2010 Best and Worst Airlines!

So in 2010, I flew 90 times with my 90th flight for the year  on 31st of December 2010 bringing my total air distance for the year to 202 000km (120 000 miles).  I feel that gives me some qualifications for the following subjective rankings.

Best Airlines
I have confessed a few times in this blog that my favourite airline in the world (out of the 70 I have flown) is now Emirates. 

  1. Emirates - all round amazing customer service product- friendly, amazing food, attention to detail
  2. Air New Zealand, an efficient and friendly operator- I love the fact they still give sweets/candies/lollies as you come into land
  3. Lufthansa- -my perception of the German flag carrier is that they would be unfriendly and intimidating-far far from it- and the food is amazing
  4. Singapore Airlines-while I have some reservations over their safety, Singapore is a baseline for being a good airline-boo hiss for them introducing fees for exit row seats
  5. Lan - my other surprise for the year was discovering what a classy offering this airline is
  6. Virgin America- everything about this airline is class
  7. JetBlue- a US Carrier that are a pleasure to fly with
  8. Qantas- its a worry when an airline that I used to put at the top three is at number 8. My perception along with many other loyal passengers is of an airline that has lost its service crown
  9. Cathay Pacific- Cathay keeps earning awards for being the best. I have always regarded them highly but I think their product is slipping
  10. British Airways-following the crowd in a decline in service  but still in my top ten
  11. Southwest and Air Tran, , two US carriers that are in the process of merging share 11th spot for different reasons, Southwest's fun, straightforward service earns them respect and AirTran has some really good standout features. I will be sorry to see them go
Not tried Etihad yet who are ranked best airline in world by skytrax

Worst Airlines
  1. Air Zimbabwe- I have not actually flown them for a while but their continuing decline is very distressing
  2. United -tough competition for the second worst spot but United's horrific performance got them to second worst airline but it was a narrow victory
  3. Alitalia-one hopes that the takeover of them by Air France will improve things, one tatty, rude airline, They were third worst for me last year and here they are again
  4. Air Asia- the recent Business class enhancements may be boosting this airline but I still put them a 4th worst
  5. Tiger Airways- I think these guys are appalling. Nothing will possess me to fly them again
  6. Ryan Air- the epitome of how not to fly. When an airline charges you by the minute to ring their complaints number, there has got to be something wrong. Having said that I have been fine with them -if you have no expectations
  7. Jetstar- ugh shudder- how they get awards beats me but I rate them a little higher than I did last year 
  8. American Airlines- great to see some improvement here. The staff are a little less grumpy and their Admiral's Clubs have some food in them again. Would be nice if Qantas flyers could get free wifi in the lounges please. Still American Airlines continue to be a dark spot in the One World alliance
  9. US Airlines- has managed to combine the worst features of all the airlines that have merged with them
  10. Delta- Never thought I would say/see this but Delta actually has been getting better. Their wifi on board, website booking system , frequent flier program all improved. Its still a terrible airline but more bearable than it was a year ago. They are almost out of my top ten worst airlines.
NB I have not flown Cubana, Kyoro (North Korean), Aeroflot or Iran Air!!

    When Enhancements alienate a customer

    I have flown Qantas a lot. A real lot. Up to now I have been on Qantas

    • 356, 745 miles
    • 574,125 kilometres
    • 14.33 times around the world
    • for 32.2 days inside their planes!

    Their reward to me has been to name me a Platinum Frequent Flier - Thank you Qantas.

    Recently Qantas sent me an email which said: We've made a variety of changes in the last few years to give you a broader, more rewarding program. The coming months will see further changes, including enhancements for most frequent fliers...You'll find highlights ....

    Now to me, an "enhancement" means: To make greater, as in value, beauty, or effectiveness; augment and to provide with improved, advanced, or sophisticated features. "YOU BEAUTY!", as we say in Australia! Enhancements!

    So I read the email. The Qantas enhancements were:
    1. a reduction in the number of times I can use their private airport lounges. Currently I can access them at any time. The email told me that "From 1 February 2011, Platinum  members must be travelling onward that day ". There was a bit of an outcry from Qantas Frequent Fliers about this one. So much so, that they amended this to allowing us to access the lounge, when we land as well!
    2. a reduction in how much luggage I can check in
    3. the removal of my lifetime access to a private personal check in queue and the replacement of that with access to check in machines -the same machines that all passengers will be using
    4. if I fly TWICE AS MUCH as I currently do, I can now get 3 chauffeur driven rides to the airport- 3 car rides for a spend of around $15 to $18 000 a year..yay!
    5. While not a loss to Platinum Flyers,   priority access to frequent flyer seats is being offered to other fliers, dilutiing my benefit so there will be more people looking earlier for scarce frequent flyer seats
    6. Some new program fees are being introduced and some existing fees are changing 
    7. priority security lanes are being introduced at peak times at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney (T3)
      domestic airports. 
    Pick the enhancements?

    When Qantas meant enhancements for most frequent fliers, they clearly did not mean Platinum.  Interesting. In other words, in a recession economy, Australia's flag carrier did not see the need to focus on the group most likely to put money into them. In fact, they took away some privileges that probably don't cost Qantas much. I may sound sour grape-ish but my employers invest a lot of money into Qantas on my behalf and I feel a little ripped off.

    I wasn't happy so I wrote to Qantas. I told them that:

    1. I felt their email was dishonest suggesting enhancements and highlights. I would prefer if they had been honest and said its a tough economy, we are reluctantly reducing your benefits
    2. I can not see why flying Qantas 61 times (and their partners 13 times) a year is worth it. If I flew 30 times and 7 times, I will still get their next tier down: Gold status and almost all the privileges I do now. I means I will fly Virgin airlines more
    3. I was unhappy that the loss of lifetime check in priority
    4. I was disappointed over the loss of anytime lounge access (now answered)

    The reply was a study in how not to respond to an angry customerThe email ignored my feelings as a customer and sought to justify the airlines position. Point by point:
    1. I don't agree that our email regarding the changes to Platinum benefits was misleading or dishonest.... With new Premium Security Lanes, additional options for Platinum members who [if you fly twice as much} there are new benefits
    2. Basically, you receive a higher level of service compared to Gold Frequent Flyers, whether if be membership benefits, enquiries or day of travel facilities and services. You're a Platinum Frequent Flyer and we allocate you the highest level of service in recognition of your loyalty and preference for travel with Qantas... YES CUSTOMER DOES NOT FEEL THAT!
    3. Regarding priority check-in for Silver Frequent Flyers, the On Q check-in system will provide a speedy alternative. Priority check-in will remain available for Silver members traveling internationally.
    4. "Anytime access for Platinum members is being removed from 1 February 2011. However, we've offset this by allowing Platinum members arrival access on arrival. Sorry that this wasn't outlined in our initial email." which I know is dishonest as I saw the email from Qantas marketing which noted that the change had been made in response to feedback.

    The classic line "Your feedback is important to us and I've forwarded it on to senior management for their information" was included.
    As a result,  I am so frustrated with Qantas that I am now boosting my travel with other airlines. Some of my friends will be shocked at my lack of one eyed loyalty any more!

    Come on Qantas, you can do better.

    I love a train ride!

    I am taking The Overland from Melbourne to Adelaide Thursday, a 828 kilometre trip, about 500 miles. These two capitals are almost twice the distance as the Eurostar which is 495km, just over 308 miles. The Overland takes about nine hours to do its journey and Europstra 2.25 hours!

    The train started originated as the Intercolonial Express when the Victorian Railways Western Line was extended to the South Australian Railways line at Serviceton on the state's borders. In 1887 it became the "Adelaide Express"[1] and  in 1926 The Overland.


    Happy Christmas Qantas- some things are not your fault.

    The 2010 Qantas Christmas card doesn't show metres of snow or faulty engines.
    Image: Copyright AP Photo/ Steve Parsons taken from Herald-Sun

    Difficult job being in Qantas PR this year.

    I do wish people would stop blaming them for the snow delays though. And think!

    8 stranded jumbos. Thats 3200 people on them and at least 3200 people waiting for them. Every 24 hours they are delayed is another 6000-7000 people.

    If they all called Qantas simultaneously and spend 5 minutes talking to an agent 70 000 minutes of calls or 10 000 hours -every 48 hours. You would need 500 agents all working 10 hour days just to deal with them. Thats assuming every one calls and that their calls only go for five minutes. All during Qantas busiest period yet.

    So stuck in snow? No use blaming the airline. One can only trust that they are trying to get 6999 other people home too. Check your options but if the airports are closed, you are not going anywhere. Sorry!

    Save your anger for the real things that Qantas is showing-like a crappy New Zealand-Australia offering, inconsistent service
    and the downgrading of benefits for long term frequent fliers (thats tomorrows blog)

    Help! Sorting out luggage fees and weights

    In an extraordinary admission, the, President of US Airways, Scott Kirby stated that the airline’s profit for 2010 will come entirely from "ancillary revenue” or fees as we passengers know them. This is the reason why everywhere you turn now when flying, you seem to pay another damned fee. And its so confusing!

    I am planning a flight from Los Angeles to JFK in 2011. Here are two of my options:

    Virgin America
    50lb- Free
    Free and for-pay entertainment
    Meals and Drinks
    Drink included-snacks to buy
    Drink included-snacks to buy

    On fare alone, Virgin is cheaper.
    Add one bag and JetBlue is cheaper- albeit by $3.
    Throw in the wifi and the gap becomes a little greater.
    If you want the exit row, however, thats where it becomes really interesting. JetBlue will charge you $50 on that sector for exit row making your fare $209.70. Virgin America have turned it into a premium economy seat and will charge you $451. This price does include a free bag and unlimited meals. Are those meals really worth the extra $240.30?

    Qantas A380- 75% useless

    The bad news for the Qantas A380s continues.

    This blog post by Brett Snyder describes why the A380s are almost useless to them.
    Qantas cannot use the existing engines on their route between Australia and the USA. They need engines with as much thrust as possible to get the plane up in the air with very full fuel tanks. They need that fuel to make it across the Pacific.

    There is a way out - operate the plane with 80 passengers instead of 450...not an economic proposition.

    Brett outlines the issues and dilemmas well.

    Lighter Luggage 2: Reducing your load:

    Today, I want to challenge you to reduce your luggage load by 25 kilograms (55lbs). This follows on from my last blog post where I encourage people to switch to carry-on only.

    1. Take less Clothes because in reality, you don't need everything you want to take. My rule is to pack and then reduce by half the number of clothes you have packed. The reality is most people overpack. 
    2. Choose clothes that will all combine. eg for men, make sure your ties and shirts will all work together. Taking 3 shirts and 3 ties creates 12 combinations. Most conferences and business meetings I have don't go for more than 2 days. No one will see me wearing the same shirt again and if they do, with a different tie, it can look like a different shirt!
    3. Plan to wash. I aim for a weekly wash. I either wash in a hotel/motel with laundry facilites or find a laundrette or plan to stay with family or friends at certain times. Thank you to friends and family across that form part of the Aussie laundrette service...am thinking of Nikki in England, Geoff, Mike & Steve, John & Alison in the USA, Mum when she was in NZ. I owe you guys. I therefore pack a week of clothes. NB missing a wash can mean a tricky situation! I avoid getting my hotel to wash clothes for me-thats way too pricey.
    4. Take quick drying underwear, socks and t shirts. I find them at camping stores. They are great because you can hand wash them in a sink, leave them to dry and most times they dry overnight. They are not cheap or very fashionable but 2 pairs means a lot less conventional underwear is needed.
    5. Buy clothes as you travel. When I travel to the USA or an asian country, I reduce my clothes dramatically and buy stuff there. I also visit charity stores as part of my journey. If you can buy a t shirt for $2 and a business shirt for $5 to $7, you can buy stuff and leave it for another charity shop
    6. Take fewer shoes. One walking, one dress up and one sports is enough. Synchronise your shoes to match your clothes. I have now managed to combine my walking and my dress up shoes by buying eccos
    7. Wear bulky stuff on the plane- I have boarded Melbourne airport in full summer wearing a jumper (sweater/jersey) and a winter coat heading to Minnesota which is in full winter. My gloves and scarves were in the coat pockets
    8. Reduce your electrical items-I use my phone as my alarm clock, camera, and watch. Ditch the electric toothbrush and razor. Reduce power cords. I have one multiple electrical adapter that works in every country. DVDS can play on a computer
    9. Buy less souvenirs/smaller gifts When buying souvenirs, think: do i really need this? I now let me luggage dictate what I buy. Too heavy? Then I forget it or get it sent
    10. Ship stuff  home -with the dropping of seamail, this has become expensive but can be useful
    11. Buy books second hand at discount bookstores.  I read them on the flight/train and then at the other end I donate the book or sell it at another bookstore or leave it for someone to find (bookcrossing.com).  I have made a profit a couple of times buying a book in one country second hand and selling it at the other! Buying books as you go reduces your weight. Too many people take 4 or 5 books  of which they end of reading one. I take one book - sometimes two. I choose books that are lightweight. I have stood in shops weighing them
    12. Take small toiletries with you. All of my toiletries fit into the regulation carry on size ( -and if you are staying in a hotel, remember they will usually be giving you shampoo and conditioner but some will also supply moisturiser, toothpaste, shavers, shaving cream, mouthwash. If you are going away for two weeks, you do not need a 1 litre mouthwash. Newsflash: -most places in the world sell toiletries
    13.  if you are buying duty free,  see if you can buy it on your trip home so you dont have to carry it for you. Best method is to have it waiting at your home airport for you.
    Next Post,  I will reveal where to get info re airline baggage rules. Comments?

    Lighter Luggage Part 1: Switching to Carry on

    Its getting to travel season for many. My eyes boggle at the amount of luggage, people take with them. Its hard work, its nerve wracking sometimes and if you are over your weight limit, its expensive.

    I travel with two bags.  One is on wheels  and is designed to be checked if I have to. My aim is not to check anything in because:

    • its faster at check in- no luggage means a check in at home and straight to the gate (time saved 15-60mins). I fly about 90 times a year- time saved is between 22 and 54 hours!). Of course staying at home would save me more time!
    • faster at the other end-baggage takes 10 to 90 minutes to reappear at the other end. I am already sightseeing by the time some people are hauling their luggage off the carousel
    • easier-luggage that you will use as carry on only, means you can usually carry it up stairs yourself
    • its less likely to be lost- lost luggage can take 2 hours to 2 weeks to get back to you
    • many airlines in the USA and other countries now charge for check in luggage. Not having any reduces that concern
    • other airlines (eg Air NZ, Virgin Blue and Tiger) offer reduced fares if you travel with no check in (its a cleverer way of charging for luggage!)
    The other bag is officially my "personal item" (in this case a computer bag). It clips to the first for easy carrying.

    I aim for each bag to weigh under eight kilos (17 pounds) before i leave my house. Why eight kilos/17 pounds? Most airlines in the world have a limit on their carry on luggage. For some its as little as 5kg and for some its as much as 10kg. For most it is 7kg (15lbs) . I figure that If I am only just over, they will probably let me through. In the USA I have yet to meet an airline that has checked the weight of hand luggage! (confession: I have been known to have had my smaller bag weigh more than my bigger bag!)

    They also have a maximum sized bag you can carry on. My bigger bag usually meets the requirements  being 51cm (20")  x 33cm (12")  x 21cm (8").  Different airlines have different requirements, so check your carrier!

    Tomorrow I will talk about reducing your load!

    Police confirm dead teen fell out of plane

    The residents of Milton, Mssachusstes reported On November 15, 2010, reported hearing a loud "crashing noise" at around 9pm. The body of a 16 year old Delvonte Tisdale  was found lying in the street at 930pm. The boy was found with massive injuries so a hit and run was suspected. he had no shirt and no shoes
    Authorities, however, could not explain how the boy had ended up so far from home and what had been done to him.  The boy had been seen in North Carolina where he lived, at 130am that day. He had been missing since 5am. 
    It is now believed that the boy walked onto the tarmac at Charlotte/Douglas Airport, hid inside a 737 which took off at around 7pm and fell out of the plane as it lowered its wheels on its descent inbto Logan airport. The flightpath goes over Milton.
    Interestingly, Tisdale was a member of the Air Force ROTC program at North Mecklenburg High School near Charlotte.
     Evidence for this argument includes:
    •  a handprint in the wheel wel of the plane 
    • Sneakers and a red shirt that matched the family's description of what the teen was last seen wearing were found in Milton along the flight path
    • the autopsy report indicatied the teen fell "from a significant height." He had no gun wounds
    His father, said his son was happy but his brother was unhappy in North Carolina and had never wanted to leave Baltimore, where he had lived earlier.

    Here is the video from a press conferece about the boy.

    This is a sad story with obvious implications for airport security. RIP Delvonte.

    Thank you to those who brought their brain with them today

    For some reason, a number of other passengers irritated me yesterday! I want to affirm those who didn't annoy others yesterday.

    So a big thank you to all those passengers who 
    1. Bring Manners- yes travelling can be stressful but its your choice. Glad you were not obnoxious to your waiter/check in assistant/husband/daughter/son/stranger
    2. Are Prepared- You realise that  Passport queue means you need your passport! At the Check in counter, you have some sort of ID and you know which airline you are traveling on
    3. Give yourself time-avoiding the stress of missing a plane or train by leaving early and allowing more than 2 minutes to change trains
    4. Watch whats going on-so you know what's coming when you get to the head of the line. I realised how insulated people are, when immigration people came up to the guy in front of me in the Los Angeles line. They asked to look at his passport and visa. After 2-3 minutes of questioning and discussion, two men came and removed the man from the line and escorted him to a little room. When it was all over, I turned and commented to the two people behind me-who had not seen a thing! They noticed the guy had gone but had not seen it happen!
    5. Are friendly - If i am sitting next to you and we say "hi", that's great.  If you are travelling, you can meet people!
    6. Don't become too familiar in the first 20 minutes of a flight- its great you respect my space and privacy. I can find out about your messy divorce another time and you can ask me how much I earn and how big my house is when we know each other a bit better
    7. Are ready for airport security - you know that "no liquids" means you definitely can't bring 3 bottles of family size shampoo on the plane and as for that champagne....?
    8. Don't automatically recline your seats- there isn't much room for people with long legs and your respect of that is really appreciated
    9. Accept your luggage limits- yes you got away with three suitcases last time but that's not always going to happen. If you are over the limit, yelling about it is not going to help
    10. Say thank you- nothing else needed to be said here
    Happy Travelling!

    In Hong Kong today

    I first came to Hong Kong almost 40 years ago! Hong Kong and I have grown up a lot since then!

    The bad news is that my Iphone has died!

    2011 "Bucket List"

    With one month to go until 2011, I am in full swing of planning the year. I am not sure you can have a bucket list for a year or whether it is part of a list!! What do you think? I have a very exciting and busy travel schedule for work. I am trying to add some equally exciting travel adventures!!

    New Countries
    My Goal is to have gone to my fiftieth country by my birthday in July (I am NOT 50 on this Birthday). At this stage, one of  the four I will be going to is Jordan. This will include Petra (boy am I excited) Anyone want to join me? Another will be Turkey.

    In the second half of 2011, I hope to get to China (love to do the Red Cross Great Wall Trek). I hope to finally get to South America in late 2011: Colombia, Argentina,

    New US States
    My goal has been all 50 states by my birthday in July 2011. I will land in Alaska on my Birthday which I am excited about! Hoping to get to Nebraska and Iowa in April and North Dakota in May! The week after my birthday will include an Alaska cruise!

    New Zealand Trek
    I try to do a NZ walk each year. Hoping 2011 will be the Abel Tasman walk, a stunning 54km (33 mile) hike at the top of the South Island. Any advice welcomed!

    I first went to Fiji in 1965 (as a baby). I went back in 1988, 23 years after my first visit.  Next year 2011 will be a further 23 years since my last visit. Shall i try and go back?

    Family Adventures
    The plan is to take my eldest nephews to Legoland California- not sure who is more excited! (I would also like to go to Harry Potter world with them too...we shall see). I have an "uncle" (he is really an older cousin) in England I want to see and somehow I need time to catch up with my Aunt and Uncle in Australia plus a few nephews and nieces birthdays!

    I would like to travel on two amazing Australian Train journeys: The Gulflander and Savannahlander. These are two of the most remote and unusual train trips in the world. Also, I would like to fly to New Zealand's most remote outpost: the Chatham Islands. If I get the money and time while paying my house off in Australia!

    Thats my 2011. What are your travel adventures looking like?

    What happened to Qantas QF32

    For me it was a double grief:

    My much loved airline (Qantas) and my all time favourite plane: the Super Jumbo A380 - both tainted. Worse my favourite engine type, the Rolls Royce is in disgrace. Up to now,  I had always felt safer flying with the best of British engineering. A Qantas flight powered by Rolls Royce? Mythically in my mind this meant creme de la creme!  On November 4, this all changed.

    In a  highly publicised incident, on that day, aircraft VH-OQA called Nancy Bird Walton, (which was in fact  the first of Qantas' A380 s) took off from Singapore flying Qantas Flight 32 to Sydney, Australia.

    Four minutes into flight, at 10:01 am Singapore Time the plane's Number 2 engine had an "uncontained failure"  with a turbine disk being released in the engine. The debris punched holes in part of the wing, damaged the fuel system disabled a hydraulic system, knocked out the anti-lock brakes, damaged landing flaps and wiped out the controls for the neighbouring engine )outer left No.1).

    Here is a video filmed on board after the incident:

    Part of the engine cowling fell onto the island of Batam (Indonesian island very close to Singapore) which led to media reports that the plane had crashed on Batam.

    The Airbus circled for over an hour attempting to dump fuel while the very experienced crew dealt with multiple checklists and reportedly 54 alarms (as luck would have it, there were five pilots in the cockpit with Captain, First Officer  and Second Officer, plus  two check captains. The first  was performing an annual  check on the Captain -hope he passed! The second check captain was evaluating the first check captain).

    The crew found that the fuel couldn’t be dumped. They also could not pump it between tanks. As it leaked out, the plane started to become harder to control as it grew tail-heavy.  In the end the decision was made to land with more than 80 tonnes of highly volatile jet kerosene still in the 11 tanks -- two of which were leaking.

    The landing was back at Singapore's Changi Airport where the plane had started from.Without the full hydraulics, the spoilers - the flaps which slow the plane down - could not be deployed fully so the  crew also had to rely on gravity for the undercarriage to lock into place. With only one engine able to deploy reverse thrust and no anti skid brakes, the landing took most of the  4km Changi runway. Four tyres were blown in the process. Even after landing the Number one engine would not shut down and it had to be doused by the fire crew until it flamed out.

    No one on board was injured but two people at a school were injured by parts of the falling debris. The chance of everyone on board dying however was very high. If the explosion had punctured the fuel tank and sparked a fire, the A380 would have quickly turned into a fireball. If the crew had been less experienced, they may not have been able to control or land the plane. If the explosion had occurred in the middle of the Pacific on the Los Angeles -Sydney route, there may not have been time to get to a usable airport. If Changi did not have a 4km runway. There was a combination of good luck and good experience that day for QF 32

    After the landing, both Qantas and Singapore Airlines  grounded their A380s. Singapore resumed their flights the next day after tests. Qantas however found two engines on their other A380s that they had concerns with. Qantas kept their planes grounded stating they had found oil leaks that were "beyond normal tolerances".

    Singapore Airlines, announced that they planned to replace three engines on three separate planes, grounding the aircraft in question until the issues were resolved and Lufthansa announced the precautionary replacement of an engine on its A380. Emirates and Air France kept flying as their  A380 engines are not made by Rolls Royce but  by Engine Alliance (consortium between GE and Pratt & Whitney).

    After the incident, the fingers started pointing. Media, passengers and some Qantas staff blamed outsourced maintenance and cost cutting, Many worried that Qantas was losing its rain man status.(as detailed in an earlier blog post). Qantas suggested there was a design issue. Airbus pointed all questions to Rolls Royce. Rolls Royce has officially said nothing but they are  replacing all of the engines that are suffering from oil leaks.

    Four days after the incident, EASA (The European Aviation Safety Agency) issued an Airworthiness Directive, ordering airlines using the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine to conduct stringent tests frequently. The reversed some of those demands two weeks later. Rolls Royce had already had a highly publicised failure with its Trent 1000 engine designed for the 787.

    Qantas has now partially returned its fleet of A380s to service with two starting back. The rest of the fleet will remain grounded until  16 of the massive engines are replaced. No A380s will be used on flights  between Los Angeles and Australia which require the highest amount of take off thrust. (I also wonder if the distance to an emergency airport may be too great on that sector).

    My first A380 with Singapore Airlines
    Qantas will need to do a lot of reassuring of its Airbus A380 passengers in the next few flights and I can imagine here will be a lot of nervous passengers if the planes encounter any turbulence! I was therefore impressed that Alan Joyce, CEO   took the first A380 flight since the incident as a sign of his belief that the planes are safe to fly. (Did he fly Economy? -LOL)

    I had personally made a decision to wait two years before I flew in the A380 because I figured that the real world would provide the best tests of the safety of this plane. Seems I was almost right. Qantas launched the A380 with the tagline "World's Most Experienced Airline". On November 4, 2010, the crew showed the value and the reality of the statement. My next A380 flight? Singapore to Sydney with Singapore airlines (my second A380 with them). Wish me good luck with highly experienced crew.

    (See my blog post about my wonderful Qantas 380 flight last year)

    You can't yawn through this & it may save ya life!

    Today, I have chosen what i believe are the five most fun safety briefings in the sky. See what you think (below).

    First: a few comments about on board safety.   I have flown 683 times. In that time, while I have had five scarey flights*, i have never been in an emergency. Air Travel is indeed a very safe way to travel. However, the time I am in an emergency, I want and need to know how to get off that plane alive-fast. So, it amazes me how many people sleep, chat or read through the safety video. Hence why airlines are resorting to fun ways to engage with passengers.

    Five reasons why people ignore safety videos
    1. Some people  have flown so often they think they know it all. Yet research suggests that in an emergency, even frequent flyer's become confused and/or freeze. You really need to listen and pay attention for every flight
    2. Some do not believe an accident can happen to them
    3. Some are so scared of flying that they want to avoid any possibility of something going wrong so they even avoid the safety briefing
    4. Some people are so excited that they are oblivious to whats going on
    5. Some people are just not aware that there are still risks because we have all become accustomed to saying how safe it is to fly

    WATCH Your Next Safety Briefing
    1. Watch and listen to the safety briefing - you may be grateful one day
    2. Ask others to be quiet for it (I was once on an Ansett flight where the FA asked two passengers to shut up). Although I was not sure of it was appropriate to ask the United crew to shut up when they talked loudly through the demo on a recent flight
    3. Totally concentrate on that briefing (i have found myself sometimes drifting off to another world  and had to come back to earth)
    4. Count the seats to two different exits....do not assume if you are seated at one, that you will be able to get out that way
    5. Hunt for your life jacket during the briefing. If you are needing to find it in a smoke filled cabin emergency, its good to know where it is.  I know there are people who remove life jackets off planes as a prank. This is an offense under most jurisdictions and bloody stupid

    Five Best Safety Videos...believe me you will enjoy them! Then please vote for your favourite!
    Check videos below or at the People First YouTube Channel here and vote here
    1. Air New Zealand: Essentials of Safety-Fun and Quirky
    2. Cebu Pacific Male Dancing Team   -fun and sexy and Female Dancing Team -fun and sexy
    3. Southwest Rapping FA-very Southwest Airlines
    4. Thompson Airways- Alice and Co- so cute!
    5. Virgin America-Cartoon-great visual and auditory gags 

    Which one do you like the best... please vote here!

    *what I defined as scarey!

    Airports brace for 'don't touch my junk' protests

    From MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40351426/ns/travel/

    Travelers dismayed by airport body scans are headed to airports Wednesday with the makings of any good protest: handmade fliers, eye-catching placards, slogan-bearing T-shirts — and Scottish kilts.

    The loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day hopes to highlight what some call unnecessarily intrusive security screenings. Others fear it will merely snarl pre-Thanksgiving airline operations on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

    If enough people opt for a pat-down rather than a body scan, security-line delays could quickly cascade .
    More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with just more than 1.6 million flying — a 3.5 percent increase from last year. Body scans for passengers chosen at random take as little as 10 seconds. New pat-down procedures, which involve a security worker touching travelers' crotch and chest areas, can take 4 minutes or longer.

    The full-body scanners show a traveler's physical contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches.

    About 70 airports nationwide have more than 400 of the refrigerator-sized imaging units. Only around 20 percent of travelers are asked to go through them, but passengers cannot opt out of both the scan and the pat-down once they have been randomly selected for the enhanced searches.

    Officials say the procedures are necessary to ward off terror attacks like the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas by a Nigerian man who stashed explosives in his underwear. 

    At a main checkpoint in Atlanta on Tuesday, a few passengers asked to step through a scanner grimaced before walking through, while others seemed more bemused than annoyed.

    Out of 30 asked to go through during a half-hour period, just two opted for a pat-down. Karen Keebler, 54, of Atlanta said later that her main concern was the low-level radiation. The TSA says the scans emit very low radiation and aren't a health risk.

    "I just think the less radiation the better, and if you can opt out, you need to," she said.
    Wednesday's planned protest is the brainchild of Brian Sodergren of Ashburn, Va., who constructed a one-page website early this month urging people to decline scans.
    But public interest boomed after an Oceanside, Calif., man named John Tyner resisted a scan and groin check at the San Diego airport with the words, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." A cell-phone video of the incident went viral.
    Tyner's words became famous, spawning online sales of T-shirts, bumper stickers and even underwear emblazoned with the words, "Don't Touch My Junk!" A Google search of the phrase on Tuesday registered 4.2 million hits.    Saturday Night Live jumped on the controversy last weekend, with a minute-long skit equating the TSA with a dating service. The skit ends: "It's our business to touch yours."Pilots and flight attendants also had complained about being subject to body scans and pat-downs. On Friday, the TSA said pilots could avoid the more intense screening. TSA spokesman Nick Kimball confirmed the same for flight attendants Tuesday
    Both groups must show photo ID and go through metal detectors. If that sets off an alarm, they may still get a pat-down in some cases, he said.
    Publicity or no, some predicted little fallout from the planned protest, with many travelers at airports Tuesday deriding the effort and saying the stepped-up security measures made them feel safer.
    "I think there ought to be two flights," said Jacksonville, Fla., native Marc Gruber, 53, who was at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport. "One for people who want to be scanned and one for people who don't want to be scanned." 

    Lantastic! NZ-Aus -great way to travel!

    My flight with my 70th airline (LAN Chile) almost came to blows in the Check In line - before it had started.

    I get to stand in the priority check in queue because  of the curse/benefit of having flown too much!!. When I arrived at Auckland, New Zealand airport for my 430am Check in for  Sydney, I went straight to the Priority Line. As I stood there,   I observed the man in the regular line was eyeing me carefully. When the check in clerk gestured to me to move forward, he was off! He roared across with his luggage trolley, narrowly scraping in front of me. The check in  clerk gestured him to stop and waved me forward again. He kept zooming up to the counter glowering at me the whole way and demanding attention from the check in staff. Suffice to say, the clerk refused to serve him. He looked ready to punch me out as he slunk back to his place in the line.   I could feel his eyes burning holes in my back as i checked in!

    Air New Zealand handled the check in on behalf of LAN. I appreciated their initiative in getting me an exit row seats. What was even nicer was that they seated me alone! (after defending my place in then line!)

    The LAN plane was an A340 which I love. Its a great plane. Almost as nice as the A380 but its engines don't seem to blow up. It feels roomy (especially in 25A exit row!). 

    Being an airline from a Spanish speaking country, the crew were bilingual. They greeted each passenger in Spanish and/or English. I decided I would go Spanish! Every member of the crew from front door to my seat welcomed me!

    Safety briefings included the crew standing silently while a cute cartoon briefing played. It was very well done.LAN appeared to take safety very seriously and their pre safety checks were quite thorough (compare to Uniteds' slap dash approach I blogged about a few weeks ago)
    The pilot made his announcements in English and Spanish and wasted no time in getting the plane into the air. It was a superb take off on a grey morning

     My only two negatives with my seat were:
    1. that the man who tried to head me off at the check in was just a couple of seats behind. He glared at me as he boarded!
    2.  that it was opposite the :facilities" which were well used after take off and before landing.

    Breakfast was fresh fruit, a very fresh ham and cheese croissant and carrot cake. Alcohol (from Chile) and non alcoholic drinks were freely and generously available. Cabin Service was warm and friendly from all crew.

    The Trans-Tasman route Between Australia and New Zealand is one of the more competitive in Asia Pacific. Multiple airlines have slugged it out on this route. Because i like ranking everything, This  list ranks the airlines on that sector based on my rating of my experiences with them:
    These ratings are ONLY for the Trans Tasman (Aust-NZ) Service
    1. Emirates (amazing meals, great service, comfy planes, individual entertainment)  55/60 
    2. LAN (good meals, v good service, comfy planes, individual entertainment)   51/60
    3. Air New Zealand (no meals to good meals, v good service)  : 50/60
    4. Qantas (ok meals, ok service, cramped planes, no ind entertainment)    39/60
    5. Pacific Blue/Virgin Blue (no food, ok service, cramped planes, no ind entertainment)   30/60
    6. Continental (ceased this sector)
    7. Jetstar (no food, ok service, cramped planes, no ind entertainment)  26/60
    8. United (ceased)
    9. Aerolíneas Argentinas (not flown but they have a horrendous rap)  ?/60

    I would fly with LAN again! I just hope check in is in the afternoon! (and watch out for pushy  men at check in)

    Is Qantas now unsafe?

    Charlie: Ray, all airlines have crashed at one time or another, that doesn't mean that they are not safe. 
    Raymond: QANTAS. QANTAS never crashed. 
    Charlie: QANTAS? 
    Raymond: Never crashed. 
    Charlie: Oh that's gonna do me a lot of good because QANTAS doesn't fly to Los Angeles out of Cincinnati, you have to get to Melbourne! Melbourne, Australia in order to get the plane that flies to Los Angeles!

    In those words from the movie "Rain Man", Qantas was immortalised as the world's safest airline. 
    What was not strictly true was the "never crashed" statement. Qantas, which in 90 years old this month have actually had five  "hull losses" with the loss of  21 passengers: 

    • 1934: De Havilland DH-50 aircraft and pilot lost near Winton, central Queensland.
    • 1942: De Havilland DH-86 crashes in Brisbane are killing  two crew and seven passengers.
    • 1944: Empire flying boat engine trouble on Sydney-Brisbane flight, crashes in Sydney Harbour. All but one passenger rescued.
    • 1946: Avro Lancastrian on Colombo-Cocos Island flight lost in Indian Ocean with five crew and five passengers.
    • 1960: Super Constellation crashes at Mauritius and burns. Everyone got out safely.
    • In the same year,  1960, a Trans Australia Airlines (TAA)  538, a Fokker Friendship belonging crash landed in the ocean south-east of Mackay on final approach in foggy night conditions. TAA was later absorbed into Qantas.

    Since 1960, however, Qantas has never  had a "hull loss" (fatal accident).  Moreover, Qantas have never lost a jet aeroplane (although they came close ten years ago when a 747 slid down the runway in Bangkok)

    This last two weeks,  Qantas has been is in the news for five incidents:

    1. November 4, QF 32 Singapore, AIRBUS 380 -Rolls Royce engine explosion
    2. November 5, Singapore, 747 - contained engine failure
    3. November 12, QF 768, Perth, 767  -after flight crew became aware of vibration in number one engine.
    4. November 15, - QF 17 Sydney, 747 -smoke from electrical problem
    5. November 17, QF 64, Qantas 747 - Bird strike

    I  have flown Qantas 224 times. Should I be worried? Yes  or No

    Investors say  Yes!  90 per cent of Australian investors say these recent incidents are damaging Qantas-  55% blame the incidents outsourced  maintenance. 37% say its because of cost-cutting.  77% of investors want the cost-control strategy is stop.

    The Australian and International Pilots Association say  Yes -accusing all airlines of lowering safety, maintenance and training standards. The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association has warned that ''danger signs'' were now emerging from Qantas's decision to outsource maintenance, with a spate of safety incidents since it sent the work overseas.

    Opinion Polls are saying  Yes The with 47% in an Age poll, saying they would fly another airline
    Blogs are saying  Yes 
    Tweets are saying  Yes

    Are they right? Is Qantas now unsafe?

    Qantas has a good safety record for five reasons;

    1. Luck- lets be honest!
    2. Geography- most of Qantas flights are into airports that are not crowded, very rarely snow bound and have moderate winds and temperate weather conditions
    3. Pilot training- Listen to this pilot of the Qantas A380 and be impressed. The crew that landed that A380 were impressive in the way the pilots handled what was potentially a real disaster. Qantas Crews are highly experienced and highly trained.
    4. Australian Culture- which allows a first officer to challenge a pilot
    5. Maintenance- the perception has been that Qantas planes are very carefully maintained. With the  shift to offshore maintenance have become nervous
    Of the five recent incidents:
    1. Nov 4 A380 -is not caused by poor maintenance but what appears to be a design fault and good luck certainly came in to play- Qantas did right thing and grounded
    2. Nov  5,  747 - contained engine failure -possible but unlikely to be maintenance related
    3. Nov 12,  767  -vibration in number one engine - could be linked to maintenance
    4. Nov 15, - 747 -smoke from electrical problem- could be linked to maintenance
    5. Nov 17, 747 - Bird strike, incident.- Not maintenance related, just bad luck for plane and birds -they happen to all airlines from time to time

    Some members of Qantas frequent flyer have questioned if there are really more incidents or if the Media are "slamming" Qantas hard? What do you think?

    The Main Qantas Brand = still safer than most airlines. 

    Facts about Iceland

    Iceland is a country in the north of the globe with 330 000 people living in an area the size of England. The Capital is Reykjavik with 120 000 people (SMALLER than GEELONG or WOLLONGONG in Australia)

    1. Iceland used to be the poorest country in Europe
    2. Iceland grows bananas in greenhouses fuelled by geothermal heat
    3. the word  Geyser is from The Great Geysir of Iceland, which first erupted in the 14th century, It now erupts  every few hours. The Geyser above is called Stroker which erupts every few minutes
    4. Every child has to learn to swim
    5. Energy consumption per capita in Iceland is among the highest in the world because it is so cheap
    6. Children can only be named an official Icelandic name approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee
    7. Your surname consists of your dad's first name with sson after it if you are a boy and dottir
    8. if you are a girl...so my surname would be Geoffsson and my sister would be Geoffdottir
    9. 7. the Phone books here are arranged by FIRST NAME
    10. 8. Modern Icelandic has 31 letters but not a W or a C. Toilets are labelled WC however!!!!
    11. 9. there is no word in Icelandic for please
    12. 10. a very entertaining way to meet people is at the swimming baths there are 9 scattered around the capital (120 000 people)
    13. McDonalds left Iceland last year ..the stores were replaced by Metro, a new local hamburger brand
    14. Iceland is hoping that geothermal power will fuel a hydrogen cell export market to power cars around the world
    15. Icelanders plan to be 100% fossil fuel-free in the near future
    16. Iceland liberalised iits banking system and freed restrictions on its pension funds leading to spectacular growth followed by a massive meltdown resulting from the sub prime and world economic crisis. look at these ads made before the crisis for the bank that bankrupted Iceland: John Cleese 1 and John Cleese 2 and and the Bank's meglomanic ad
    17.  Iceland’s 300,000 citizens have some kind of responsibility for $100 billion of banking losses—which works out to roughly $330,000 for every Icelandic man, woman, and child. On top of that they have tens of billions of dollars in personal losses from their own foreign-currency losses and the 85 percent collapse in the Icelandic stock market. The news of the collapse and a Funny sketch about the situation here
    18. The Uk declared Iceland a terrorist state in order to freeze Iceland assets. Icelanders are very angry about this!
    19.  Iceland will pay back the UK for their banking losses there by 2024
    20. A third of the population have told pollsters that they were considering emigration..mostly to Norway
    21.  Iceland had several months of protest after the economic collapse leading to the sacking of the Central Bank President and the resignation of the government. These are some pics of the demos
    22.  Iceland may become again the poorest country in Europe

    Dont use GoldCar rent a car in Spain

    Not my article but helpful one recounting someone being stung by a car rental company in Spain--some helpful warnings


    I LOVE JetBlue

    An hour late but the ground crew did an excellent job of updating things.

    Midnight Blue was the plane (all JetBlue planes are named) delivering me to the amazing JetBlue Terminal 5 (NB terminal has free wifi).

    America's Worst Airlines

    Having just had a horror United Airlines recently, I found this report very fascinating. US News used information produced by the UN Department of Transport and produced an excellent slide show.  Best to worst
    1. Hawaiian Airlines (excellent on time performance and customer satisfaction ratings)
    2. AirTran (high customer satisfaction and good baggage handling)
    3. JetBlue (great customer satisfaction)
    4. Southwest ( lowest % of customer complaints)
    5. Continental  (consistently good for six years)
    6. Frontier (similar rating as Continental)
    7. US Airways (scores have been improving)
    8. American (the worst airine for baggage losses)
    9. Alaska (good on-time performance but passenger dissatisfaction)
    10. United (with the lowest passenger satisfaction score)
    11. Delta (most delays and most passenger complaints)
    From my own experience, this is my current rating of the airlines in the USA (notice some overlaps!)

    1. Virgin America-everything about VA is class-hope they can hang onto this as they expand
    2. JetBlue
    3. AirTran- 
    4. Southwest Airlines-
    5. Frontier Airlines
    6. Continental
    7. Alaska Airlines
    8. United Airlines- 
    9. American Airlines 
    10. US Airways 
    11. Delta
    See my list of best airlnes and worst.

      United Redeems themselves!

      This sunset shot taken en route from LAX to Pittsburgh.

      This was my 53rd United Airlines flight and my 60th flight at LAX!.

      This was a superb flight...pretty much 5 out of 5!
      Friendly staff, clean plane.

      Thanks Rob and team!

      This flight was in huge is contrast with yesterday's abysmal United Airlines flight from Syd to Los Angeles (check out review).

      12.5 weeks in the air

      Flew my 222nd Qantas flight today -- from Melbourne to Sydney.
      Also my 53rd (horrible) United Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles (see separate blog article)

       Altogether 673 air flights totalling 2091:51 hours of flying (12.5 weeks sitting inside tubes of metal)!!

      In Miles938,092
      In Kilometer1,509,714
      Check out my flight memory.com with travel maps, airlines flown etc.

      My favourite airlines are listed here.
      My least favourite airlines are here.