his carry on being checked-in. The boarding line moved and I made it to my seat. I made it to my seat and to my horror; the gentleman with the strong B.O. was in the middle seat. I said to me, ‘this can’t be happening. This isn’t happening’. I had to hold my breath for 4 hrs and 17 minutes? Or breathe through my mouth. This was going to be a very uncomfortable flight I thought.
The flight was completely full with barely any empty seats. Luckily though, boarding completed and the aisle seat 8C was left empty. I politely asked the gentleman to move by being diplomatic and cheerful. I said, “Sir, that seat is empty. If you move there, we both can have extra room to enjoy this long flight”. He seemed to oblige and promptly moved after getting permission from the FA. I was so relieved. At least I could breathe now and also have some space to keep some of my stuff.
The safety demonstration was done and we were heading towards the active run-way. We were #3 in line for take-off. The weather in Cleveland was about to get harsh and I’m glad that our flight was departing before that. It was supposed to thunderstorm in Cleveland at 4 pm; however the storms were running a bit late and the pilot informed us that the climb could be a bit bumpy due to high winds and the weather. Temperature was also supposed to drop ~40 degrees by nighttime in the Cleveland area. Anywho, we got to the runway and the engines spooled up. Being in front of the engines, I could hear them roar into action and the B738 thundered down the runway. We were airborne in no time and as told by the pilot, the climb was a bit bumpy. The seat belt sign didn’t go off until we were way beyond 10,000 ft after which the FAs finally went about their business.
Now this A/C had personal TVs on it; however the DirecTV service was not offered. These PTVs were pretty much useless as they didn’t even turn on. Seems like the A/C had been prepped for the DirecTV service but it hadn’t been fully installed yet. This was one of my major gripes for CO. More on that on my return flight; however on a 4+ hour flight, how can you not offer any type of IFE. I don’t care much for the TV or movies per say, but boy I like to have my moving map. I like to see where we are flying over and information like that.
So once at the cruising altitude, we were informed that we would be served a hot meal. Was this for real? A US carrier and serving something other than Pretzels and a glass of soda on a long flight? This was cool as they served some sort of a chicken roll with a pack of baby carrots, a bag of Lays chips and a small kit kat. Quite filling for this duration of the flight. For drinks, I got 2 Gin & Tonics. The crew on this flight was super nice; however robotic. The lady who gave me the G&Ts was quite friendly and seemed like she wasn’t enjoying her job for some reason because I never saw a smile on her face. Her compatriot was a dude who I think wanted to be somewhere else. I never saw a smile from him either.
The G&Ts were for a reason - this was a party power weekend and I wanted to get a head start. I had turned my personal IFE on and I was enjoying the meal while watching it. On flights like these, I usually have my laptop and on this flight, there was a power port underneath my seat and that made me forget everything about the lack of IFE on this flight. I turned my laptop on and watched an episode of Top Gear and then watched some cricket matches I had stored on my laptop (particularly the India vs. South Africa match where Sachin Tendulkar scored the first ever double century in a One Day International). It was truly epic.
After getting bored with my laptop, I decided it was time to look outside and entertain myself with some views. I was hoping to catch the Rocky Mountains again and was really hoping to catch a glimpse of the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t disappointed.
By the time this scenery was done, the pilot announced that it was time for our descent into the LAX airport. He said we would be landing in precisely 29 minutes. Everyone who wanted to stretch stood up. I disturbed the gentleman who was sleeping, went to the bathroom. While waiting, I asked the FAs for a glass of water. I felt like I had committed a sin here as the look I got from the ‘dude who would rather be somewhere else’ screamed, ‘oh man. This guy is going to make me do all this work for a freakin’ glass of water’. Nevertheless I felt weird about it. I said thanks and went about my business. Very weird treatment I would say. There was no reply. I stood for a couple minutes to stretch my legs and then went back to my seat and then put my seat belt on and prepared for an awesome weekend in LA.
Over the 405
Landed right before sunset
Tom Bradley International Terminal
V Australia B777
Collection of international heavies
We arrived at the gate and then de-boarded. I was one of the first to arrive at the baggage claim and had to wait about 5-10 minutes for my bag to arrive. There seems to be some sort of renovation going on in the baggage hall as there was only one carousel for the Continental in Terminal 6. One could see the exposed wiring on the ceiling. I grabbed my suitcase and headed out to wait for my ride to come pick me up. The weather was amazing and the feel of being at such a huge airport was also nice. This was my 2nd trip to LAX.
I was picked up about 20 odd minutes later and I head on home. I had to get a shower. My friend came over and we decided to head over to Santa Monica for dinner. This place called World Café. It was a nice place with an outdoor patio where we had dinner. The next couple of days were filled with driving around, walking around, heading over to Malibu, then Santa Monica, attending the Glow festival, and then Venice beach. The weekend flew by, but I had a lot of fun. Seems like the LA was going through a heat wave with temperatures reaching in the 90s. My friend was joking around saying that summer finally arrived in LA. Lol.
Some pictures from CA
A visitor at Dukes in Malibu
View from our Table
A refreshing beverage to go along
Driving back to Santa Monica
Houses on the beach
Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade
Don’t see these in OH
This guy was sleeping on the Promenade Street
Sun almost setting
I thought this was funny… lol
Santa Monica Pier
A lot of people
Rooftop Bar called “High” in Venice Beach at Hotel Erwin (highly recommended)
Looking back towards Santa Monica & Malibu
Another refreshing beverage… lol
Walking on Venice Beach
The Venice Beach boardwalk
Yours truly again. This is on the rooftop bar of Shangri La in Santa Monica
A couple enjoying the firepit (it did get a bit chilly)
The Santa Monica Pier
The Promenade at night
After an awesome time in LA, it was time to head back to LAX. We left Shangri La and I still had to drive back to Venice Beach to pick up my car, and then head back towards UCLA where I was staying. I still had to pack and then leave for the airport. This was gonna be cutting it close once again. I didn’t care at this time, as I would have been more than happy to spend an extra night here But good things come to an end. I had already checked in and my friend was driving pretty quickly to get me there in time. I was dropped off at Terminal 6 and I straightaway headed towards security. I cleared security and just like I was in CLE, there was a line for boarding already. Luckily the flight had just arrived from IAH and people were still getting off, so there was going to be a delay.
Aircraft Boeing 737-900 (twin-jet) (B739/Q)
Origin Gate 62 / Los Angeles Intl (KLAX)
Destination Gate C25 / Cleveland-Hopkins Intl (KCLE)
Route HOLTZ9 TRM PKE ALS IRK OBK CRL HIMEZ2
Date Monday, September 27 2010
Duration 4 hours 16 minutes
Status Arrived 4 days ago
Distance Direct: 2,050 sm Planned: 2,160 sm Flown: 2,181 sm
Scheduled 7-day Average Actual/Estimated
Departure 11:25PM PDT 11:45PM PDT 12:09AM PDT
Arrival 06:44AM EDT 06:39AM EDT 07:25AM EDT
Speed 460 kts
Altitude 35,000 feet
I grabbed a bite to eat and then waited for my turn to board. This time I was in 26A and therefore one of the first people to board. When I got to my seat, my seatmate was already present in the middle seat. There was plenty of overhead bin storage space and I did not have to check my bag in this time. This was another full flight and I don’t recall any empty seat on this flight either. This flight did have the DirecTV service available however the ‘free preview’ ended once the plane was ready to depart. To use this service, you had to pay $6 for the duration of the flight. Not a bad deal in my opinion; however now that those PTVs were working, where was the moving map? CO, what are you doing? Why don’t you have one of these?
We pushed back almost at 12:20, which was 25 minutes behind schedule. The scheduled flight time according to the pilot was 4 hours and 30 odd minutes. I put my seatbelt on, took a couple of pictures and then closed my eyes. Now I’m not a sleeper on planes usually; however on this flight I had to catch some slumber as I would have to go straight to work once I landed. I must have dozed off as I don’t recall the plane taking off. Lol. But I did open my eyes, reclined by chair and went back to my slumber. With occasional waking up, I kept my eyes closed for most of the flight.
I don’t know if there was a meal offered on this flight or not, as I had my eyes closed; however I woke up and feeling thirsty I rang the call button. A cheerful lady came with smiles and asked how she could help me. I asked for a glass of water and some ginger-ale. She came back with a whole can of ginger ale, a glass with ice and two (yes 2 glasses) of water. While handing the glasses over to me, she said, “I saw you were sleeping, so I thought you could use some water”. What a nice lady she was. She was right; those two glasses of water went by quickly. I was awake now and looked out the window. It was still dark. After about 10-15 minutes, the pilot came and said that we would be starting our descent into CLE pretty soon and gave us the weather information. I enjoyed my ginger ale, and then closed my eyes again until we landed. This time I had no bags to claim; therefore I directly head out towards the baggage claim area to hop onto the shuttle back to my car. I got to my car, and headed to work. Unfortunately made it in an hour late wearing a t-shirt and pajamas and the first thing I did was change…
C O N C L U S I O N
Overall, I think CO is a fine airline. You get a lot of service, which these days, is quite non-existent on other US carriers. The crew on the flight to LAX was very nice; however very robotic. One of the guys seemed like he would rather watch some football rather than be on that plane. The crew on the return flight was very nice and more than made up for any negativity with that nice gesture without asking. That was really a nice touch. I would definitely fly them again; however knowing that in a year or so’s time, it will be UA, I’m very indifferent about it. I am not used to any of the perks like a hot meal on the domestic flight; therefore I don’t know if I can conclude whether I will miss it or not. Other than that, this was a fabulous trip.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to ask them
My next trip report will cover a trip to Munich in November on UA and back to the US on LH. It will be my first time on LH, so watch for it…