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The Flight Above Heaven¡¯s Ladder (a site of wild great wall)

A tale of passage onboard Continental¡¯s 777 Business First service to China.

by

Bernard R. Rosenberg

Introduction

If anyone would have told me several months ago that I would be arranging my own business trip to China and fly it in the grandest style of any air traveler, I would have told them that they were out of their well-wishing and best-of-luck minds. I¡¯m just a little guy. I don¡¯t come from cooperate sponsorship, I¡¯m not heir to a family fortune, and I¡¯m not sponsored by private investors. To anyone, consider me to be just average for I represent an ordinary traveler who usually winds up in coach class service. But extraordinary circumstances led me to Beijing, and extraordinary circumstances led me to Business First. In all, it is an account worth telling.

 By profession I am a teacher. As I began to enter my third decade of instruction my interest in new opportunities expanded. First I became an author and entered the world of publication. Second I became a product distributor and entered the world of business.  Both grew so well that I soon realized it was time to follow the trail of these successes to their origins. A Chinese printer waited to publish a second book on my own, and a Chinese business associate waited to meet me so that we could further evolve our product line. In short, I determined that expanded opportunity was on the other side of the world and that I needed to get there in a hurry. I knew nothing about current international travel and I had not crossed the seas by air for over 25 years.

Business First is designed for those who wish to do business in China and arrive refreshed. Whether it is the responsibilities of the executive, or the hopes of the tourist, you will arrive in China relaxed and full of life. Continental knows this and has designed the opportunity of traveling in Business First because of this. For me, I counted on it. I had only 6 days to negotiate a private publication, expand a product line, tour 2 factories, meet and present gifts to my Chinese associate and family, discover Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, shop for gifts for my wife and friends, and overnight in a farmhouse in order to climb a remote segment of the Great Wall known as Heaven¡¯s Ladder the following day. That¡¯s plenty for anyone. It is little wonder that I now sought out the best in transportation in order for me to achieve the same in accomplishments.   

How I appreciate my wife, for it was she who suggested that I use some of her air miles to reach Beijing. With my commitment hurried, I determined the best carrier who could support my plans was Continental. It was the same airline of those 25 years ago who now had a new scheduled service to a place I had never been. And due to my late planning by the time I ticketed all I could secure was coach class service. But during the reservation process the ticketing agent gave me some excellent advice,¡°Keep trying, maybe something in Business First will open up!¡±  And with only 30, A Chinese traveler reflects on beauty as she stands on a pinnacle of the Great Wall

minutes before my scheduled departure from Florida to New York it did become available, and I gladly took it.

Flight 

As a traveler I have at times treated myself to first class transportation via roads, rails, sea, and sky. Though I had heard of Continental¡¯s elite service, I knew nothing about it. Thirteen hours of flying was ahead of me, and I needed amenities, quality, and service.  When I stepped onboard in New York and departed, I entered a level of travel that excelled in all three. 

  • Amenities:  There are almost too many to count but by far the biggest player is your seat. Just as the flight crew pilots the aircraft, so do you pilot where you sit. Individual seat position controls allow you to engineer 22 inches of plush fabric width and technology to upright, cradled, or fully extended positions. At a touch of a button you can steer this marvel to conform to the comfort of your back, legs, and feet. It reclines 170 degrees and stretches out 6.5 feet. A private entertainment and communications center with 17 channels is built into it, and even your reading light swings to provide dual-level illumination. Beyond that you are given a travel pouch of almost a dozen personal necessities. Add in a catalog of in-flight duty free shopping with 94 items. Include magazines and newspapers of your choice. Toss in a menu that will include appetizers, full meals, executive work options, light meals, sky snacks, and mid-flight refreshments that total well over 100 selections. Only 46 passengers make it into this elite zone that is serviced continually by 6 flight attendants.
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  • Quality:  Be assured you can rate these amenities with 5 stars. There are 2 cabins in Business First supported by 3 galleys and 4 lavatories and the entire configuration is white glove spotless. The technology that supports your seat and communications center is easy to use and performs flawlessly. The food is excellent and quite simply rivals the finest of any restaurant. This is as good as it gets and you are in it.
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  • Service:  I¡¯ve saved the best for last. All of these amenities are introduced and serviced by the finest flight attendants in the fleet. Years of experience are required for them to make it where you temporarily reside, and they pamper your every whim with style and a smile. Their expertise in attentiveness is clearly superior.

Perhaps I can best describe the flight by repeating to you what was said to me by my seated companion as we were outbound. She was an anthropologist who was celebrating her birthday with the gift of Business First and this was her first time. ¡°Bernard,¡± she proclaimed, ¡°This is the only way to go. I¡¯ll never fly coach again!¡±

Summary

China is now ranked 3rd in global production of manufactured goods and in 2008 the eyes of the world will be on Beijing as host of the Olympic Games. Travel demand is destined to only increase and Continental Airlines has designed this service with you in mind. Even the flight number of 88 was deliberately chosen because each figure represents the luckiest number in Chinese culture. Good fortune will smile on you twice each time you come and go. 

When I returned outbound I realized this was true. All my goals, I accomplished. And I was now seated next to a Continental executive who offered me the opportunity for this article that I now share with you. And in our many conversations he revealed that Continental identifies its employees numerically in status and that the CEO who reaches the top rung of the cooperate ladder is recognized as number 60. 

Believe me, as I looked thousands of feet below at that other ladder I had climbed only days before, I realized that Business First had now assigned this lucky passenger as number 61¡­ 

about the author

Bernard R. Rosenberg resides in Sarasota, Florida with his wife Gail. He is employed by the School District of Sarasota as a fine arts instructor. He is author of Alaska Fishing on a Budget and is soon to publish Kodiak Fishing at Any Angle. Bernard is also the USA distributor of Beijing AiPu Fishing Tackle Factory located in China. E-mail at alaskanauthor@comcast.net.

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