Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Jaunt Sans Style - Continental Flight 787 Newark to Orange County

Two words Continental - What happened?


As a former super-trekker, I’ve flown nearly every major [and minor] airline. Tonight was the first in more than six months that I’ve boarded a flight, and, wow, a lot has changed.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Continental is no longer a part of The Sky Team Alliance, which includes partnerships with Delta Airlines, Air France, Alitalia and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to name a few. Now a part of the Star Alliance , famous for its partnership with US Airways, Continental has moved its entire loyalty program, including all of its members. This is unfortunate news to those of us who leverage our Delta Skymiles for free travel on Continental.

Had I known this, I would not have inched my way to the back boarding line in bewilderment realizing that I no longer had my super-special frequent flyer privileges. I also would have probably booked another flight. Feeling out in the cold with a major shift in my consumer status with an airline with whom I’ve done a lot of business, I boarded my flight to Orange County, head hung low, inch by inch as the endless line of non-Continental members slowly shuffled onto the plane.

As you can imagine, Newark to Orange County is a fairly long flight, just under 6 hours. So, I’m sure you can understand my amazement when I saw the amenities the plane had to offer. Flying a 737-800, Flight 787 was scheduled to run with a small plane designed more for regional travel than for transcontinental treks. To make it more unbearable, the plane was not equipped with televisions (as the Continental website promised). So, with no in-flight movie or any other form of entertainment, we began our 6 hour flight in a plane designed to make the masses feel more like sardines neatly tucked into a rectangular can than valued customers.

My lack of super-duper-elite-member status explains the amazing seat assignment I was given on the flight, last row directly adjacent to the restroom and the food preparation area, an odd combination of functional spaces. As the flight drew on in its first hour, the smell of convection oven factory-farm burgers-in-a-bag and blue nastiness from the toilet began to mount an attack on my eyes and nostrils with its insidious potency.

Of course the flight would not be complete without a medical emergency, Directly to my left, as I was typing my review of the disgusting odors of the rear of the plane, a man exited the restroom by way of gravity. Falling just to the left of my leg, the man, so swaggerly dressed in slightly smallish sweatpants and a t-shirt, groggily grumbled himself into a complete loss of consciousness.

Kudos to the crew for their quick attention as they proceeded to give the man oxygen and called for a doctor on board. With a self-proclaimed doctor monitoring the man‘s pulse and an oxygen tank installed over his mouth, I was asked to move to another seat, closer to the coughing children, while the crew debated whether to request an early landing for a medical emergency. Instead of landing, the afflicted man was propped up directly behind me in my former seat with an oxygen bag covering his face.

As the flight drew on, at about half-way through, the crew begins its meal run distributing trays of factory-farmed, processed-beyond-recognition-almost-food in neat, orderly boxes organized by subunit. As well as this flight was going, hope that my meal request was actually going to be honored, waned and faded into oblivion. As the second to last row, the only option available was factory-farmed cow with a side of lettuce that the airline passed off as salad. The flight attendant rolled her eyes when I explained that I had a special request and left never to return. I notified another member of the crew that my vegetarian meal was missing and he followed up by offering to give me more lettuce, not salad, just lettuce. So, I pushed the 2 inch by 3 inch by 1 inch container of lettuce back at him. His remedy? Hard rolls from first class and a packet of [non-vegan] cookies. Ugh.

As a bizarre twist, the non-vegan cookies, Brussels by Pepperidge Farm, just go to show how very bizarre my luck really is. See previous blog post

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