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 Post subject: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 01 Aug 2008, 21:47 
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I'm off tomorrow for my annual trip to Houston. Due to the Openskies agreement there are now two Continental flights out of London. The 777 flight appears to have moved to Heathrow and the 767 has stayed at Gatwick, where we are flying from. The 767-400ER has a larger seat picth so it should be better than the cramped T7.

The flight to Las Vegas will be either a 737 (-800 or -900) or a 757-300. I'm hoping for the latter but do not know the flight number yet.

Expect a trip report in two weeks! :P

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 01 Aug 2008, 21:48 
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Have fun Alex!!
I'm looking foward to the Trip Report :P

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 02 Aug 2008, 01:56 
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Wow, another longhaul trip to the US for you! Enjoy :D

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2008, 18:46 
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OK, guys, finally got round to writing the trip reports. A 10558 nm journey with four legs and coincidentally my fourth consecutive year to Houston.

Date: 2nd August 2008
Flight No: CO35
Departure Airport: London Gatwick (Gate 47) Runway 26L
Arrival Airport: Houston Bush Intercontinental (Gate E20) Runway 26L
Scheduled / Actual Departure Time: 0930 / 0933
Scheduled / Actual Arrival Time: 1405 / 1325
Seat: 39A
Aircraft: 767-400ER N76062

For the past three years we had flown BA2025 out of Gatwick and more recently, as of last year, CO5 all with 777-200ERs. This year, thanks to the Openskies agreement, Continental now offers service out of Heathrow as well as Gatwick. My Dad opted to use his air miles to fly my sister and I out of Gatwick, which flew the 767-400ER to Houston.

The day started in the early hours of the morning, as usual. The long(ish) trip down the M1 was routine and in under 2 hours of waking up we were at London’s Gatwick airport. After parking in the short stay car park we were pleasantly surprised to see that we were first in the queue for baggage check-in. The check-in area is shared with EasyJet and when we were waiting the terminals still had EasyJet boards up. It was interesting to see the CO team change the boards around and prepare for check-in, transferring the sea of orange into a more subdued Continental blue.

Check-in was the old-fashioned way without the use of automated self-check-in computers, although there were moveable computer terminals within the queue with personnel scanning passports before you reached the front desk. After we handed over the bags we passed through security and into Gatwick’s duty free area.

The following one or two hours were filled with visiting shops (although not buying anything) and finding a Starbucks for a quick breakfast to fill up for the flight. My sister and I then had a leisurely walk to the gate (which was quite a way away) and sat for another 30 minutes before boarding commenced. I filled the time by surfing the Internet on my iPod Touch, as Gatwick has the same 15 minute free Internet trial that JFK has. Each 15 minutes I would reset the iPod and have another quarter hour of free Internet.

Boarding came and we were called first, due to having EliteAccess status on our tickets. Unfortunately we had to turn right instead of left and took our seats in the rear cabin of the 767. I had the window seat and my sister had the aisle. I had checked the seat pitch before and was pleased to see that CO’s 767-400s have 1 inch longer seat pitch than their 777-200ERs. The 1 inch made a very big difference.

We pushed back three minutes after schedule and the taxi to runway 26L was short and sweet, with not much traffic. We rolled onto the runway and the pilot unleashed power to the engines. The 767 is a very loud plane to be seated in with most of the noise coming from rattles and what sounds like poor sound-proofing in the cabin. After rotation we got a nice view of the coast and were on our way to Houston. However, the window rattle was unbearable so I came up with an ingenious idea to wedge the plastic bags that the blankets came in in-between the window shutters. Et voila! The sound ceased.

I tried to get some meaningful rest at the beginning of the flight, but as always couldn’t quite drift off. Lunch was served early and was not to my liking. The meal was a carbon copy of the one I had last year. The choice was beef or chicken; I went for the latter. I was more interested in the bread and salad as the main hot meal was a watery mess.

The rest of the flight was long and drawn out and further snacks of peanuts and ice creams (which were very nice) were served, as well as drink service throughout. The cabin crew were much friendlier than last year which is an added bonus. I entertained myself by listening to my iTouch and watched parts of the films on offer. Towards the end of the flight my sister and I had a battle on Space Invaders (where I won!) and were served a baguette and crisps prior to arrival. I probably ate more of that then the main meal I had earlier. Right before arrival we filled in the immigration forms and were ready to debark the 10 hour flight.

The approach to 26L gave great views of downtown Houston and further, the Galleria area. When we were on short final the captain pushed hard on the throttles, so much so that I thought we were going-around. We did not and touched down smoothly, the reversers bringing the 767 to a crawl. The taxi was of a reasonable length and once debarked, we headed straight for the immigration hall. Our flight had landed at the same time as another international arrival, so we were pleased to be at the front of the queue. However, the three people in front of us took an eternity, until, eventually, we were at the front and subsequently entered the United States for the second time in a month.

Baggage collection was easy and fast as our bags were given priority boarding, so we were soon out of the airport and on our way across Houston to my Dad’s house.

_______________________________________________________________
Date: 6th August 2008
Flight No: CO197
Departure Airport: Houston Bush Intercontinental (Gate C16) Runway 8R
Arrival Airport: Las Vegas McCarran International (Gate D20) Runway 25L
Scheduled / Actual Departure Time: 1150 / 1156
Scheduled / Actual Arrival Time: 1308 / 1255
Seat: 40F
Aircraft: 757-300

Our second flight to Las Vegas happened the following Wednesday, with a later departure time which meant we didn’t have to wake up too early. For this trip we were going as a party of six, so my Dad booked a stretched limousine to take us to the airport. The trip to the airport was made much better and we avoided the hassle of parking up and walking to the terminal.

My Dad is Platinum Elite with Continental which meant that we breezed to the front of the check-in queue. When we were going through security, my Dad, sister and I were all stopped and led into a separate queue, as a series of four ‘S’s meant we had been selected for a random search. Apparently my Dad got the four ‘S’s last time he flew with CO. The search wasn’t too different from standard procedures, the only difference was a man searched my bag by hand and took a swab to check for drugs. The search was painless and swift and we were soon headed for the President’s lounge.

My dad managed to get all six of us into the lounge, and it was a very nice experience. I helped myself to a drink and breakfast while my Dad and step-mum got a drink from the bar. After approximately 30 minutes we decided to head over to the gate and were soon boarding.

Luckily we managed to get a complete row of six people on the 757-300, so I took the starboard window seat. As is the case with most Las Vegas flights, it was overbooked and so every available seat was occupied.

We taxied to the runway parallel to the one we arrived on, and the pilot let the full power of the 757 into action and we rocketed down the runway and up into the air. Unlike Gatwick, the rotation was not very sharp as I presume Houston has less-stringent noise rules.

Surprisingly we were served a complimentary breakfast and drinks service. I believe CO is one of the few legacy airlines that do this on such short internal flights. The meal was very nice and consisted of a turkey sandwich, crisps and some fruit. I would much rather have had this meal on an international flight than the hot meal they usually serve. The entertainment consisted of several screens mounted near the oxygen masks. There was only one film shown throughout the whole flight, Made of Honour, which I watched parts of on the flight coming over.

Being used to longhauls, the three hours passed swiftly, and about 30 minutes into Las Vegas I opened the shutter to see a spectacular view of the scenery. We caught a great shot of the Grand Canyon, and those on the port side could see the Hoover dam. The scenery was incredible as we landed, and the skyline was dominated by the most diverse collection of hotels and casinos you’ll see anywhere. Only in Vegas!

The touchdown was smooth and the taxi was quite enjoyable. We passed many Southwest jets until we got to our gate. As we left the aircraft we were greeted by slots and then even more slots. Unlike international flights we had to walk through departing passengers at the other gates on the concourse to get to the monorail to take us to baggage collection. The monorail ride was surprisingly long but gave great views over the airport. Yet again our bags were off first and we were soon out of the airport and in the shuttle bus off to our hotel.

_______________________________________________________________
Date: 10th August 2008
Flight No: CO196
Departure Airport: Las Vegas McCarran International (Gate D19) Runway 25R
Arrival Airport: Houston Bush Intercontinental (Gate 37) Runway 26L
Scheduled / Actual Departure Time: 0645 / 0644
Scheduled / Actual Arrival Time: 1145 / 1138
Seat: 29A
Aircraft: 737-800

After an impressive five days in Las Vegas, seeing the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon, we prepared for our early morning departure. For some reason the only morning shuttle bus to the airport was at 0315, so it meant we had to wake up very early and have a few hours at the airport. I managed to fit about 2 hours sleep before we left, although my step-brothers stayed up in the casino downstairs. We managed to win $100 from a single $1. We were unlucky as the shuttle bus was running half an hour late, so the morning was dragged out even longer. When the shuttle eventually arrived it was a short ride to the airport and to check-in our bags.

We went on a coach tour of the Hoover dam and Grand Canyon the previous Thursday and our coach driver was also an air traffic controller at McCarran airport. He gave us some interesting information about the airport and took us past the private GA terminal at the airport. He said that most celebrities fly through this secluded airport and this is the place to see them.

The EliteAccess status of my Dad meant we went straight to the front of the queue and had little trouble checking in our five bags. The terminal was not as impressive as the one we flew into, as it was a little dated, although when you passed further into the airport it was much more impressive and very clean. Luckily we did not need to get searched again so security check was much easier than previously.

Last time my Dad flew into Vegas (the previous month) he said that the President’s lounge was under construction. Thankfully it had just finished construction which meant we had a brand new lounge to fill in the hours wait. It is in a very secluded area and requires you to go up in an elevator to a level that solely has lounges on it. The lounge appeared to be built on top of the main terminal building, which gave it impressive views over the airport. I had another breakfast of muffins and bagels and helped myself to some hot chocolate and orange juice. After about an hours wait we headed over to our boarding gate and to our 737-800 aircraft.

We had hoped to get upgraded due to my Dad having Platinum Elite statues with CO, although he said it would be very unlikely to upgrade six people on a flight that is always full. So this meant we were sitting in economy again. Our seats were spread across two rows, although a kind lady surrendered her seat which meant we all fit on one row, bar one person. The cabin of the 737-800 is very similar to that of the 757-300, although it is much shorter and the seats recline straight back instead of moving forward as the 757 seats did (which minimises leg room). I was quite impressed with the leg room although unlike the 757 there were no screens (at least none that were in use) so there was no entertainment for the whole flight.

Our taxi and takeoff were on-time and I had a good last view of the Las Vegas area and the surrounding scenery, before joining my family in sleeping for the majority of the flight. Breakfast cereal was served with a carton of milk, which I happily ate and finished off a glass of orange juice. After the brief break for breakfast, I settled into a deep sleep and woke up about 45 minutes out of Houston.

We got similar views of Houston when we descended, and landed on the exact same runway that our 767 landed on. It’s not very often that you land on the same runway twice in the space of one week. The taxi was quick and we debarked swiftly.

After we had collected our bags we were greeted by the same limousine driver. This time it was a white stretch instead of a black one, although it was still very nice inside. The drive home was very quiet and we were all tired after the long journey. My step-brothers had not slept since the previous night, so they fell asleep in the limo. I managed to hang on until we got home, where I then collapsed onto my bed and didn’t wake up for a good three hours.

_______________________________________________________________
Date: 16th August 2008
Flight No: CO34
Departure Airport: Houston Bush Intercontinental (Gate E4) Runway 15L
Arrival Airport: London Gatwick (Gate 47) Runway 26L
Scheduled / Actual Departure Time: 1600 / 1709
Scheduled / Actual Arrival Time: 0845 / 0915
Seat: 37A
Aircraft: 767-400ER

The flight home to England was at a civilised 1709 departure time, which meant that we headed over to the airport at about 1330. We managed to check in the EliteAccess queue, even though our Dad was not travelling with us. Unfortunately we could not go into the President’s club for the third time, although I was fine with this and later found some food elsewhere to eat.

I had bought quite a few components for my PC in the States, so my carry on bag was full with the motherboard and graphics card. I had also ordered my computer case there, not knowing that it was the size of Jupiter. I had originally planned to carry it on as hand luggage, as it was within the generous weight limit that CO enforces, however the dimensions were over the limit and only just scraped in the check-in limits. This meant I had to tape it up and checked it in as luggage. Thankfully they put a fragile sticker on it and I did not have to pay the $25 fee for the second checked bag, another plus to having Platinum status. I did, however, have trouble when passing through security. The man took my bag and asked to remove the laptop and put it back through the scanner. He did not understand when I said it was not a laptop, but I took out the equipment anyway and it went through OK.

My sister and I had a drink from Starbucks and a slice of pizza before heading over to our gate. We were not waiting long before they called EliteAccess members for boarding. It was quite unusual to see another CO flight to LHR opposite our gate, the flight which we boarded the previous year. We sat on the plane, exactly two rows in front of our seats on the way over, and I had a nice view across the airport in my window seat.

Unusually we were waiting a long time after the main doors were closed. Over the PA system a call came asking if there were any doctors or medical professionals on board. Nobody came forward and I could see that someone was surrounded by flight attendants. We were informed that there would be a slight delay as doctors were brought on board the aircraft. About 15 minutes later I saw an emergency vehicle labelled ‘Fire’ come and stop next to our aircraft. Two men came on board and removed the woman from the aircraft. We were told that the lady’s bags were being removed, and as I saw here leave others came on board the aircraft. I assume these were passengers on standby as the flight was not full at all, so they were flying with us to London.

We pushed back about an hour late and after a speedy and loud takeoff were soon in the air. I did my trick of wedging bags between the window shutters to prevent the vibrating noise. The entertainment was similar to the flight over, so I watched parts of movies, listened to music on my iPod and also read the manuals for my motherboard and graphics card. The meal was different and a little better than the other hot meal, although I would have much preferred the lunch that we were served on board the Las Vegas-bound flight.

After several attempts of trying to sleep and after being served ice cream, I got some impressive views over Washington DC out of my window. I made out what looked like the White House as our flight path went right across the city. I also got an excellent view of New York and Manhattan. Very strange to see the city where I was the previous month. After another attempt of sleeping I managed to see a beautiful sunrise out of my window. Truly beautiful to see one at 35000 feet. Later the lights were turned back on and a rather nice breakfast of croissants and fruit was served, before we started out descent over Land’s End.

We circled numerous times over London before we eventually touched down and taxied to the gate at Gatwick. The landing was routine and gave good views across the south of Britain. I managed to see Roman Abramovich's private 767, which looks really cool in the custom paint scheme. Thankfully we did not need to pass through immigration and joined the short queue for EU residents. Yet again we chose the line with two people that took an age to pass through, so we had to change line and eventually passed into baggage collection. I decided to buy a trolley to transport our three bags. As soon as we arrived I saw my computer case come out in one piece with priority stickers all over it. The next two bags came seconds later so we avoided a long wait. We managed to pass through ‘Nothing to declare’ without being stopped and met my Mum at arrivals. The final leg home took us down the M1 and back to Warwick, where I then collapsed on my bed and didn’t wake for several hours.

Overall, my trip to the US was very pleasant and Continental’s service was much better than the previous year. It was nice to fly three different variants of aircraft, especially the 767-400ER with the extra leg room. The food was better than last year, although I still believe Continental’s forte is in domestic travel as the flights to and from Vegas were very nice. Overall a very eventful trip.

Congratulations if you have read this far!

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2008, 19:03 
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Continental is the best US airline. Delta would be first if they serve meals at no charge.

LOVED the report. I just hope I can go somewhere before 2010 arrives (I need to fly somewhere) :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2008, 21:39 
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Thanks Dennis.

The landing video for Las Vegas is now uploaded: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFe0_AJ1sC0

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2008, 22:45 
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Amazing report Alex!! That must've taken AGES :shock: .

I hate it when someone ends up getting sick on a flight.
1. Your flight is delayed.
2. It's not a nice start to the trip when you hear someone in distress or vomiting. Especially when you're conscious of yourself possibly spewing because of Motion Sickness!

It's sweet when both your parents (they're both doctors!) go and help someone, I don't know why you just feel good about yourself... :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2008, 23:36 
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Ha, that is a good feeling. My Mum is a nurse and once volunteered on board a Virgin Atlantic flight from Barbados. They were most kind and VS sent us a bottle of champagne a few weeks later. I do not know how bad the person was on our flight as she was in the cabin in front of us. I assume she was OK as she walked off the plane.

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 23 Aug 2008, 23:46 
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id love to go to central America! especially Vegas! nice detailed report by the way Alex!

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 24 Aug 2008, 00:30 
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Thanks Nick!

A little confusing when you say 'Central America' as this is technically Mexico, although I know what you meant. :wink: It was mighty hot when we went; never dropped below 100*. Apparantly the temperature in death value was 121* when we were there. :shock:

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 24 Aug 2008, 18:27 
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its kinda on the border of been central or western. i think Texas, Oklahoma, the Dakotas ect... are central states and California, Nevada, Arizona ect... are western states. see any UFOs or Area 51? :lol: :lol: :lol:

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 Post subject: Re: Continental LGW-IAH-LAS-IAH-LGW
PostPosted: 12 Oct 2008, 01:03 
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What he means is, Central America is a very different place than the central United States. Anyway, good report!

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