Last weekend I did a mileage run from Los Angeles to Denver and back via Cleveland on Continental. The fare was something like $160 r/t including taxes and gave me a chance to get some work done in the air and further test out Continental’s domestic premium product. Surprisingly, all of my upgrades cleared five days before travel and onboard service was outstanding. This was my first interaction with CO’s CLE-based flight crews and I must be frank: compared to the Houston and Newark crews I have dealt with this on multiple flights this year, I was very pleasantly surprised.
I generally find CO’s larger, but more boxy domestic first class seats less comfortable than United’s, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to get any rest…especially with free DirecTV onboard.
The purser welcomed each passenger onboard and quickly came by to offer me my beverage of choice when I sat down.
Once we took off, a deli/cheese/fruit plate was offered. I was hoping for a hot option, like CO’s hamburger, but apparently hot meals on redeyes are only served on transcon flights. After a beverage service and bag of nuts, the snack tray came out and was pretty tasty. The cheese wasn’t great, but I love salami and the single sun-dried tomato slice was a nice garnish. The fruit wasn’t overly ripe, but certainly better than no fruit at all.
In comparing first class redeye snacks on United and Continental, I must admit that UA clearly outshines CO. Not only is United’s pannini + salad better than CO’s fruit/cheese/deli plate, but on United you can order very tasty special meals. But, I was thankful for what I got.
I chose to watch Inception and became completely engrossed by it. If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it–director Christopher Nolan is a genius. Just writing about it makes me want to watch the movie again.
After the movie, I was able to get about an hour and a half of shuteye before landing at Cleveland Hopkins International. The flight was great–it went by quickly, service was good, and the snack was adequate.
dawn in Cleveland
I spent about 1.5 hours in the President’s Club (I hate how CO IDs you when you go into their clubs) before boarding my flight to Denver.
Continental boarded this flight very early and I received a "last call" page for this flight at 8:35a in the President’s Club.
A very cheerful flight crew greeted me onboard and offered me a choice of beverage. Someone was in my seat when I boarded and I thought it might be a poacher. Nah, he just thought row two was row three. Before I could tell him to just stay in his seat, he got out and promptly smashed the glasses of the passenger in 2E. I blame both passengers–who sets their glasses on the floor of an airplane?
Once airborne, breakfast was served and was very tasty. I should add, last names were used when breakfast orders were taken: a first for me after many flights on CO. The choices were a mushroom omelet or Honey Nut Cheerios. Both were served with fruit, yogurt, and bread. Continental does breakfast much better than United. I love the cheesy potatoes and cinnamon rolls on CO. Plus, serving yogurt in a cup rather than in a plastic container is much more aesthetically pleasing.
After the breakfast dishes were cleared away, the purser and two other FAs kept close watch on the first class cabin for the remainder of the flight, insuring that glasses were full.
We landed early in Denver.
The same crew was surprised to see me back. One commented, "You must fly as much as we do." If she only knew!
Again, pre-departure beverages were offered and DirecTV was available immediately, allowing me to get caught up on the latest news before returning to my school work.
Last names were again used when taking meal orders and the lunch choices were a chicken fajita wrap or a salad with a cold chicken breast on top. I went with the salad and was pleased with the size of the portion, as well as the spicy corn/tomato bisque soup that was served with it. United’s lunch options are similar, but I think UA wins out because of the hot nuts and hot chocolate chip cookie they serve with the meal. Nevertheless, the CO meal was very satisfying.
Flying over Cleveland
I assured the crew I wouldn’t be joining them for the next leg of their journey, but they were done for the day. I still had to get back to Los Angeles.
First CO-Express plane I have seen in new paint scheme
The last flight turned out to be my favorite of the four. The crew was VERY GOOD on this flight–constantly monitoring the cabin literally until minutes before touchdown at LAX.
Dinner orders were taken by name and I foolishly ordered the chicken breast instead of the spinach cannelloni. Actually, the chicken was tasty, but the portion was more like a sample than a meal. Passengers who ordered the pasta received four large cannelloni tubes packed with spinach. The salad and minestrone soup were nice complements to the main course. The cheesecake dessert wasn’t great, but I ate every crumb of it.
About 45 minutes prior to landing, hunger set in again and I asked the flight manager if there was any cannelloni leftover. There was and it was delicious–don’t hesitate to order pasta next time you fly on Continental. There were no plates or silverware leftover, so I had to eat the snack out of the heating container with a spoon, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the meal.
All four flights on Continental were outstanding. If EWR and IAH crews always were as professional and attentive as the CLE crews I had last weekend, I would be much less pessimistic about the future of United. CO’s in-flight catering is above average and beats out United on most routes (with redeyes perhaps being the only exception, as mentioned above). It would be very encouraging if we got news that Continental’s Chelsea Catering division will start supplying food for United (but don’t even think about eliminating hot nuts on United…).