Labor Day weekend kicks off the annual holiday travel season with a bang every year, and this year I decided to brave the frantic mass of travelers to make my way to Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia with my favorite traveling companion (my husband) and a couple of really good friends.
Because we are such methodical planners, we began plotting our course and making reservations for the trip well in advance of our travel date, shopping discount travel sites like Hotwire.com as well as doing direct price comparisons between the major airlines themselves to get the best deal. We always strive to travel without spending too much, and back in January we discovered that the price of airline tickets had dropped across the board, but were especially low at Continental Airlines. Yes, booking airline tickets 9 months early does have some potential drawbacks (there’s a whole lot that can happen in 9 months), but through Hotwire.com we scored round-trip airfare on Continental Airlines for just over $240 per person including trip protection insurance.
Once we made it to our travel date, we parked our car in the economy lot, checked our bag and placed our travel destinies in the hands of Continental Airlines’ staff. There were a few stressful points in our travels from Portland to Atlanta (with connections in Houston, Texas), but we made it there and back without losing our luggage or missing any of our connecting flights. Here are the high and low points of my Continental Airlines trip:
Continental Airlines Creature Comforts:
The first and last legs of the trip, we flew on Continental Airlines’ Boeing 737-800. Although the layout of the plane is nothing new, we immediately noticed upgraded and roomier seats, fully adjustable headrests, in-flight TV ($6) and available outlets for plugging in laptops and media devices. Free headsets provided at the gate saved us when I realized I had my Nintendo DSI but nothing to listen to my game on, and the breakfast service on our flight from Portland to Houston was a nice touch that I hadn’t been expecting.
The Boeing 737-500 on flights to/from Houston and Atlanta was not as roomy as the 737-800, but the seat space and amenities were all pretty standard when compared to other airlines. As far as our attention spans were concerned, we wished that the 737-500 also had in-flight TV and were glad that we brought our own devices to keep us occupied during the flights.
Meals and Drinks On Board Continental Airlines:
Long ago I looked on my airline tickets and asked at the check-in counter to find out if any of my flights had meal service, but after years of being told “no” I’ve simply stopped looking for in-flight meals. Imagine my surprise when on Continental Airlines flight 308 from Portland to Houston breakfast arrived on my tray-table! Unfortunately, I had just eaten breakfast prior to boarding so I passed on the banana nut muffins but still found it amazing that it was a service that Continental Airlines still offers.
Drink service was also great, with at least two passes by the drink-cart per flight. The flight attendants were quick to pass out more than one serving of pretzels if we seemed ravenously hungry, and offered us full cans of soda when particularly parched. On one of the flights, Mr. Kawaii daringly ordered a scotch from the Continental Airlines drink menu and was surprised to find that the $6 scotch they had on board was good enough to make him want a second round.
Continental Airlines Customer Care:
Boarding was smooth on three of the four flights, and Continental Airlines was kind enough to hold the flight from Houston to Portland on the last leg of our trip when our flight (and several others) ran late due to bad weather. We really appreciated Continental Airlines’ staff going the extra mile and helping us to make it home.
We were pleased that even with the very brief windows between our connecting flights, Continental Airlines managed to make sure our luggage made it to Atlanta and back without getting lost. We were concerned on the way back home when our flight was so full that they began mandatory check in of carry-on baggage at the terminal and all that ensured our bag with my laptop, car keys and other important items would make it to Portland was a hand-written baggage slip that they added at the gate. But Continental Airlines’ baggage attendants did a great job of making sure that the bag and all its delicate contents made it to Portland in one piece.
What Continental Airlines Could Have Done Better:
I’m not sure what control Continental Airlines has over their gate assignments at the airport, but when we landed in Houston on the way to Atlanta we discovered our connecting flight was on the other side of the airport. We had less than 30 minutes to run through the terminal to make the flight, and were the last passengers to board before they closed the door. Hopefully next time I fly through Houston I’ll remember this experience and make sure that I have more time to reach my connecting flight.
It was also stressful when we were delayed by nearly an hour in Atlanta due to weather and the flight attendant we spoke to didn’t know what would happen with our connecting flight. It all worked out in the end, but it would have been great if they could have told us that our connecting flight wasn’t going to leave without us!
Some Tips On Flying Continental Airlines
I’m always looking for better ways to travel, so I made a few mental notes on this trip for the next time I fly Continental Airlines. Here are a few great tips from my travels to help you make your next flight as simple and relaxing as possible:
1. The next time you think you might want to take a vacation, start planning early. Airline ticket prices fluctuate throughout the year, so decide early on how much you’d like to spend and when tickets drop to that price – buy them!
2. If you do purchase tickets 6 months or more in advance, make sure that you pick up some trip insurance. Continental Airlines trip insurance covers the cost of your ticket should you miss your flight due to inclement weather, unexpected illness or death and typically the insurance costs just a fraction of your ticket price.
3. Before you head to the airport, make sure to call or go online to find out what baggage fees to expect to pay for checked luggage. Continental Airlines offers a discount for customers who pre-pay checked baggage fees online, so if you have a trusty bathroom scale and a credit card consider this option.
4. If you decide to forgo the checked baggage to avoid paying baggage fees, expect that your flight may be booked with dozens of other people with the same idea. Be prepared to surrender your carryon baggage at the gate if the flight runs out of storage room, and make sure that essentials such as car keys and wallet are easily accessible should you need to grab them before handing over your luggage.
By planning ahead, shopping for the best deal, being aware of what to expect and being able to let go of the little things (weather, the talkative old lady to your right, the screaming baby two aisles ahead of you…) flying with Continental Airlines can be a cheap and comfortable way to go on your next trip. To learn more about Continental Airlines, book tickets and check out baggage fees, go to http://www.continental.com. After my experience flying Continental Airlines from Portland to Atlanta and back, I am looking forward to flying with them again!
Want to read more about my trip to Atlanta on Associated Content? Click the links below!
Wyndham Garden Hotel Sells Property and Leaves Travelers Without a Bed
Staying at Hotel Indigo Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia