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?