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Old Jan 26, 07, 6:18 pm
  #5  
Arnur
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Bonn, Germany
Programs: TK Elite, LH FTL
Posts: 622
EWR - CGN on CO in coach

19 JAN 07 CO 110 EWR CGN B757 dep 1845 arr 0825 seat 11C

This time I actually arrived at EWR about ninety minutes before departure and after dropping of my bag in the elite access section of terminal C and a quick stop at the TSA screening line, I arrived at the Presidents Club about one hour before departure. After a lengthy delay at the reception when the warden was trying to read the small print on my FB Plat card, I was finally let in. While the lounge was certainly large and reasonably well appointed, it was also very crowded and it took me a while to actually find a place to sit. I'm generally not very impressed with airline clubs in the USA: it seems that most of them feature free booze (including staffed bars, which is very rare elsewhere), they seem lacking in the food and newspaper department. Other than pretzels there was nothing to munch on, or to read, so I decided to enjoy the bar instead.

After checking out at the nifty US VISIT terminals - a routine that includes fingerprinting yourself - I headed over to my gate where boarding was almost complete. To my delight I found a rather empty plane and discovered that I would have a whole row to myself. The flight itself was uneventful: the dinner service consisted of another 'beef' meal (I remember mashed potatoes and an uninspiring salad), IFE was again the overhead monitors (featuring 'Spanglish' and 'The Lake House'). However, I managed quite a few hours of decent sleep until 'breakfast' was served one hour out of Cologne. As I'm sure you have noticed by now, I'm quite cynical about the food on CO, but this transatlantic breakfast was a joke: a stale croisant and five wedges of fruit? I was not really hungry at this hour, but I somewhat felt cheated here.

The arrival was uneventful. A short taxi into an empty airport on a Saturday morning 30 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time. Virtually no wait at immigration and after maybe 15 minutes my bag was among the first on the belt.

Rating my four international sectors on CO in that week - and comparing them to my usual choice of KLM/Air France - here are the pros and cons.

Pro:
  • Out of Cologne, CO offers very convenient schedules to EWR and back
  • Internet Check-In worked very well on all sectors
  • The fare out of Cologne was quite competetive
  • As a member of Skyteam, CO allows me earn valuable FB status miles

Con:
  • While I found the quality of the food ok, the quantity leaves something to be desired
  • The IFE was not up to the standards of most of the European competition
  • No lounge access in CGN
  • The Boeing 757s used to Europe don't have sufficient range to make it back without refuelling with strong headwinds
  • The fact that immigrations needs to be cleared and bag re-checked makes international connections through EWR unneccessarily difficult.

In conclusion, the last point would be the main issue for me, i.e. I would not use Continental again to connect at EWR (or anywhere else in the USA) to another international flight. The hazzle is just not worth it. Interestingly, my experience with Delta in this regard has been more positive as they offer check-through luggage at their Atlanta hub. So, Air France is likely to get my business in the future when going to Colombia. If my final destination is New York, I think the very convenient schedule of CO 110/111 would outweight any disadvantages in terms of service and IFE for me. I value a few extra hours of sleep before departure and using CGN rather than a hub airport means much fewer airport-related problems. Plus, the fact that the loads are light at the moment means decent fares and plenty of space to stretch out.
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