Flying Continental from Vancouver to Washington DC

While our flight tickets cost next to nothing, there is a catch. We are traveling on standby and not just any standby but what the industry call SA5. SA5 stands for Space Available 5 and that means that in terms of priorities, this is the lowest of lowest of boarding priorities. I am not sure what the other priorities are but surely I often see that airline pilots, air stewardess, and own airline employees get a space above everyone else.

Since we were SA5, it is obvious that it is next to impossible to get standby seats on peak times. The busiest travel times are Sunday afternoon, Monday mornings, Fridays and Saturday mornings … this is when most people will travel for business. The best time to get standby seats? The times which the aviation industry refers to as “Red-Eyes”.

Red-Eyes are nicknamed as such because you travel at close to midnight and arrive first time in the morning … which almost guarantee you to arrive at your destination with bloodshot eyes. LOL! Red-eye flights are also a good way for the airline to mop up all the excess overbookings for the day.


So Suanne and I traveled on such red eye flight. Our flight to Washington DC from Vancouver has a layover in Houston. If you know your geography, it’s about the worse route as we travel just about as south as we can get in the US and then fly north to Washington DC. Well, we flew Continental and Continental’s hub is in Houston, that’s why.

Our flight was at 11:30 PM and arrive at Washington DC at about 6:00 AM close to afternoon the next day. That was on a Saturday/Sunday time in which there were plenty of seats available. I was tired because I promised to publish two project reports before I leave work behind for two weeks. I worked a good part of the Saturday to finish it off. So, I had a good sleep on board but Suanne was too excited to sleep on the flight.


There were no food for the YVR to HOU sector. They served free breakfast for the HOU to DCA flight. It was nothing to shout about. There is a half-ripe banana (I hate half ripe bananas!) and cereal.


There’s also the milk that goes with the cereal and of course drinks too. Did you know that Continental is one of the few airlines who still provide free meals even for Domestic Economy class? Too bad breakfast was so simple and wondered what they serve for other meals.

Most other airlines I travel with charges $5 for meals. Also what I like is that they charge only $1 for the earphone for inflight entertainment when other airlines charge up to $5 each. Well, the earphone was crappy but at least you get to listen in to the inflight movie.


We landed at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport which was located just outside of the DC area. The landing was jaw-dropping spectacular to say the least as we flew just over The White House and the Washington Monument. Too bad I did not manage to take a shot even though the pilot asked us to lookout … what was i thinking?!? I was surprised how close the plane got close to these national landmarks.

We, or rather I, were quite unprepared for Washington DC. You see, Suanne and I made a deal … I would do the research, plan and lead for the vacation in Washington DC and New York while she is in charge of Philadelphia. Being a procrastinator I am, I did not do much research.


So, here we are at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport which was quite nice inside (the outside looked like a warehouse). First thing I need to do was to figure out a way to get to the hotel. I headed off to the tourist info desk for directions and picked up a city map and some brochures.

Of all American airports I had been to, there are no other airport that is this convenient getting to downtown than the DCA. There is a train station just by the airport.


It took us a while, with the help of the station master, to figure out how to purchase our fare. I think it was something like $2.50 one way.

So, we finally made it to Washington DC. It’s off the the hotel, drop off our bags and the the vacation starts proper. More tomorrow …

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  1. KimHo

    Hey Ben,

    Red-eyes vs. $50: I will glady pay the $50!

    BTW, are the times correct? From Continental’s website, trips from YVR to DCA (via Houston) usually arrives around noon. If you arrived DC by 6:00 a.m. that must have been an extremely fast plane!

  2. Ben

    Oh yeah. You’re right KimHo. We got in at about noon. He he he … we got to Houston about 6AM though! Thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Pamela

    OMG!!! I finally found your blog again and have spent hours catching up. Oh how I have missed it !!! Long story short…I was in hospital.. computer died…life in general haha.
    Lost your site during with the computer crash.
    I have put your site on my external drive and now I wont be lost any more hahah
    As always, Love your site… the pictures ..awesome.. the blog … major awesome.
    Your faithful reader,
    Pamela (((huggs)))

  4. Ben and Suanne

    Hi Pamela: Oh wow … thanks for letting us know you enjoyed reading chowtimes. These sort of comments really made our day. Major thanks!
    Ben and Suanne

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