Flying in the future

Have a look at this amazing video from the now defunct Branriff International. They revealed their image of what  flying in the future would be like in the supersonic age.

Its quite fun.

There are some things that have happened but many that have not eg supersonic jet? electronic valet on board?

What was it with people in the 1960s -they didnt want to do any walking?

Did you see the onboard entertainment meant you could watch three films at once?

When you have that as context you wonder how much of this contemporary video from Lockeed about flying in the future will happen. Ah it sounds so wonderful;

  • non invasive biometric security- whatever that means?
  • runway incursion warning systems
  • instant flight path routing
etc etc

Didn't say anything about what the seat and meal will be like? Even Lockheed have some limitations.

What do you think the future of flying will look like? For me, fewer airlines, more expensive tickets and a massive interest in non petroleum based fuels.

Ryanair gets halted (for the moment)

So you turn up at the airport and find that you have stupidly    inadvertendly  deliberately left your Boarding pass at home. Assuming it is not with your passport, you usually dont have a problem!

For example, in the USA, you can rock on up to a machine and get a new one printed. In other countries, a human usually has to issue you with a new one.

Not so easy with Ryanair who has decided you must print your own pass at home. Forget to do so and Ryanair make you pay for a new one. Remember this is Ryanair,  the airline that charges for everything they can. The same Ryanair I put as the sixth worst airline in 2010.

So how much would you expect for them to print you a Boarding Pass? 5 eruo ($US7ish £4.25) ? 10 euro?

TRY 40 Euro (almost $USD55 or £34!!!!). In some cases this may be more than the fare!
A Spanish judge  Barbara Maria Cordoba has thwarted this in Spain saying saying:  "The normal practice over the years has been that the obligation to issue the boarding card has always fallen on the carrier. I declare unfair and therefore void the contractual clause in which Ryanair obliges the passenger to be the one who brings the printed boarding pass to travel or face a penalty of €40."

 First round to the public....stay tuned for Ryanair next play.

Qantas Hola Dallas, adios SFO

Qantas has announced they will now fly direct to Dallas Fort Worth from Sydney from May, 2011 using a Boeing 747-400ER. It is intended when Qantas finally get their 787s, they will be used on this route.

At 13 879 km (8,624 miles), this will be  the third-longest route in the world! The flights would take about 17 hours. There are three huge pluses about this:

  1. We can avoid LAX (my most hated airport) to get to the middle of the USA. DFW is a much more user friendly airport and is well connected to the rest of the USA and South America. I rank it seventh best in world!
  2. It will save time. Flights from Syd to DFW take 20-21 hours now via LAX. Currently Flights from SYD to NYC via LAX take 22-23 hours now. Via Dallas this could fall by an hour or two 
  3. it connects passengers straight into the middle of the American Airlines network (Qantas and American are One World partners)

The downsides:

  1. the airline will drop San Francisco which has not generated enough corporate traffic
  2. the flight back will stop at Brisbane which will negate a little of the time saving. This is because the distance si too far and with the strong Pacific winds, there wont be enough fuel reserves to make it to Sydney non stop! Brisbane is 400km closer from Dallas (clearly there is not going to be much reserve fuel!

United are talking about deploying the new 787 on an Auckland-Houston flight, Suddenly, down under and Texas are looking closer!

Watch for Qantas opening flight deals and watch for United and Delta to offer deals between Dallas and Australia!

United CEO agrees with me! :)

I blogged about my last experience with United on the Aust-USA sector a few months ago because it was so bad.  Nice to see that  President and CEO of United Airlines, Jeff Smisek agrees with me in a recent article in Australian Business Traveller.
"...the product on the 747 that United flies to Australia is not an acceptable level of product" 
“And I know that, I recognise that. But United on its own didn’t have the money to invest in that product. Now (with the United-Continental merger) it does, and we will.”  “You have to invest, because the price of not investing is that you lose business"

Great news. I look forward to hearing more.
In the meantime if you are flying between Australia and USA or vice versa, choose any of the following:

  1.  Air New Zealand first (they are also Star Alliance)
  2. Qantas is not as nice as Air NZ but a million times better than United.  Fares are usually competitive. Feel free to spend more however! You will be glad you did for Air NZ or Qantas
  3. V Australia also do the route - while I have not flown them, they are reputed to be excellent and again would have to be far far better than United.  I am going to sample V Australia next month.
  4. If you want to go via Tahiti, Air Tahiti Nui according to my sister are great
  5. Air Pacific takes you via Fiji. Acceptable if not aging product, Fiji politics aside

Delta also do the route but my no fly policy still applies to Delta!

Thank you to you!

As 2011, gets underway, I want to say thank you for three things:
1. for reading my travel blog! (almost 4000 page views!)
2. for those who have commented on it (both the 66 here and the many on Facebook)
3. to those who have encouraged me in the blog sphere and by email and by offline (you know who you are!)
4. for subscribing (hint hint!)

The most popular posts for 2010:
  1. Three Airlines-one plane- comparing the A380  (10% of all readers ) --- Sep 30, 2010, 7 comments
  2. Almost had $1200 stolen  (dodgy travel agent) Oct 25, 2010, ---9 comments
  3. Good bye and Good Riddance? (the demise of Mexicana)  ----Aug 4, 2010, 5 comments
  4. 2011 "Bucket List"----Dec 2, 2010  1 comment (just like reading about them eh)
  5. When Enhancements alienate a customer  (Qantas freq flyer changes)---Dec 28, 2010, 1 comment (how restrained?)
  6. The Five Peeve Taxi Journey (a bad taxi ride and what could be done about it)--Sep 10, 2010, 2 comments
  7. 2010 Best and Worst Airlines! early days yet) ---Dec 30, 2010 NO comments? Come on!!!
Most of you come from the USA (36%) and Australia (35%) followed by the UK (5%) and France (3%). Hello to my readers in Brazil, Canada, Russia, UAE and NZ and other places!

Looking forward to blogging with you in 2011! Dare you to make a comment!

Computer Says "No"

Today, I am taking the train from Brisbane to Grafton, a regional town about 250 kilometres (150 miles) away..Then I am going onto Sydney (another 600km 360 miles).

I am using a pass called the East Coast Discovery Pass which allows you unlimited travel in one direction on multiple rail systems in three states along the Australian East Coast. This pass used to be reserved for non Australian tourists but a year ago, it was opened up to Australians too.

Today, I wandered into a rail ticket office to buy my pass. Have you ever seen Carol from Little Britain (computer says "no"). Well today, I got Annie from Queensland Rail.

Annie: "No sorry sir. That pass is only for overseas visitors"

Me: It used to be for Overseas visitors but I know they changed it.

Out comes the supervisor: "No you cannot buy an East Coast Pass. Its only for international tourists"

Me: "but i bought one last year"

Supervisor shrugs and walks off.

Annie starts tapping madly into her computer. After a while, I log onto the net on my own phone:

On the page it says: "the East Coast Discovery Pass is now available to Australian residents... For further details visit your nearest CountryLink Travel Centre or call 13 22 32."

I show Annie this entry on my phone screen. She reads it twice.

"I am not disbelieving you sir but I need to check this with head office."

Annie then calls Paul: "I have an Australian customer who claims that he can buy an East Coast Pass."
"I see"
":When did they change this?"
"I see"
"its on what screen?"
"Ah I see. Thanks Paul"

Annie: So, when did you want to travel?
Me: So I can buy a pass?
Annie: mmmmmm
Me: So it seems I may have done you a service today?
Annie: How?
Me: Well you know that the East Coast Pass is available for Australians too
Annie: No not really. So when did you want to travel?

At least she did not cough in my face, like Carol from Little Britain!

Best and Worst Airports of 2010


Picture this, You have been trapped inside a metal tube for 13, 15, 22 hours with your knees wrapped around your ears. The tube lands and disgorges you into an airport. Some airports give you a great welcome to that country and some make you think you are in some sort of on going hell. Here is my list of best and worst airports.

Best Airports
  1. Singapore (SIN)- take a shopping mall, throw in a waterfall or two, add the most efficient processes for everything from customs to luggage retrieval (challenge you to try and beat your baggage) to taxis and add a layer of calm and you create the magic of this amazing airport. Delayed? Go and get a massage.
  2. Hong Kong (HKG)- an oasis in the frenetic pace of Hong Kong. A large airport that works efficiently. And it looks damn sexy
  3. Amsterdam (AMS)- for some the size is daunting but I find this is a great airport with few hassles
  4. Zurich (ZRH)- a sparkling clean airport with rapid baggage connected by great public transit to downtown Zurich. The luggage trolleys are designed to work on the escalators
  5. Kuala Lumpur (KUL)-efficient and stunning
  6. Munich airport (MUH)-changing planes here is almost a delight in the light filled terminals and corridors
  7. Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) - for am American airport clean and friendly.  Transport, unfortunately, to downtown is poor
  8. Detroit (DTW)- while the city crumbles, the airport shines
  9. Charlotte (CLT)- it just works
  10. Stockholm (ARN)- a beautiful airport staffed by stunning people

Worst Airports
  1. Los Angeles (LAX)- the only thing I like about this airport is the themed restaurant. It is the world's sixth biggest in terms of passenger numbers.  That is no excuse for the surly service, leaking cracking infrastructure and long lines for anything. Add the fact that the transit line to downtown ends a couple of miles away from the airport! It is the worst entry point for visitors to the USA and does nothing to enhance the image of the USA.
  2. Bombay/Mumbai airport (BOM)- tearing it down would improve things
  3. London Heathrow (LHR)- confusing, tatty and badly laid out (the new terminal is nice though)
  4. Philadelphia PHL: badly laid out, this airport looks like a building site - permanently. It has a passenger rail link to downtown the system but the trains are only  half hourly. In addition, there is little luggage space in the trains)
  5. JFK- urgh. Jetblue's terminal is amazingly wonderful though.
  6. Delhi (DHL)- not a good entry to the capital of India
  7. Edinburgh airport (EDI)  - cramped messy tatty airport
  8. Miami MIA-  a permanent building site
  9. Boston - a very disappointing airport
  10. Lagos Airport- an airport that has improved. Why? Because soldiers shot the bandits that robbed people on the way through the airport! Still not a good aiport

Martin J's Top Cities of the World 2010

My Top Ten Cities

Paris remains my Number One in the world. What I like overall about Paris is that it works. The infrastructure is a dream with world's best public transport , water, sewerage, and electricity systems. Add to that amazing culture, fantastic streetscapes and mind bogglingly wonderful food. I was shocked to find I can buy an apartment there for less than I can in my own city Melbourne, Australia.
Tourists: buy breakfast at a bakery not your hotel and get lunch supplies at the local marches (markets) for amazing quality and a sense of authenticity. Detracting from Paris is a sense of a rise in racism and a few distressed banlieues (suburbs).

#2 Berlin, despite the economic malaise gripping Germany (particularly in the East) contains an energy, a beauty and fascination that few other cities offer. Combine this with an excellent urban infrastructure (including an amazing public transit system), German efficiency and great art, culture and music. I still chuckle over taking a German friend of mine to a German restaurant and watching him get blown away by the quality of the food.

#3 San Francisco edged up to my number three. While some of the infrastructure is a little clunkier due to the high involvement of private companies to supply it, it generally works well. Culturally a vibrant arts and music scene exists. But tourists:  please never eat at Fisherman's Wharf

#4 Melbourne, Australia Overlooked by many international tourists, in favour of the more famous Sydney, the city surprises visitors. I had some very good American friends come to visit who were planning to dedicate two days to the city and asked me for my top ten recommendations. I produced a top 40 list in an hour ((email me for my top 40 Melbourne list)

#5 Stockholm, Sweden's capital is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with good infrastructure and vibe. It is not ranked higher because culturally I find it more subdued and of course its so damned expensive. Tourists: get a hotel that includes a smorgasbord breakfast in the price, and do a canal tour)

#6  Montreal: French chic, food and culture.  True it has one of the biggest collection of white elephants (an airport that was never really used, a leaking Olympic stadium and a metro system not paid for but its one town that knows how to have a damn good party and dresses for it. Apart from those bitter bitter winters, I could live here (Tourists: don't be put off by winter though; Montreal is one of the most well equipped cities for winter in the world with an amazing underground walking network)

#7 Barcelona: One of my most embarrassing moments in life is telling an architecture professor I met in Barcelona, how ugly I thought Barcelona was after I had been there for six minutes. I got a lecture about the amazing architecture styles that make up the city and my eyes were opened up to the streetscape that is Barcelona  (We ended up dating and we are still good friends so I cant have been too clumsy). Some glitches with infrastructure but a superb transport system and a food and nightlife scene easily puts Barcelona at number seven. Tourists: go everywhere but guard your wallets very carefully. I have never seen more pickpockets than Barcelona

#8 Wellington, New Zealand last year celebrated being awarded the best small capital in the world. Walking the waterfront on a  sunny day will lead you to fall in love with the harbour, hills and houses. Take the cable car up and walk down through the botanic gardens. Here you will be spoilt for choice with the range and quality of food. The rail+ bus system is the best in New Zealand (but has a long way to go to get to world standards). Tourists: go and see the quality local theatre Then sample the bar and nightlife scene! 

#9 Portland, Oregon, USA  I have an on going debate with an Oregonian resident  friend of mine who cannot believe that I rate Portland, Oregon so highly. One of the most livable cities in the USA, its not a visually stunning place but it has an incredible vibe fuelled by an edgey arts scene, great music scene,. Superb food and local wine. Tourists: buy a book at Powells,world's largest bookstore,  find the outdoor market, walk along the river and eat from a food van.  Make sure you do the underground tunnel tour..

#10 Toronto, Canada gets a second look in with Toronto. Many people prefer Vancouver (which I put in 20th place) but for me Toronto works better. Not the prettiest city, it does have some visual gems. For life, however, give me Toronto, eh? Tourists: take a ferry to the islands and walk along them.

Other leading Contenders:

11 Boston, Massachusetts -
12 Chicago, Illinois
13 Newcastle upon Tyne – take a look at this place, you will be surprised
14 Koln (Cologne)
15 Singapore – if you go beyond the tourist haunts and meet some locals, you will find a city that functions brilliantly with thriving arts and amazing food
16 Adelaide – yes Adelaide, underrated by residents, non residents and tourists where else can you go to the beach, go for hike, eat an amazing meal and watch superb entertainment in a day with no stress.
16 Geneva- combines Swiss efficiency, French verve and an international edge
18 Reykjavik- go go go see Iceland's capital. Tourists: Stay at Room with a View!
Downtown Reykjavik
19 Seattle, Washington- grunge music and stunning scenery
20 Vancouver, Canada- a superb place undermined by its becoming much pricier
21 Hobart, don't skip this gem. Grab some affordable seafood by the water, go for a hike
22 San Diego, California, fun
23 Portland, Maine- surprise! Check it out!
24 Brussels- I get rubbished for putting the Belgian capital here but again follow the locals and over a meal of mussel,  fites and beer you will te a glimpse of a fun side to this seemingly serious  city. 
25 Bilbao, Spain – most people have never heard of the city let alone visited it- think Guggenheim Museum
26 New York, New York- sacrilege that New York isn't in my top ten? Yes NY, NY has everything you could want but it is hard work to live in and navigate, its expensive and it is grotty hence my relegation of NYC to number 26!
27 Bern- another surprise?!
28 Christchurch, impacted but not daunted by an earthquake, New Zealand's second largest city
28 Washington, District of Columbia
30 Budapest
31 Taipei, Taiwan – blown away by this amazing city
31 Rennes, France – where? I think most French will be surprised by how highly I rate Rennes. A brief visit there is not enough. Here s a Chance to discover “real France”
33 Liverpool, England. Dunned a European city of culture a couple of years ago, the city sparkles
34 Prague, Czech Republic – yes there is nice beer -but there is much, much more
35 Sydney- go beyond Sydney's glistening harbour and you find an expensive city with appalling transportation issues, Sydney is sway better than several thousand cities across the world but it has a lot of work to get into my top 10
36 Krakow, Poland – everyone kept telling me how beautiful Krakow is-and they were right
37 Edinburgh, Scotland -cool place
38 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Savannah, Georgia – two very different cities and fun in different ways
40 Perth , Australia and Bristol, England

Summary by Country

Of my top 41 cities (two cities are at Number 40)
  • The USA has 11 of them
  • Australia has 5 (this is corroborated by the Mercer, monocle and Economists annual city ratings)
  • England has 3 (but not London which I relegate to #57)
  • Canada has 3
  • Germany, Spain, Switzerland, New Zealand and France have 2 each
  • Scotland, Taiwan, Iceland, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, Czech republic, Sweden one each
  • Singapore is unique being a city -state

Missing Links?
Why no South American cities?: mea cupla. I have never been to South America! I will endeavour to fix this in 2011. :)

Worst cities in the world? 

 Have to included Lagos,Nigeria and Harare, Zimbabwe. Scarily, I also include some US cities at the bottom of the list.

What about you? 
 Your best and worst city choices?