My Next Three Weeks

This is going to be a very busy time. Looking forward to flying with V Australia for the first time (the International arm of Virgin Blue, the Australian affiliate of the Virgin group) and spending a little time in Boise, Idaho.
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Delhi Airport Express

Trains to the airport in Delhi??? Alleluia...for this is the city where I had two of my most terrifying taxi rides....traffic in that city is extraordinarily bad!  Check out my blog post on bad Taxi rides and my wishlist for good service.

The good news is that of yesterday Delhi has an Express  train to the airport taking passengers from Connaught Place (centre of New Delhi)  to the International Airport (23km) in 18 minutes.

Cost 80 rupees ($1.80). Trains run 6am to 10pm but that will change with trains expected to run later in the night.

Check-in at stations is expected to begin next month.

The bad news is that its late (was meant to be open for last year's Commonwealth Games), and two stations have not been built yet  It will make a very welcome addition to arriving into India. Now can we get  Auckland, Dallas, Dublin, Honolulu,  Los Angeles, Melbourne and Toronto to get their airport train links?

How far is it from? Great Tools

Ever need to find out the travel distance between two cities?

Sometimes you just need to know or you want to work out points earnt for frequent flying.

The tool pictured right Travel Math will tell you travel distance, flight times as well as driving distance and driving time. It will also tell you the closest airport. Calculations are in miles, kilometres and nautical miles.

NB there is also an online booking form on the same page. Be careful you may actually start booking a flight instead of finding the distance!

My other favorite distance finding tool is The Great Circle Mapper  which displays splays maps and computes distances along a geodesic path.

Below, for example, is my trip which starts March 1, 2011 from Los Angeles to Dallas to Boise, Idaho to Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge to Columbus, Ohio (and back to LA).

Are these any use to you?

Bad timing

I subscribe to and (3 times in total). As a result when they have a sale, I get three emails from them.

Today the three emails all came through at around 907am Australian time/1107am New Zealand time. They were all promoting a cheap holiday deal in New Zealand.

The snafu was that this email came 17 hours after a massive earthquake ripped through Christchurch, New Zealand.  This major tourist centre seems to have lots most of its hotels and the biggest hotel in the City, the 26 storey Grand Chancellor may collapse. Some people reported that the email had  a picture of the Cathedral which was destroyed on the ad but mine didn't, which seems strange.

Expedia when confronted said: We're very saddened about the quake situation for the people of Christchurch. Our newsletters are deployed from London and the mail-out commenced before the quake hit. We would never issue anything like this intentionally. We are working with Expedia customers in the area and those who are planning to travel imminently to this part of New Zealand to help make alternate arrangements. In the meantime we have postponed the sale. 
We apologise for any offence this morning’s newsletter may have caused.
Nicholas Chu, GM Expedia Australia & New Zealand

Expedia then pulled the sale so while I could get rooms this morning, the booking page two hours later was pulled and replaced by a message saying the sale was postponed. 

These were both acceptable responses from Expedia. 

I do not buy, however, that an e-newsletter takes over 17 hours to be sent out. It is normal practice to write an electronic newsletter and have it waiting to go. In theory, my company has our monthly e-News written by the 10th to be sent on the 15th. This means that the Expedia newsletter was probably written before the earthquake and loaded onto an email delivery sitting system ready to be sent to customers to read the morning of the earthquake.

What puzzles me is that Expedia could not then pull the newsletter once, the earthquake had happened. There seem to be five possible explanations for this:
  1. No one monitors upcoming sales at Expedia  - Expedia clearly needs to improve its systems then. My company got caught once and so now we dont let anything go, that has not been approved
  2. The people who wrote about it wrote it so far in advance that they forgot about it -see above -  we have a systems problem
  3. The newsletter compilers did not consider the implications of it -   this illustrates a lack of customer focus 
  4. The people in London did not know where Christchurch was when they sent out a NZ sale advertisement- for a travel company lack of geography is not a good thing
  5. the people who wrote about it were too busy volunteering rescuing people from the rubble in Christchurch to get it offline
Which one seems most likely?

I like and use Expedia  so for me, this is an unfortunate incident. What was poorer was that there was no follow up email apologising for the first blunder and advising the pulling of the sale. This might have earnt them some brownie points from the angry Kiwis who have been talking about this. I also think their response on Facebook was poor regarding this.

One thing is certain: 80% of people in Christchurch would not have noticed as they are without power for a second night. My thoughts go out to you guys. 

Aamazing LAX landing

This is an amazing video of a commercial plane landing at dusk into Los Angeles International Airport. The video has been edited and sped up fitting all the action into under 5 minutes. I like the music -its very fitting with the LA sound and theme. Others hate the music!

The plane comes in from the northwest into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). 

First up, the downwind leg is entered over the Santa Monica  VOR (VHF omnidirectional radio range) station.

Then, the flight  follows approximately the 10 freeway. Then a base leg turn is made along the 710, and final approach into runway 24R parallels the 105 Freeway.

Initial altitude is 10,000 feet (3 000 metres).


BMI Baby being good!

I complain so often about the airlines that hide their prices behind a wall of charges and "extras" (see my blog posts: $198 to Europe or 981.80 and More on Cheapies)

Today BMI Baby (yes its a real airline) in an email to customers said: You've probably noticed a change in the way that our fares are displayed, but don't be alarmed, there's a very good reason for it. You see, we want to be open and honest with our customers, by including all airport taxes and charges on our fares display page. 

We've made this change to be more transparent, a requirement which all airlines should be following.

So don't be fooled by a low price, with a nasty surprise hiding behind it. Book with bmibaby, because our fares are fair.

Well done BMI Baby- and I agree: "a requirement which all airlines should be following"

You are Gold!

Always believe in your soul
You've got the power to know
You're indestructible, always believe in, 'cos you are Gold
(Spandau Ballet)

The Virgin Group have just made me Gold Status with them. Thank you!

What does this mean?

Because I am also Gold with United and Platinum with Qantas it means:

  1. I fly too much
  2. Lounge access whenever i fly internationally almost anywhere in the world
  3. Lounge access at almost all domestic lounges in Australia
  4. Priority security lanes and boarding (when available)
  5. Priority for upgrades
  6. Bonus Points

This does make me happy! Let me toast this with a glass of free airport lounge Champagne (unless in the USA where alcohol isnt free in lounges!)

What do you buy an adult plane geek for their Birthday?

In this case the geek is not me but you could buy me first class seats in an A380?  OR
or a ride on a Boeing 707
or a Qantas Gift voucher

For my friend (and very regular blog reader) Troy, I bought a lego mini plane:  Be king of the skies with the super-agile mini plane with spinning propellers! Rebuilds into an ultra-light airplane or sleek speedboat. Comes in a handy reusable storage can.

 Enjoy- and Happy Birthday mate!

$198 to Europe or $981.80 to Europe

This email offering fares from the US to Europe got me mildly excited for a minute with visions of Rome until i focused on the star. I love those stars that sit next to all airline pricing. As I have long complained, no fare is what it says it is.

So the star* in this fare special means:

  1. that's $198 each way- and you must buy a round trip ticket
  2. $198 of course is the cheapest possible fare and is from: NYC to Dublin, Ireland which while definitely part of the European Community is not anywhere near Rome which is in fact $315 each way
  3. fees, taxes and airport charges up to $245 are extra
  4. Fares are for mid-week travel -weekend surcharges apply
  5. The fares quoted are from New York- how many Americans actually live in NYC? Other cities are far higher. For example, St Louis-Rome is $471 each way!
The cheapest fare from St Louis to Rome on a Wednesday is $981.80. The weekend fare ranged from $1200 to $1900. 
That's a far cry from $198 and it annoys me.

If our supermarkets operated the same way, they would offer a Bunch of Bananas for 10c*
  1. that's 10 cents a banana ....a bunch contains six bananas which must be bought together-otherwise each banana singly is $4
  2. the bananas actually do not contain any banana flesh. Its the banana skin price that starts at 10 cents. A banana inside each banana skin costs an extra 30 cents per banana
  3. fees, taxes and shop charges are up to 15 cents a banana extra
  4. the bananas are only on sale at this price between 1am and 4am
  5. the bananas are only available at this price at one store. The price at every other store will be 20 cents higher per banana
So your 10 cents banana becomes $4.50 for a bunch - only if you buy them at 2am! 

Would we tolerate a store selling things this way? NO  Why do we let airlines?
  1. we are talking large sums of money- most of us find it hard to picture $1000 purchases but we can imagine 10 cent purchases,
  2. airline travel is seen as slightly mysterious and most people do not understand the complexities
  3. the airline industry has been seen as a  soft target for taxes and charges by governments  and airports around the world. I am not sure any other industry has the regime of taxes an airline does. 
  4. Airlines have shifted more and more of what was included in their core pricing to "fees" and "charges"  They then can advertise the base fare and add the charges and fees later
In the meantime, watch your pricing- no price is what it seems. In this case I would be happier with Lufthansa is they said: Europe from $645....but that price does not grab your attention as much as $198 does it?

Happy Birthday

9 February 1969: The first 747 flew for the first time, a nearly two hour flight from from Everett, Washington and back again.

First Korean Air A380 peeks out in Toulouse

Blog readers will know that I love the A380 SuperJumbo currently in service with 5 airlines:

  • Air France
  • Emirates (I flew their A380 in 2010 and loved it)
  • Lufthansa (hope to fly this in July)
  • Qantas (see the blog post about my  2010 fabulous A380 flight)
  • Singapore Airlines (flown 2010)

Photo Credit David Barrie
Showing its colours at Toulouse is the Airbus A380 belonging to the sixth airline to have it,  Korean Air Lines. This is a company that I have never flown because of their dubious safety record (wikipedia: Korean Air had a relatively high accident rate between 1970 and 1999, during which time it wrote off 16 aircraft in serious incidents and accidents with the loss of 700 lives). Korean Air is a founding partner airline of SkyTeam, the world's second largest airline alliance along with Air France-KLM and Delta. It is one of only nine airlines to fly to every inhabited continent.

Korean will start flying A380s in May, 2011 to Japan and East Asia. This will be followed by Korean's US and European routes in August, 2011. Korean Air have said they will have five A380s by the end of 2011 and then another five from 2012 to 2014

 Korean Air's A380 will only have 407 seats in total on board. This is the least number of seats out of all the airlines (Qantas 450, Singapore 471, Emirates 489/517, Air France 516/538, Lufthansa 526).

Of those seats Korean will have 12 KOSMO First Class seats and 301 economy seats on the lower deck. On the upper deck will be 94 Prestige (Business class seats) which will have to be a very spacious affair. No other carrier has done this.

China Southern will also add A380s in 2011 with Thai, Malaysian and Qatar flying them in 2012