web Musings of The Global Traveller

Monday, February 27, 2006

A first for me

A couple of days ago I experienced an odd travelling first (for me). I was locked into the airline lounge!

We were in transit on a lightly loaded flight, the only one operated by this airline at this airport for several hours. When the flight was called for boarding I took a minute to gather my belongings and head out of the lounge, when I found the lounge doors locked. There are some times when it would be great to be locked in, but not this day for I really needed to make the flight.

Fortunately a cleaner was able to let me out a back door (and that didn't lead to the other side of security and immigration) and so no harm done. The lounge warden had just started looking for me as they wanted to close the aircraft doors to push back. What I dont understand is how the lounge warden failed to see that one passenger had been left behind. Its not as if I was in the toilet or shower at the time boarding was called, and thus difficult to see.

Happy travels everyone.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Why does travel bring out the worst in some people?

Yesterday I saw a fellow passenger throw a tantrum at the lounge wardens because she didn't get her preferred seats. She was yelling so loudly that even through the doors between lobby and the main part of the lounge you could still clearly hear her. She was still going strong when I left to board my flight.

I'd like to say this was an isolated incident, but somehow there seem to be proportionally far more of these types of occurrences relating to travel than to every day life. I think some people get caught up in perceived entitlements and forget that travel is just a means of transportation.

The perks like being able to choose your own seat, or economically upgrading as a reward for loyalty, are not what really matters. The most important thing is to get from A to B safely, on a schedule that best suits and is affordable. Anything else is gravy.

Why do some people think its okay to be rude when travelling?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fuel Surcharges - not all bad?

Since my previous post on fuel surcharges I've come across an alternative viewpoint that they are not all bad.

Not all bad?

The explanation used was that fuel surcharges are refundable, whereas the base fare is not on non-refundable tickets. Unlike most US-based airlines, many cheap tickets on other airlines are non-refundable. So a $100 base fare plus $50 fuel surcharge may be better than a $150 base fare plus no fuel surcharge, if you need to refund.

Does it stack up?

This sounds plausible, but I am not convinced. If there is a high chance of needing to refund, or change flights, you generally just pay a bit more for the more flexible and refundable fares. Granted you could save some money depending on the fare difference between refundable and non-refundable if you often need to cancel.

But most times you (hopefully!) dont need to refund, in which case there is no difference on a paid ticket between $100 base fare plus $50 fuel surchare or $150 base fare.

However, most frequent flyer programs (again apart from US-based ones) charge fuel surcharges on award tickets also. So the existence of a fuel surcharge effectively devalues the miles in circulation. This is because the frequent flyer programs did not reduce the number of miles needed for an award when the airlines introduced fuel surcharges or subsequently raised them (several times so far).

The way fuel surcharges have been generally structured - an amount for domestic/short haul and a much higher amount for long haul, and on a per flight basis - means it doesn't matter if you use miles for short trips or long trips. Your miles are worth less in both cases.

My conclusion: there may be some circumstances where fuel surcharges are beneficial to the consumer, but I think there are far more circumstances where they are not.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lunar New Year

The other day I went to the Lantern Festival to mark the end of lunar new year celebrations. It reminded me that just a couple of weeks ago we had a great time in Singapore with friends to welcome in the year of the dog.

None of us had planned anything but somehow we all came together at the last minute from various corners of the globe. Sometimes its nice to be able to take off for a weekend, leaving your worries behind, and kick back with some fellow travellers.

It did seem surreal, though, returning to a deserted Changi airport at 4am, with the bored immigration officers and empty halls. (We had already collected our onward boarding passes before leaving the airport, which saved waiting for check in to open.) Once airside we could see the airport slowly come to life for the new day and the new year. Its quite a different perspective from the normally bustling interface between land and air that is an international hub airport.

I do recommend that every traveller at least once spends a night at an airport.

Have a nice day.
The Global Traveller

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mega Frequent Flyer Miles?

I've had reports that bmi Diamond Club is adding a new benefit for their Gold members. Once you reach 55,000 status miles in a calendar year the excess status miles get converted to redeemable frequent flyer miles at one to one ratio. There's a rumour this may be capped at 25,000 miles converted per year.

If there is no cap then it is a fantastic benefit for those flying a lot of long haul first and business class on Star Alliance. Diamond Club already offers 300% miles for first class and 200% miles for business class, plus 25% status bonus.

With the new benefit the earning is upped to 625% for first class and 425% for business class - once a Gold member has reached 55,000 status miles for the year. I'm not aware of any other frequent flyer program that is as generous as this for standard (non-promo) mileage earning. Obviously the benefit is not worth nearly as much if its capped to 25,000 miles.

Note bmi Diamond Club membership is restricted to residents of UK, Republic of Ireland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Spain.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Itchy Feet

I'm feeling a little low at the moment. After the last six months of constant travel to places far and wide, I have none planned for a couple of months. So, naturally, I started to plan yet another trip for later this year - trying to do the impossible.

  • Fit a great itinerary into a short period of time.
  • Get a good deal on fare. I'll probably get yet another round the world but which one?
  • Utilise the various options in the fare as best I can.
  • Earn enough miles for upgrades or another "free" trip.
  • Requalify my airline status for another year.

It'll give me something to work on while I'm down, and I can look forward to another exciting trip.

I'm dreaming of South America.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Phone loudmouth in the airline lounge

What is it about airline lounges that makes some people talk at a ridiculously loud volume? I'm in a lounge right now and a loudmouth has been yakking away for an hour. I really dont think any of us needs to hear about his new ad campaign.