Earlier this year Continental’s Micronesia division inaugurated non-stop service between Honolulu and Nadi, Fiji. Introductory fares from Los Angeles were $845 r/t (currently about $1200 r/t) so I decided to spend my spring break in Fiji.
For a review of my CO flight from LAX-HNL, click here.
My uncle and I fully utilized our five-hour layover by heading over to Waikiki and re-visiting familiar sights. By the time we returned to the airport, we had only 20 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin (not a problem at HNL). Consequently, we only spent a few minutes in the President’s Club. Nothing stood out except the fresh pineapple.
Because CO's 737-800s features traditional domestic Business Class seats rather than BusinessFirst seats, I received a complimentary upgrade to Business Class five days before departure, right at the Platinum window. Surprisingly, for the first time on Continental, I scored a companion upgrade for my uncle. Not bad for a seven hour flight, though my uncle would later comment that he preferred the extra legroom in the exit row.
6hrs, 46 min
Boarding was almost complete by the time we showed up to the gate, but the flight was only lightly filled and we had no trouble finding overhead space for our hand baggage. Unlike the 737-900 I had flown from Los Angeles to Honolulu, there were no power outlets or PTVs on this aircraft.
As I settled into the seat, the seatback immediately slumped back. I tried to bring it up again using the recline button on the side of the seat to no avail. I manually brought the seat up by holding down the button and pulling it up myself, but seconds later it slumped back again. I motioned for the purser to come over and explained the problem. He seemed uninterested and told me not to worry about it. That wasn’t exactly the response I was looking for…
A listless FA, failing to crack a smile, offered a choice of pre-departure beverages to the 12-seat cabin. The Captain was out chatting with the rest crew and sipping a cup of coffee without his necktie on. Can anyone tell me why Continental pilots are so sloppy when it comes to dress and appearance? Almost every CO flight I am features a pilot with his shirt un-tucked in the back, his tie loosened and top collar button open, or even without a tie, as in this case. It just looks unprofessional.
The meals must have been heating up during the climb up, because meal service began promptly after we leveled off. No menus were distributed and passengers were not addressed by names. Orders were taken from front to back (and a German couple in row three was very angry to learn that the steak had run out).
Bagged nuts with a choice of beverage, followed by a single-tray service of salad + bread + salmon or steak. Since I had ordered steak on my earlier CO flight, I had salmon and my uncle had steak.
While the salad was unsatisfactory, the main course was excellent. My only question was why there was no appetizer (there’s soup and salad on three hour CO domestic dinner flights) and why dishes weren’t served course-by-course. After all, this was a seven hour international flight that departed before 8:00p.
Dessert was most disappointing of all: a small dish of chocolate mousse.
Two movies were shown on overhead monitors, but my headphone jack did not work. No apology, just a shrug from the crew. After reading for an hour, I fell asleep and missed a hot oatmeal cookie service, served about two hours after meal service.
I awoke about an hour outside of Nadi just in time to be offered a cheese and crackers plate.
We landed on time. On the one hand, I know I should just be thankful for the free upgrade and not complain, but come on CO! A lackluster crew, lackluster meal, broken seat, and inoperative IFE made for a very mediocre flight.
Four days later, it was time to return. Check-in was chaotic (don't let the picture below fool you) and the security line stretched down the airport concourse. It truly was a free for all, with rampant line cutting and loud complaints that people were going to miss their flights. There was a special line for Air Pacific Business Class passengers which my uncle and I were able to use--though we still had to wait 10 minutes.
Once past security, we headed to the lounge area located on the ground floor behind the escalators to the gate area. Our flight departed at 0945 and it was now 0830. In addition to an Air Pacific lounge, there were two contract lounges and an Air New Zealand lounge. But the NZ lounge was closed and the others lounges did not accept CO passengers! A CO rep. upstairs confirmed that there is no lounge access for Business Class passengers "because of the early departure time." Not cool.
6hrs, 36 min
Business Class was full this time, so only I got the upgrade. I offered it to my uncle, but he preferred the extra legroom afforded by the exit row.
As we boarded, the same crew greeted us. They recognized my uncle and me, welcomed us aboard, and seemed to be in a much better mood. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to change my return seat assignment and the aircraft was the same—meaning I was in the broken seat again. I didn’t even bother to mention it this time.
Breakfast was served after takeoff and featured a choice of pancakes or an omelet with ham, sausage, potatoes, and brocoli. The omelet was sprinkled with bacon bits and did not taste fresh--and there was nothing inside, although I suppose that's what the side items were for. It also was not warm enough. The seasonal fruit, breakfast breads, and yogurt were tasty.
Like the flight to Fiji, a hot cookie was served mid-flight and a cheese plate prior to landing.
The crew really was much friendlier this time around and kept a watchful eye on the passengers. Figuring I had “taken” my uncle’s Business Class seat (just my opinion), they were particularly kind to my uncle and offered him anything he wanted from Business Class.
The purser thanked us profusely for our business as we deplaned, thereby leaving a good lasting impression the choice to choose Continental for this trip instead of non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Nadi on Air Pacific for the same price.
Don’t look for NZ service on this route, but if your travel plans call for CO, overall they offer a sufficient value for your money. I do hope they have 2E fixed by now, though.