A 1Ks Experience on Continental Airlines

As I posted over here, 1K Flying on Continental, I decided to try Continental for my trip from Orlando to Denver. When I was looking at flights in November, I noticed that Continental was $300 cheaper than United. Unfortunately, this meant that I would have to connect in Houston (IAH), rather than flying MCO-DEN (Orland0-Denver) non-stop on United..

12/21 rolled around, and it was time to leave MCO. When I got to MCO, I walked over the blue carpeted Elite Access Line, which was for First, BusinessFirst, Elite Members of OnePass, and Star Alliance Gold members. Within one minute, the agent at the ticket counter had printed both of my boarding passes, and I was on my way to the gate. With two CO flights in F, I was excited to try CO. A friend of mine had told me that their F product blew UA's out of it's socks. Hopefully I could prove them wrong ;)

While waiting in the United Red Carpet Club @ MCO, I discovered that there were some earlier flights out of MCO, getting me back to Denver around 1pm. My currently flights would not get me back to Denver until 5:45pm! A quick check of the CO website, confirmed that the earlier flights had room in F, so I approached the CO agent in the RCC. After a little bit of typing, her printer shot out two brand new boarding passes for me. With only ten minutes until the flight to IAH boarded, I packed up my backpack and walked over to the CO gates.

Upon arrival at the gate, I noticed that CO had a similar setup to UA. Instead of a nice red carpet, CO had a blue carpet. image from farm1.static.flickr.com However, the boarding process seemed a lot different than UA. Instead of the premium passengers lining up on the blue carpet, a big group of people (a.k.a. gate lice) started to encroach on the boarding area. I had already gotten past them, and was able to get my boarding pass scanned before being stuck in the masses.

Boarding our Boeing 757-300, I was amazed at the length of the aircraft. United's 757-200s only have 10 exit doors, while the Continental 757-300s have 12 exit doors. I took the familiar left turn into the First cabin, and was ready to experience CO F.

After I stowed my rollerboard in the overhead bin, I took a seat in 3A. My first impression was not a positive one. The seat was similar to one that you would have seen on an aircraft that was flying in 1970. The biggest problems with the seat were the fact that the back and bottom padding was non-existent. In addition, there was no moveable headrest. However, the seat did have the winglets on the side of the headrest, which did not stay up when you applied any pressure to them. I was thoroughly unimpressed with CO when I discovered this.

Shortly after take-off, the flight attendants came around the cabin to take orders for the breakfast service. The options were: Egg & Cheese McMuffin with yogurt, fruit, and a cinnamon roll, or a fruit and cereal plate. I chose the former, which also included a freshly baked cinnamon roll. In addition, the FAs distributed hot towels. Instead of the hot gauze that UA hands out, this was a real towel. In this area, I would give CO a +1 over UA breakfast service. UA consistently focuses on strange egg dishes, and seems to have no creativity when it comes to the meal service. Hopefully the merger between UA & CO will improve the on-board catering. CO owns their own catering company, which helps to keep overhead low, and provide better meals.

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.com

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.com

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.com

The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful. I was able to grab about fifty minutes of sleep, and before I knew it, we were on short final. Landing at IAH, I was amazed at the number of CO aircraft.

I made it off the aircraft, and stepped into the terminal @ IAH. Upon finding my flight on the display boards, I discovered that it was delayed about three hours, which was not something I was looking forward to. I did notice on the board that there was a flight to Denver on UA, which was supposed to depart about an hour from then, so I started walking towards the CO President's Club.

Once inside the PC, I was able to have the UA agent rebook me on the UA flight, which was operated by an A319. As many UA frequent fliers know, when irrops (Irregular Operations) occur, the UA reps usually rebook you in full-fare Economy, which gives you priority when it comes to upgrades. In addition, you earn .5 bonus elite qualifying segments.

Around 12:15, one hour after I landed, I walked towards the UA gate for my flight to DEN. Things were a bit crazy, with one Gate Agent (GA) trying to rebook lots of passengers that were going to miss connections in Denver. Boarding started about 30 minutes after I arrived, and I got my chance to check on my upgrade. With the rebooking, as well as my 1K status, I was #1 on the upgrade list when added in the PC. With the GA needed to board right away, I walked onto the red carpet and said "Can you double check on the upgrade? I was #1 in the PC...." A little bit of typing, and ten seconds later, a new boarding pass for U N I T E D First printed out. A few moments later, I was comfortable settled in to my new seat, 2B. The Purser, Ruth, came by a few moments later, with a pre-departure beverage.

During a break in passengers boarding, Ruth came by to take our meal orders. The choices were either a Black Forest Ham sandwich with Harvest Cheddar Sunchips, or a Sesame Chicken Salad. Both meals came with a bowl of Veggie Corn Chili Bisque soup. I decided on the sandwich, and fifteen minutes later, had a nice meal sitting in front of me. The soup was probably the best soup I had ever had, and the ham sandwich was pretty tasty. Although the sandwich was a little too hot, it made for a great meal, especially with a bag on sun chips! About ten minutes after my tray had been cleared, Ruth came around with hot chocolate chip cookies, which really hit the spot!

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.com

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.com
A little while later, I started chatting with Ruth, and found myself being offered either another cookie, bowl of soup, or both. I chose the cookie, which was fresh out of the oven. It was delicious! After watching an episode of Chuck, it seemed that it was time to land in Denver. Having not been out of the airport since September, I was pretty excited to be home.

Overall, I am glad that I tried out Continental. I discovered that my friend was a bit wrong, and CO was not superior to United. This experience proved to me that I should be worried about the merger between CO & UA. I was lucky to get the opportunity to switch to the UA flight from IAH, which not only got me into Denver earlier, but let me back on my airline :)