Friday, November 19, 2010

Going for Platinum - Part 3, Los Angeles to Honolulu Continental First Class CO173


After arriving from Auckland I had quite a bit of time in transit so I wandered the terminal and did a bit of plane spotting. It constantly amazes me how many 757s you see around the USA as well as the masses of CRJ and ERJ's. Neither of these are seen very often at all around Asia and Australia.

My next leg would be on a Continental Boeing 737 in First Class. This is a pretty long 737 flight at about 5 and a half hours, certainly the longest 737 flight I have been on so far. Today my flight would be operated by N35204, a ten year old 737-800 delivered new to Continental in July 2000.

LAX Terminal 6 - Continental's pier! My aircraft to Honolulu is third from the camera.

After a bit of spotting and lunch at Wolfgang Puck,  it was time to check out the President's Club for a cup of coffee and a snack. The lounge was very quiet at this time and I found a spot with access to a powerpoint and a view out the window. I wanted a shower but there was none in this lounge.


President's Club - LAX

President's Club - LAX

I spent a bit of time watching some videos on my laptop and having some cheese and crackers (there isn't much else food on offer!). I wasn't in the mood for alcohol at this point so I didn't make use of the complimentary bar service. After a while I decided to head to the gate area...


LAX Gate 66 - Honolulu

I noticed the seats around the gate were mostly vacant! I had expected to see quite a large crowd waiting for the flight but it was pretty much a ghost town. There was a Frontier flight to Denver boarding nearby, the other gates were all empty.

Boarding for First Class was called soon enough and I was one of the first on board...



 Seat Pitch - Reasonable



Seatback Satellite Television

I was happy to see that this aircraft was equipped with Continental's 'DirecTV' system. This system supplies a number of live to air satellite television stations as well as some other stations which run on a loop system.

Satellite only works for a short time after you leave the coast and head across the Pacific Ocean, but you can still watch the non-live channels once out of range. The system accepts credit cards and I think the cost was a reasonable $5 or so, for First Class it is free.

DirecTV Controls in the Armrest

So after browsing the TV channel listing I decided I was pretty happy with the entertainment options on this flight! It was then that I noticed the screen was showing this text at the bottom :

Unfortunately the system seemed to be having an issue connecting to the satellites and despite the crew attempting to reset it numerous times, it never worked... for the entire 5 hour 30 min flight! ARGH! The purser decided to shut the system down so we didn't have to stare at the white screen the whole way. I was pretty disappointed but decided I could get my laptop out and watch some TV shows on that anyway... at least there was inseat power!

While that was all happening the First Class cabin quickly filled up, I heard a girl behind me saying she had been offered the upgrade for some insanely low amount of about $50 or so... for that price why wouldn't you upgrade? But then again, judging by the passenger load in the economy cabin, everyone would have had 3 seats to themselves up the back anyway. The economy load was under 50 passengers by my estimate.

About to Push Back


First Class Seating
The purser came around to each passenger and took pre-takeoff drink orders. This was a nice touch, we didn't simply have to just pick a drink from a tray... they were made to order. I took a vodka & orange...


Menu's were handed out and there was a choice of 3 mains... steak, chicken  or pasta. I selected the steak.


Soon after takeoff we were offered a bag of mixed nuts, sadly they were not warmed and put in an individual bowl (like on American). I took a glass of white wine with it. Service I would rate as good, with my wine glass regularly topped up and the 2 crew serving First Class being quite attentive and friendly!

To Begin...

Chilled Lobster with Dubarry Sauce - Salad Mix with Mozzarella Cheese - Garlic Bread




Grilled Steak with Mashed Potato

The food was good and I thought the presentation of the main course was very good! It was also nice to see metal knives in use. Common sense prevails!

After the mains were cleared away, we were offered a sundae with a choice of sauces. I took a chocolate fudge sundae with nuts but no cherry. The flight attendant commented that it's not a true sundae without a cherry on top, but she left it off anyway...

Chocolate Fudge Sundae with Nuts

This was immediately followed by coffee and tea... served in a nice big mug.



During the meal I struck up a conversation with the passenger beside me. He was a Hawaii resident returning home and a frequent flyer too. We had a bit of airline discussion and at this point we worked out that with the DirecTV system switched off the inseat power was also not functioning. My laptop was not going to last the trip on battery power alone, so we asked the purser over to discuss the problem. She said there was no way to have the inseat power enabled with the PTV's disabled... quite a stupid design problem in my opinion. She felt that having the white screen on in front of all passengers was a disturbance and she didn't want to have the system powered on as it might bother other passengers. I told her that it was more of a bother having nothing to do on what was a mostly daylight flight and not even being able to use our laptops as entertainment. Eventually me and my seat partner won the argument and power was restored. I don't think I heard anyone complain too much about the bright white screens in front of them.

At some stage during the flight the crew handed out State of Hawaii plants and animal declaration forms:



These forms, once completed, were simply handed back to the crew. There was no need to hand them in to any body on the ground.

As we flew towards the sunset I snapped this shot, with a nice perspective of where day meets night:


I was happily watching Seinfeld episodes on my laptop for the next couple of hours. Eventually the smell of cookies in the oven started wafting around the cabin. Yum! They were double choc chip and quite delicious:


The captain came on the PA and announced our descent would commence shortly. We were running just a little behind schedule and weather in Hawaii was about 28 degrees celsius and fine! Great!

After a routine landing I disembarked  and walked through the open air terminal walkway getting my first whiff of Hawaii air. It was a beautiful night. The open air walkway gave me a nice opportunity to snap a photo of our bird for this flight:


Although this was a long flight on a 737 I found it to be quite comfortable. The seats were good but they lacked a foot and leg rest which is a shame... but seems common around the USA in domestic first class cabins. The crew serving First were no spring chickens but they were both friendly women who still seemed to enjoy their jobs. I don't have any other Continental flights to compare this one too, but I was pretty happy with the service I received. The food was better than I expected too.

Here is a few shots around Waikiki! Next up is American Airlines first class on the Boeing 767-300 to Dallas.



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