Tried & Tested

Continental Airlines B777-200 economy class

11 Dec 2009 by Mark Caswell

CHECK-IN I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 4 at 0725 for my 0930 flight CO29 to Newark Liberty International airport. Continental’s check-in is at Zone F, to the right, and I first went to one of several self-service check-in kiosks to print out my boarding card – there was no on ahead of me. There was one queue for the several economy fast bag-drop desks – it was busy but well organised, and I completed the process in 15 minutes. Security was similarly well organised and I was through in five minutes, quicker than when I had used the fast-track lane in Terminal 5 the week before.

BOARDING I was boarding from Gate 3, located at the far left of the building after security. I had a wander in the shops and kept an eye on the departure screens for my flight status. A long queue had already built up when I arrived at the gate. Boarding began at 0855 and I was in my seat by 0915.

THE SEAT Economy class on this two-class B777-200 was configured 3-3-3 (ABC-DEF-JKL) and was in two cabins – the front had 13 rows (16-28), with no seats DEF in row 28 (there were crew seats there instead), and the back had 15 rows (31-45), with seats DEF only in rows 31 and 45. I was in the front cabin in seat 36E. It was upholstered in dark blue fabric with a built-in headrest and grey leather armrests, and reclined via a button in the right arm. The legroom was reasonable for me, as I’m only five foot three, but I noted that my neighbour’s knees were right up against the seat in front. There was a seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen in front of me, with a fold-down table and magazine rack below, and the IFE control was in the right arm (the system could also be controlled via touchscreen). A blanket, pillow and earphones were provided (you could use your own headphones) and I was also offered a newspaper.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? In the front cabin, the first row (16) had more legroom as it was behind the bulkhead. In the back cabin, rows 31 and 32 were the exit rows so seats 31DEF and 32ABC/JKL had more legroom, but bear in mind that they are closest to the toilets. There are further toilets and a galley at the back of this cabin so seats in front of those may suffer from disturbance. Service in my cabin started from the front, so if you are keen to get fed quickly, opt for a row towards the front.

THE FLIGHT We pushed back at 0945 but there was then a long wait and we didn’t take off until 1015, 45 minutes behind schedule. There was a drinks service after 30 minutes (soft drinks were free but there was a charge for alcohol – it was US$5 for a mini bottle of wine), followed by a meal service at 1130. There was a choice of beef with potatoes, carrots and broccoli (fine, but a bit salty) or chicken, pasta and green beans. It came with a salad and a separate serving of honey and mustard dressing, and a chocolate brownie. Metal cutlery was provided, and service was quick and efficient.

After the meal I settled down to watch a couple of films. The IFE system was audio-video on-demand and there were more than 300 movies to choose from, along with TV shows, music and games – I was very impressed. I was offered water occasionally during the flight, and an hour before landing there was a snack service comprising a chicken and cheese hot sandwich, crisps and chocolate.

ARRIVAL Despite the delayed take-off we landed at Newark’s Terminal C at 1325. We were off the aircraft shortly afterwards. Immigration was a short walk away – there were plenty of desks and it was very efficient, and I was through quickly. There was a bit of a wait for my baggage, but I thought the way-finding at the airport was good and it was a stress-free way to arrive for a trip to New York.

VERDICT A good-quality economy service with an excellent entertainment offering and efficient service.

PRICE A midweek economy return from London Heathrow to Newark in January started from £1,141 online (from £421 if incorporating a weekend).


Michelle Mannion

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