Last weekend I was on yet another mileage run, but this time flying Continental Airlines. I had never flown Continental up until now, so I was actually pretty excited for the new experience. My itinerary was Los Angeles to Cleveland to Chicago, and back the same way.
Although I had checked-in online and printed my boarding passes for the outbound flights, I reprinted them at the kiosk at LAX since I save the stubs throughout the year and was hoping for cardstock. Nope… got the flimsy paper version. Security took longer than normal (no dedicated elite line), and while a couple of people did opt out of the full body scan, I’ve decided I’d rather have the image taken than being molested by the TSAeww.
Then I was off to the Presidents Club. I’ve actually been in Continental’s LAX club several times, since last year they started reciprocal lounge access with the Red Carpet Club. It’s a comfortable lounge and offers similar amenities to the RCC, but they do excel at stocking more newspapers and still offer packaged cheeses and chips (bonus!).
Pretty soon it was time for boarding, so I headed off to gate 64. I was trying to hear the boarding process, but the announcement was a bit garbled, so I just joined the elite access line. I settled into the roomy exit row seat 21D on this 737-800. Boarding finished up, the doors closed on time, and we sat… and sat, and sat. Eventually the cockpit came on and announced they were loading additional bags. Another 10-15 minutes passed, and we pushed back from the gate, only to sit a bit more. Finally we rolled very slowly out to the runway and took off. There was never an explanation of reasoning for the further delay, which I found odd.
Truth be told, I was dead tired, and got a solid 3 to 3.5 hours of sleep, so I completely missed any service cart coming down the aisle. I have a red-eye routine down pretty well, actually, and had my usual eyeshades, earplugs, and form fitting neck rest that prevents your head from bobbling from side-to-side. Pretty soon we were on the ground and taxiing in to the gate. So, this flight was great, the legroom was fantastic, and the flight attendants were friendly for the little time I experienced them. Oh, and the middle seat in my row was empty, which made the flight even that much more comfortable.
This was also my first time at Cleveland’s airport, and it was actually larger than I assumed it might be. I was exclusively in the C-concourse, and although it appeared a bit dated, it was clean and roomy enough. Given the 45-minute delay, I spent just a little bit of time in the Presidents Club there, with which I was very impressed. Incredibly roomy, nice furniture, and I like the “theatre” seating for the TV room. Also a bonus was the take-away coffee cups with lids!
Now I was back in my usual territory, flying United Express (ExpressJet Airlines) for the quick one-hour flight to Chicago. I had my 12A exit row seat (and yes, the seat map was wrong from my previous post… the A-seat was the solo seat), and settled in for the quick flight. In O’Hare, I spent my time in the C16 Red Carpet Club, then headed over to the B6 club nearer my gate back to Cleveland.
This time I was on a mainline United Airlines flight, an Airbus A319, and seated in first class in 2A. The crew was very friendly, I was addressed by name when asked for my beverage, and she even thanked me for being a 1K. Nice! That hasn’t happened in a while. Even though this was a quick flight, she still brought around the now-common basket of snacks, which consisted of bananas, chips, chocolates, and I can’t remember what else. I had a banana and chips with my water.
Back at Cleveland, I again spent a little time in the Presidents Club, hydrated up, and then went for an extended walk around the terminal. I didn’t actually go over to the D-concourse, but went down the escalator to the tunnel/walkway to see if they did anything uber nifty like United at O’Hare or Delta (Northwest) at Detroit, but no… it was a boring concrete walkway.
Back at the gate, I boarded with the rest of first class and settled into seat 2E, an aisle on my 737-900. The flight attendant hung my jacket and took my pre-departure drink order, and was incredibly friendly. We soon took off, and I was thrilled to play with the live DirecTV (a first for me on an airplane), and caught an Australian Open tennis match… nice! Dinner was very tasty, actually, and consisted of salad, soup, a beef entrée with veggies and creamy rice. Dessert was a cheesecake-like slice of heaven with coffee. Perfect! Throughout the flight, service was frequent, friendly and attentive. I was impressed with this crew!
The seat itself was comfortable enough, but I have to say I prefer United’s first class seats better. It didn’t feel like the padding on Continental’s seat was too significant, and I much prefer United’s sturdier headrest that you can manipulate to your comfort more easily.
This was a fantastic introduction to Continental, and I’m glad I was able to get a purely Continental experience under my belt before the carriers merge into some hybrid of both. I had a great experience on both of the flights, and look forward to a few more I have booked in the next couple of months.
Finally, here is a picture & video summary of my trip. Enjoy!