web Musings of The Global Traveller

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Class Comparison

Inside Flyer has an article this month comparing economy, business and first class.

"First and business class equates to more space, better service and faster
mileage accumulation, but all of this comes at a price -- be it in the form of
money or mileage redemption. We tell you when it's worth parting with your cash
or miles for an upgrade and when it's best to stay put."

No surprises that more space is the number one reason given for choosing business or first class. The article includes a summary table of frequent flyer mileage accrual on various programs in each class - discount economy, economy, business and first. However, the table omits to mention each FFP has its own definition of what is included as discount economy. I was also disappointed the table didnt include some more european and asian programs - there are several programs that offer much better earning rates for business and first class than those shown (eg Lufthansa Miles and More).

Travel to Remote Places

This recent thread on Flyer Talk has given me some great ideas for off the beaten track locales to visit. However, it also got me thinking about what remote means to different people.

There seems to be a wide range of interpretations including:

  • far away
  • hard (or expensive) to get to
  • unpopulated (or low populated)
  • rural
  • wilderness
  • less developed
  • somewhere few people have been
  • somewhere few tourists have been

That then lead me to wonder - if its somewhere you can get to as a tourist, is it really that remote? Does publicly commenting on a spot make it less remote - perhaps not now but over time? If its easy to get to, except for regulations or other bureaucracy limiting visitor numbers, can it still be considered remote?

Does perception of remoteness vary according to what you can see or hear? For example, if your in a wilderness area and there is a main flight path overhead which you can see aircraft flying, or a highway behind that hill which you can hear traffic travelling, is it still remote? Conversely, if you are in a secluded spot in a major city park or reserve and unable to see or hear any sign of the city, is that remote?

Are there any places that are truely remote left?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Update: Lifetime Hotel Status

Since I posted the Best Western lifetime Diamond offer the other day, the promotion has been expanded to include a few more countries (thanks to Flyer Talk's sdsearch for finding this). I wonder what they class as Asia?

From the Best Western website,

Celebrate Best Western's Diamond Jubileeby earning Diamond Elite status for life!

Stay 60 or more qualified nights at any Best Western hotel worldwide in 2006 and you will earn Diamond Elite status for life, which rewards you with 30% bonus points* with each qualified stay and more. No registration required. Simply book your next stays with us to get going!

Diamond members residing in Holland and Norway earn 15% bonus points. AAA/CAA Preferred Gold Crown Club members will earn additional 10% bonus points as part of their program benefits. Offer valid for Gold Crown Club International ("GCCI") members residing in the US, Canada, South America, Central America, Mexico, Asia, the Caribbean Islands, Norway and Holland only.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cool maps

I like seeing where I've been or where places I see mentioned are. So I've been playing with a couple of online map tools. The map above is from World66 and is very easy to use. Simply check the boxes of the countries or states you want highlighted. World66 has maps for world, US, Canada and Europe.

Another one is Frappr. It's powered by Google Maps, so is much more powerful and flexible. I've added an example to the bottom of my blog, but haven't yet gotten the hang of all the bells and whistles.

A favourite of many folk on Flyer Talk is Global Circle Mapper (GCM for short) which shows routes and great circle distances - very handy for planning purposes. Here is a link to an example showing part of a trip I did earlier this year.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lifetime Hotel Status

As part of their 60th anniversary promotions, Best Western is offering lifetime Diamond Elite status for 60 stays in 2006. Offer valid only to residents in US, Canada and the Caribbean.

BW doesn't seem to have such a good reputation in the US, but some of the international properties (eg in Europe) are great.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

User Pays, or Phone/Sales Office Surcharges

In this day of user pays it seems everything has a cost and that cost is often passed directly onto the consumer. For example many banks want you to use online and automatic teller machines, and charge extra for using facilities at bank branch. Fair enough if it is more efficient electronically, in my view it is fine to charge extra for other methods of getting the same service as an encouragement for the consumer to help reduce costs.

Some airlines also have user pays, in that online paid tickets get lower fares than using phone or sales office. Some airlines even provide a lowest price online guarantee, although the ones I have seen (eg British Airways and Air New Zealand) have some onerous terms that make it hard to claim the guarantee - see a Flyer Talk discussion of British Airways' Price Promise for example. But I digress. These discounts for online bookings are, I think, fair enough. The consumer has a choice in the method of booking and is incentivised to choose a lower cost channel - everyone wins.

Some airlines also charge more for awards booked over the phone than those booked online. This I have difficulty in accepting. Most frequent flyer programs' online award bookings are limited to own metal, certain origins and destinations, limited routing or stopover option complexity, etc. If you have no choice but to use phone to make the award booking then why should the consumer be penalised for the lack of online functionality? How much do these airlines collect in extra mileage cost or $ surcharges for not providing online functionality to book the full range of awards on offer? Doesn't this create a perverse incentive for the airline/frequent flyer program to not improve their website? I dont think that is right.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A380 at Asian Aerospace

A couple of weeks ago (is it that long already?) I was lucky enough to visit Asian Aerospace in Singapore. The feature attraction being the Airbus A380, which is due to go into commercial service starting with Singapore Airlines later this year.

Up close the aircraft is huge. Despite this, the nearly empty A380 flew some amazing maneouvres and seemed to be much quieter than other large aircraft. Certainly much quieter than the military aircraft on flying display immediately beforehand!

Here are some nice photos by RtOaNn.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Travel Rage and Changes Ahead for Surcharges in America

Travel Rage

The other day I mentioned an example of travel rage at an airport. Of course drivers are not immune and road rage is increasingly common. I was reminded of this while walking at rush hour. A bus driver sat on his horn for 10 minutes despite seeing perfectly clearly that the car in front could not move more than a foot due to the traffic. What did he hope to achieve? Did he really think a gap would miraculously open up in the clogged road just because he tooted his horn?

In the space of a couple of hours I saw several other cases of drivers who showed signs of anger at other road users. Its no wonder society is becoming more stressed if every second of time and every foot of space is so tightly contested for no purpose.

Changes Ahead for Surcharges in USA

Travellers in Europe have long known to watch for promotional airfares that can be as low as €0.01 or 1p only to be hit by surcharges that increase the fare to €100 or £100, or more. At the moment travellers in USA have the benefit that advertised fares must include all surcharges, except any true taxes.

As reported in many blogs (including as a couple of examples Upgrade: travel better and Christopher Elliott), the US Department of Trade is considering relaxing the advertising rules.

This is a step backwards and against the trend in some other countries which have, or are in the process of, tightening the rules so that airfares advertised are inclusive. An incomplete list of some countries that are increasing consumer protection in this way:

Unless I've missed news of it, strangely the European Commission doesn't seem to have misleading advertising on its agenda with the current Directive having been in place since 1984 and last amended in 1997.

Here's hoping the US Department of Trade does not decide to relax the current rules.