Recently I had the opportunity to upgrade into the Businessfirst cabin of the Continental Newark to Honolulu non-stop. Many speak like this is the 'ultimate long haul ride' from the lower 48 to the islands. Well let's see how it shaped up.
Continental flies a comfortable 767 equipped with the oldest version of their BusinessFirst seats on this route. I am fine with the older seats. While I love the newest BF seats on their planes, these are just fine...especially considering what many airlines fly to Hawaii.
I haven't flown Continental's transoceanic service in Businessfirst lately but I've always considered the food to be very good for airline food--certainly relative to the typical business or first class food served typically on American based airlines. Hopefully this would at least be a good meal!
The seat is comfy but not lie flat. I personally can sleep just fine in the cradled position. This is just fine with me. It is certainly not the F seat on your typical domestically configured United 767 that flies to Hawaii....this is far better. (However, I like how relatively easy it is to upgrade into one of those United 767 First seats to Hawaii! Beats flying coach on Continental any day!)
You can tell immediately this is not true business first service upon taking your seat and there is that cheap white pillow and typical Continental domestic blue blanked on the seat. At least it appears that they've done away with the 'cheesecloth' blankets that appeared right after the merger....at least I haven't seen one in awhile.
Menus were distributed. I immediately remembered good experiences with the BF beef entrees and planned on requesting that. I was in row 5, so I figured my luck would hold out as I surely wasn't far enough back to not get my meal choice.
Well I was so wrong. They were out of the beef entree by row 3. This was not off to a good start. The only options left were some kind of a spicy Cajun style chicken entree...which sounded like a 'heartburn event' in the making, and the vegetarian ravioli. The Cajun is just not an option for me so I was left with the Ravioli. I was very disappointed. I understand not wanting to overcater a flight but out of the beef entree by row 3? Really Continental?
The hors d'oeuvres was the typical pack of Almonds.... a choice here would be nice. Almonds was a big disappointment on what seems to be hailed as some kind of a flagship service. Almonds are very uninispring.
The meal service began with a type of fish starter and dinner salad. Both were very tasty. The bread was good....which is refreshing given the problems so many airlines seem to have catering fresh bread.
Pictured below is the ravioli entree. Very tasty indeed. Not the beef but still a nice choice.
Of course, the dessert was the famous ice cream sundae with a side of Baileys. :) One can also opt for cheese for dessert.
All in all, the food was very good and a very enjoyable experience. I rarely drink wine so I am not able to comment on the wine selection on quality on the flight. Since I hear so many negative comments regarding wine on planes, I've always considering not being a wine drinker to be a plus when flying.
Before arrival there was a small snack service consisting of a warm burritto with some fruit and a tasty chocolate. I would characterize the burritto as 'just okay'. It was definitely of lower quality than the rest of the food. Those who fly domestic first on Continental would be familar with the burritto.
A couple of comments on the service. I was mostly helped by one particular flight attendant. I would consider the service to be 'minimalist' at best and surly at worst. I am afraid that minimalist seems to be all to common lately. The person sitting next to me (who was not traveling with me) used far harsher words to characterize the service... as upgrd.com is a family friendly site, I'll have to leave that to your imagination. He said that he blamed it on the merger and reminisced about the 'good old days' of Continental service. I witnessed this gentleman very politely ask for a glass of wine towards the end of the flight (but not so close to arrival that it should be an issue in a premium cabin). Well he was greeted with a grunt by the flight attendant who was obviously unhappy with his request. A few minutes later a glass of wine was given to him with a 'thud' on his table. I thought 'Wow' when witnessing that. Unfortunately I've seen similar surly service on BF Continental transatlantic flights--but have also had excellent experiences.
Overall: Businessfirst 'lite' to Hawaii is good if you can get it. It is definitely 'liter' though and your mileage will vary with respect to the service. Hopefully you'll get some of those great Continental Flight Attendants that we all know are out there.