2300 hours

A recent flight  tipped me over into 2300 hours of flying since I was born. This is equivalent to over 95 days inside a metal tube.  Over 3 months of my life!

More Trivia (some of which can be found at my flightmemory page)

  • 75 airlines (my favourites of course Emirates, Air New Zealand and Qantas)
  • 48 types of plane (the 3 most common being B737, B747 and B767 and the most exotic a Zepplin airship)
  • 180 airports (the 3 most common Melbourne, Sydney and Los Angeles)
  • 36 countries on 5 continents flown to (out of the 47 countries I have visited to- 2 countries I went to by ship, 2 by bus and 7 by train)
  • 43% of my flights have involved an Australian destination,  31% a US destination and 8% a New Zealand stop and 4% a UK stop.
  • I have sat by the window 281 times, on the  Aisle   151 times and in the  Middle  21 times..I cant recall the rest...guessing same proportions. 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Korean A380---launch delayed again

The Korean Air 380 launch has been delayed from 10 June, 2011 to 17 June, 2011 (perhaps to put in the duty free stores I mentioned yesterday?)
In the meantime, here is an advertisement for the Korean A380.....
I wrote a post on the layout of the Korean A380 and another comparing my Emirates A380 experience with that on Qantas and Singapore.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Korean Air--lets go shopping!

In 2009, Korean Air foreshadowed it would be installing duty free stores on its ten new A380s. The airline is already the number one airline company in the world for in flight retailing! 

Now they have revealed the store layout. It will be located at the back of the lower deck near the rear stairs. 

The store will replace 13 economy seats. The Korean A380 will have the lowest number of seats on board out of all of the airlines flying it (see my previous Blog post on the Korean A380).

The duty free "store" is made up of five units:
  1. Video wall- video advertising space will be sold to companies
  2. Fragrances
  3. Jewellery
  4. Liquor Unit
  5. Liquor Unit

One cabin crew member will staff the shop and deliver bought goods. First Class passengers will be invited first. Then Business class passengers will be welcomed and only if there is time, economy class passengers will be welcomed. The goods on display are high priced products.

For a video about the units see here

Martin J on the Monorail

In 2012 the Seattle Monorail will be 50. Opened March 24, 1962 for the Seattle World Fair.  The line runs at a top speed of 72km/h for just over a 1.5kilometres.

The train pictured here is one of the two original Alweg trains built in 1961. The monorail trains and their tracks were given historical landmark status by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board April 16, 2003.

About 2.5 million people pay the $2 fare for the two minute trip. In the late 90s, there was  a plan to put five monorail lines across Seattle. Called the Seattle Monorail Project, it was finally buried in 2008.

By contrast, the Shangahi Maglev Train with a top operational speed of 431 km/h (268 mph),was built between 2001 and 2004. The train takes 7 minutes and 20 seconds to complete a distance of 30 km (18.6 mi)   to Pudong International Airport from a station on the Shanghai Metro. I can't wait to ride that one in August!

Back to the 80s with Air NZ's newest safety video

Same words...very different costumes...in the last Air New Zealand air safety video, the crew were nude- in this one, they go"funky".  Led by flamboyant American fitness personality Richard Simmons, the briefing introduces all of the usual safety features on a plane (ie no smoking, fasten seatbelts, brace positions, life jacket, luggage etc) as a series of "exercises" to be completed before flying. The instructions are delivered with lots of crazy costumes, boppy music and humourous gags.

The video available for viewing here. What do you think of it? Some thoughts from me:

I noticed a couple of the crew from the previous "nude" video bopping along in this one. Great to see they are still involved. Didnt spot Air NZ CEO this time. Anyone else see him?

My favourite line in the video is when notorious TV broadcaster Paul Henry is told to "stop broadcasting". Watch and listen to his response. I started laughing!  Then see what happens next and what he does. Kiwis will get this immediately but non NZers may not understand the references.

I also wondered will I get sick of it if I see it multiple times a month.

And what will a macho NZ sheep farmer think of his national airline's campiness?

Will the crew bop along to the video? I hope so.....I do look forward to my next Air NZ flight to find out!

For the making of the video check out here.

A380 Bang

Here's a great reason to ALWAYS wear a seat belt on a plane even when its stationery on the ground. I cant believe how many seat belts I hear being opened seconds after a plane lands.

Have you seen the video where the Air France A380 jet at  New York's John F. Kennedy airport hits the tail section of a Bombardier CRJ 700 Regional Jet? The smaller plane spins a quarter turn on the taxiway!

The A380 was operating Air France Flight 7 to Paris and was taxing to take off. It had 495 passengers and 25 crew members on board.

Its left wingtip struck the tail of Comair Flight 6293, which had just landed from Boston and was taxiing to its gate at Kennedy. The Comair  had 62 passengers and four crew members on board.

There were no reports of injuries.

Both planes were inspected Tuesday,  pilots and crew  interviewed and ground radar checked.

The Airbus "super jumbo", the world's largest jetliner has a wingspan of almost 80 meters (yards). About a third of a metre of the Air France left wing appears to be damaged. Air France said the damage was only "material". I hope so.

So who was at fault? The airbus has only been flying to JFK since Nov. 20, 2009. Lufthansa also flies the A380 into JFK since February, 2011. So the airport is still getting used to them. Check out my  review of the Emirates A380 comparing it to the Qantas and Singapore A380s. I have yet to fly the Lufthansa and Air France planes. Hope to do them in the second half of 2011. 

NTSB Photos of Wing Clipping at JFK Airport

My Computer is Back!

I am at least eight posts behind having not had a computer for ages...upcoming Blog Posts:
1. Being in Beirut
2. The Uglification of Pattaya
3. Amazing Amman
4. Petra Report
5. Way out Wadi Rum
6. Virgin Blues
7. V Australia Business Class...Stacks up?
8. Survive a Plane Crash

Hope to feed these through in the next weeks...watch this Blog!


Had the longest delay of my life today.
11 hours! (compared to some people's woes-nothing!)
The delay is out of Brisbane heading to LAX (Flight 007).
The airline is V Australia, the overseas arm of Virgin Blue. They have an "unserviceable" aircraft!
Ironcially, my previous longest delay was with Virgin Blue out of Brisbane- destination: Sydney in 2000. That was an 8 hour delay.
I was so unimpressed with Virgin Blue's handling of that delay,  that I did not fly them for years! A recent convert back to the Virgin Blue family, this incident has me bemused. ..and a little worried. My connections home are much tighter than going. I have little room for delays! Fingers crossed for May!
V Australia have handled this brilliantly though: meal vouchers, good communications, a hotel for transit passengers (and I got an upgrade! Thanks V)

Basil Fawlty and Mistaken Identity

In an hilarious episode of Fawlty towers called "The Wedding Party", Basil Fawlty decides to put an end to amorous dealings in his hotel.  It's side splitting stuff-on TV- in real life another matter.

At a guesthouse I recently stayed at, the owners were a husband and wife couple. Check in with the wife, went smoothly, my room was in order and I was given good advice on where I could have dinner. Then I met the owner. He decided within minutes of meeting me, that I was after his wife.

He muttered to me: "I am watching you" motioning his hands to his eyes and to me. At this stage, I had no idea what he meant.

Having realised that I had left the Internet password in my room, I asked the wife who had provided it on check in if I could have it again.

The husband at this point demanded that I only speak to him and not his wife. In fact, he ordered me not to talk to his wife again-saying that I needed to be careful. I never spoke to the wife again.

This led to an evening of harassment. Every time "Basil" passed me, he would say "I am watching you" as he walked past me. At one time he called out across the lobby/lounge area: "Australian, I am watching you"

As I was working on my laptop, (there was no Internet in the rooms),  he came over to me, leaned over me and said: "you look nice. Good clothes"
I thanked him (what else do you do)
He said : "Planning on a date tonight? Or were you planning a date and I stopped it?"

I gave him a withering look and said that I had not even thought of planning a date with anyone. I didn't speak to him again and went to bed half an hour later.

The next morning I saw neither of the couple as one of their staff was covering the morning.

When John Cleese and Connie Booth  were writing Fawlty towers, they spoke to people about real situations, hoteliers and guests had experienced. My incident would lend itself to an appearance.

As I said, it's funnier on TV than in real life though.

Anyone else experienced unpleasant or harassment behaviour from a hotel owner?

Bizarre air incident

In what has to be a first for me. As I snoozed comfortably with my shoes off in my British Airways (BA 9 Bangkok to Sydney), a fellow passenger taking a short cut, trod on my foot.
I woke up swearing to excuciating pain.
The angle that my passenger must have stood on my foot caused it to bleed and on going pain!
Worst is, I am a runner.
BA staff very helpful.

What does the world rate your country?

Who would you say was the best country in the world?? There are two rankings of countries by the world based on how that country is perceived by others.

1. The 2010 Country Brand Index ,
2. The 2010  Nation Brands Index -info from this Index is less as I think they want you to pay

To me, Country Brand seems more focussed on a country as tourist destination and Nation Index seems to be a little more focussed on a range of other attributes.Full explanation at end of Blog.

The Rankings:
Country Brand
Nation Brands Index
01 Canada
1. United States
02 Australia
2. Germany
03 New Zealand
3. France
04 United States
4. United Kingdom
05 Switzerland
5. Japan
06 Japan
6. Canada
07 France
7. Italy
08 Finland
8. Switzerland
09 United Kingdom
9. Australia
10. Sweden
10. Sweden
11 Germany

12 Italy

13 Norway

14 Spain
14 China
15 Singapore

16 Maldives

17 Ireland

18 Bermuda

19 Denmark

20 Austria

21 Mauritius

22 Greece

23 India

24 Iceland

25 Netherlands

Canada has got themselves number one spot on the Country Brand Index for 2010. This may have a lot to do with the Winter Olympics coverage. This may make Canadians happier about the price tag! Nations Index has them a little lower at sixth place. When you consider Nations index is also including culture, exports, people and governance, this would explain the differences in ranking.

Australia number two in Country Brand and number nine for Nations Index. This would suggest that Australia is seen as a very attractive tourist destination but people are less certain of the country's exports, government etc.

In fact, in an article in Australian newspaper The Age, Simon Anholt, said: "Australia was ranked best in the world for natural beauty and as a place to visit if money was no object."  But he said "Australia is a country that is considered to be very decorative, but not very useful,'' In other words, Australia is is viewed as the ''dumb blonde'' of the world, attractive but shallow and unintelligent.

Mr Anholt noted that the result of the attacks on Indian students in Melbourne which had been well publicised in India had impacted in India. In 2008, the Indian panel of respondents gave Australia seventh place in the world for promoting equality within society. In 2010, they ranked Australia 34th. “China, for example, ranked Australia first in 2008 for a warm welcome. That dropped to third in 2009 and ninth in 2010. That has serious implications for tourism, education and international relations.

New Zealand, number three on one and not in top ten on the other. It says a lot about the world's perception of New Zealand beyond fjords, mountains and kyaking. I suspect its not dislike but lack of knowledge.

USA, number four on Country Brand and number one on Nations Index. So despite all the anti American rhetoric, the USA is a well respected brand.

I was surprised that Switzerland was ranked at fifth on CountryBrands but so much lower at eighth on the Nations Index. Do people not like Swiss chocolate exports?
France is the other way around seventh and third. Perhaps the perception of French arrogance slides them down a little in determining preference for a visit but people like to seek out French quality in products?.

United Kingdom is ninth  but ranked a little higher at fourth in Nations Index

Sweden is a good solid brand sitting at tenth in both indexes. In  fact too solid for some other Scandinavian countries who feel overshadowed by the strength of the Swedish brand.

Greece interestingly enough is at 22 in the Country Brand's and we know they are not even in the top 50 for Nations Index undoubtedly due to the recent austerity measures in that country,  accompanied by violent Greek riots.

Iceland kept its reputation on Country brands but could not imagine it making the top 100 in Nations Index with concerns over its governance resulting from their spectacular economic collapse.

Iran and Pakistan were the worst ranked.

What do you think?
How do you rate a country? Which of those Nations would you like to visit? Buy something from?

CountryBrand Index was developed by FutureBrand in partnership with BBC World News and measures:

AWARENESS: How top of mind is the country?

FAMILIARITY: How well do people know the country?

ASSOCIATIONS: What qualities come to mind including:


heritage and culture

good for business

quality of life

value system

PREFERENCE: How highly do audiences esteem the country?

CONSIDERATION: Are they thinking of visiting?

DECISION / VISITATION: To what extent do people indeed visit the country

ADVOCACY: Do visitors recommend the country to others?

Nation Brands Index developed by Anholt-GMI looks at:

PEOPLE: reputation for competence, education, openness

GOVERNANCE: opinion regarding national government competency 

EXPORTS: image of products & the extent to which they are sought

TOURISM: level of interest in visiting

CULTURE & HERITAGE: Reveals global perceptions of each nation's heritage and appreciation for its contemporary culture

INVESTMENT & IMMIGRATION: power to attract people to live, work or study

The tale of the Falafel stand

It was lunchtime in Amma and the little food shop I passed was flat out. The guy behind the till was taking orders, answering the phone and frying flafel simultanesously. There was a long line of men waiting to buy.

I asked for a falafel wahad (one falafel). He smiled and said "here you are" as he handed me a plate. "Sit down, welcome, enjoy." I got my wallet and he waved me away. "sit down, welcome and enjoy".

I enjoyed it. The fresh falafel melted in my mouth. The salads were fresh and the bread clearly newly baked.

When I was done, I returned my plate to him. "You like?" he said
I said "that was fantastic"
He beamed as he continued to serve customers, fry falafel and work the till.
"Where are you from?"
"Australia" I said
I again tried to pay. He waved me away.
The only way he accepted some money from me was when I bought a drink and a second falafel to take away.
It was the best falafel I have ever had. Made even better by the generous hospitality of the people who served it.
Shukrun (thank you)

The tale of the Convenience Store

I am going to share a series of my adventures on this mideast trip.
Its been warm in Amman Jordan today. I have a favourite drink that I have been buying all over the city in the little stores that are ubiquitous here. It is bottled guava juice and it typically costs .4 of a Jordanian Dinar (55 of my cents).

I stopped at the little store nearest to the hotel (160 metres away to be exact), grabbed a bottle of Guava juice from the fridge and greeted the shop keeper.

He said "3 diners" (4 dollars) holding up three fingers.
I responded in Arabic: taleta dinar? La! (3 dinars? No!)
His smile faltered a little.
"No I said 1.3 dinars"
I stared into his eyes as I pressed a 1 dinar note into his hand and said:.  "Really 1.3?"

He grabbed the 1 dinar note and rustled for change and bundled me out of the store with .6 of a dinar in change meaning I paid my normal price. I wonder how many tourists fall for the first price? Thats commerce I guess!
I need to say this has been a very rare event here in Jordan. I am fascinated that it happened so close to my hotel!

NEVER, NEVER trust a Beirut Taxi Driver

Nothing prepared me for the taxis of Beirut.
I have shared my peeves about taxi rides from Hell before.  When I arrived at Lebanon's Beirut airport, my pre arranged transport did not show (I found out later that someone forgot to book it!). My cell phone did not work and I could not find a working pay phone in the airport. So I stupidly headed to the door of the airport hall following a sign which said "taxis". There appeared to be no order or logic to the line up of taxis of drivers outside. ie in most cities some sort of offical or unofficial taxi queue exists and a passenger knows which one to get into. This does not apply in the Indian cities I have been to and clearly not in Beirut. I said to one driver where I wanted to go and it was on for young and old. Drivers came from everywhere surrounding me: "Taxi, Taxi", "where you want to go". I gazed forlornly at a line of "official taxis" beyond the now teeming mass of "official" and "unofficial" taxi drivers. A bidding war had started for my wallet. "$50", "$45", "$40", "$35". "No sir don't go with him- he is not official airport driver". "Monsieur Monsieur, I am real official". One man showed me his very obviously home made "Official Airport Taxi Driver" badge.

Beirut seems to have more taxi drivers than any other city on earth. I am not sure if its a function of the high unemployment rate in Beirut. Everyone with a spare car seems to have turned it into a taxi. And every driver needs to come with a warning label attached.

Plan A - Duck and Cover
In the meantime, the taxi drivers gathered around me vying for my attention had reached a fever pitch and two had come to blows over who was going to get my attention. I was so stunned, furious and exhausted after 30 hours of travel, that I told them all to go jump, turned on my heel and walked back into the terminal. Some followed me and I told them where to go too. After going to the "Mens" and collecting my thoughts I snuck out another exit and thought about a new plan.

Plan B -Go Official
There was a security booth next to the taxi rank. I marched up to the taxi rank, greeted the soldiers in the booth and asked them in French if they could help locate me a taxi. The soldier nodded and my spirits soared. He stepped out of the booth and in a loud voice shouted "this man needs a taxi". It was like throwing a sacrificial lamb to a flock of starving wolves. Gesturing, yelling taxi drivers dropped everything and ran to me standing there with a massive label over my head: "Dumb Tourist". Some were my original taxi drivers!   I was stumped - This is not a place I often find myself in when travelling.

I retreated a second time for the airport terminal and bought myself lunch in the airport cafe.

Plan C.
I knew that the hotel taxi would have cost $25 so I would find a taxi that would charge me $25. So out I came again. "Riveria Hotel $25, I kept repeating. Some drivers shook their heads: "Non Non $35 minimum". I stood my ground. The crowd of drivers disappeared to stalk other victims.

You are not alone
A small group of Japanese were surrounded. Like me they ran back into the terminal for safety where they hovered vacillating. You could see they were thinking "Return to Japan to face Nuclear fallout would be better than this". A group of Dutch arrived and were also chased back into the terminal. They did march out and entered into fierce bargaining as a group and vanished in a van. In the meantime, streams of people following drivers with pre booked cars passed.
Every now and then a taxi driver would venture up to me; "$35?" "No $25". Interestingly, the row of taxis in front of me didn't move. Lebanese people know better than to catch taxis and the tourists were in a state of terror!

Plan D- Stand Your Ground
"Finally, a driver who had been standing in front of his mercedes taxi near me for some time, said "Okay Riveria $25". I nodded and he grabbed my luggage and headed away from the mercedes.  I said "Hey, this is not your car?". He said "non". and pointed into the distant car park. I marched up, grabbed my bag and said "well then you are not taking me." This started a loud conversation between the drivers in Arabic.  At this point a man came up and said "we are very sorry for the way we have treated you today". He pointed to the Mercedes that I thought I would be riding in and said: "that is my car and I will take you to the Riveria for $25".
I said "this is your Mercedes". He nodded.
I said "and you are a licensed driver". He nodded .
I said: "You know where the riveria is?". He nodded.
"And you will take me for $25"?. He nodded.
"Okay , lets get out of here", I said.

As a driver, he turned out to be a nice guy. I even gave him a tip-let that get back to the other drivers!

Comparing War Wounds
When I got to the hotel,  I compared taxi horror stories with other guests. One guy had paid $40, another $45. One woman had paid $70! One woman had retreated from the drivers and had huddled in the terminal and managed to use her cell phone to call the hotel to send their official car. She felt relieved to have made it. The war may be over in Beirut but for besieged tourists to Lebanon, there is some work that needs to be done. The Egyptians at the Conference I was attending declared that their taxis were better than the Beirut ones - and Egyptian ones have a bad reputation!!

I avoided taxis after that. The taxis didnt avoid tourists. They would regularly stop and call out to peopple they thoght were tourists: "Taxi taxi" or honk their horns for attention or both.This seemed to happen to others, more than it happened to me. We decided to catch a taxi  from a shopping mall to our hotel, a 4km drive. The taxi driver looked at the four of us and with no shame asked for $50. I exclaimed with disgust and walked off. He dropped the fare to $20, then $15, then $14.

Beirut is a fun, fun city- its taxis are apalling. One of the side effects of the war is that any public transport initiatives were set back. There are no buses to the airport. Beirut has no streetcar/tram or metro system. If it was a European city which had not experienced such devastation in its war, I imagine it would have both. In the meantime, tourists and visitors remain victims of the taxi drivers of Beirut.