web Musings of The Global Traveller

Sunday, May 28, 2006

News by Phone

For the third time in a month I got phone and text messages from worried friends and relatives in relation to a significant disaster or event near to me before seeing or hearing the news from the media. The world seemingly is getting smaller and more connected 24/7 and around the globe.

This time it was the tragic Yogyakarta earthquake. Staying with friends in Bali we fortunately did not feel anything, and other than being touched to give a donation, were not affected.

Earlier in May it was the false alarm of a tsunami from a Tongan earthquake. This earthquake was in the middle of the night but the tsunami alert was reported widely around the globe. The removal of the alert took longer to be notified and the NZ Civil Defence has had to review its performance, or lack of.

And last month I got some calls about the riots in Kathmandu from some people who had forgotten I had changed my travel plans to spend more time in India.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Personal Velocity

I came across the article Living at Jet Speed the other day (reprinted from Newsweek). It referred to personal velocity - a measure of how fast you travel on average every hour of the year. Take your total travel distance (flying, car, train, bus, etc) and divide by 8760 (the number of hours in a year).

The author, Joshua Ramo Cooper, had a personal velocity in 2005 of 45.8 miles per hour. I came across a few other references - William Arruda 28.3 miles per hour, and a few mentions on Flyertalk in the annual travel summaries some people post.

2005 was a big travel year for me and my personal velocity was 42.8 miles per hour, or faster than the speed limit in the built up parts of my city.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Travel, travel and more travel

Oops it's been a while since my last blog entry. Naturally I have been travelling a lot, some planned and some unplanned.

Air New Zealand
In the past month I have experienced Air New Zealand's new longhaul product in both business class and premium economy. I think the new business premier (on all 777-200ERs and by now most 747-400 aircraft are also refitted) seat is great. Coupled with Air New Zealand's excellant service, new audio-video on demand (the flight path has some nifty graphics) and fine New Zealand wines and food, this product is about the best business class I have tried and better than some airlines' first class. I even found that they have printed a wine guide featuring all the business class wines and, perhaps mindful that many passengers won't be familiar with the New Zealand wine scene, a background to the different regions and varieties.

But it wasn't all good news as far as I was concerned. The premium economy was disappointing and did not live up to the hype. Yes it is more comfortable than economy (extra leg-room and recline - the seats are still narrow), but I did not feel it was worth the significant extra price charged.

Unplanned travel
I have recently redeemed an award for the most points per flown mile that I have ever had. And yet I still consider it a good value award. The death of a close relative just before I headed off on a longhaul trip created a few scheduling headaches (on top of all the other emotions). Not only was my own schedule a tricky one involving many thousands of miles and several time zones, but I also needed to arrange (much shorter) travel for others to ensure they could attend the funeral. Fortunately my existing ticket would see me close to the place where the funeral was held without needing to change it.

Last minute fares for the short extra legs were ridiculously high, as expected, and no bereavement fares were available. So I used some miles to get a couple of last minute awards. Yes I could have used the miles for longhaul travel where it would have higher value, but the saving of a large and unplanned cash outlay was worth it, and enabling others to make the funeral when they wouldn't have otherwise was priceless.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mega Frequent Flyer Miles update

Earlier I posted that BMI has improved their earning for Diamond Club Gold members. Once they pass 55,000 status miles the excess status miles get converted to redeemable miles at a one to one ratio. Since BMI already has great earning rates in first and business classes this improvement means earning can be as high as 625% miles (not counting any promos or minimum mileage).

Initially there were some reports that the bonus would be limited to 25,000 miles. According to information posted on Flyer Talk there is no limit to the bonus miles.

For someone who flies a lot in first and business class, and is based in Europe, BMI Diamond Club looks very attractive. Great earning rates and decent redemptions (miles plus cash options in particular). I do, however, have a couple of concerns.

  • BMI seems to have an uncertain future with ongoing difficulties financially and operationally
  • There have been reports that award availability is being restricted for BMI Diamond Club members

Whether or not I choose to take advantage of this, I congratulate Diamond Club for this innovation. For once we have a real enhancement.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Baggage Crack Down in UK

Anyone who's flown much knows there is a wide range in baggage limits and also how much they are or aren't enforced by the airlines, both for carry-ons and checked baggage. In most places the enforcement is up to the airlines - at check-in and again at the gate. Some airlines are very strict (for example Qantas) while others are very lax (for example most US-based airlines I've flown) in enforcing their own rules.

Some airports, such as Melbourne Australia, have airport people checking carry-ons for size and weight before security or immigration, but generally if the airline has accepted it (or you have shiny metal baggage tags) they let you go through even if you have slightly more than you should.

But this may be about to change. The British Airport Authority (BAA), which runs most of the main airports in UK, has announced that from October strict new rules will come into effect. Before then they will be trialling the rules on certain airlines and flights.

I'll put the new rules about checked baggage to one side, since many airlines are in the process of changing their allowances anyway (at least for trips including North America where the piece concept applies). For carry ons, the BAA intends enforcing the size limit and number at security, including at transfers. In the case of London Heathrow this means a passenger may have arrived off an intercontinental flight with their carry-ons, then queued for a lengthy time at Flight Connection Centre security, only to be told they have to check their carry on and please clear immigration to do so. This seems absurd and can't possibly help the UK airports compete with the european hubs.

So I am going to watch developments with interest. While I dont go overboard with carry-ons, I would still be inconvenienced through greater queues, flights delayed to accommodate pax caught in queues or forced to clear immigration when they shouldn't have to, etc. If implemented as it has been reported to date, then I'll be looking to shift more flights to european hubs. I had been expecting to fly via London Heathrow more often now that Air New Zealand's new business premier is rolled out and especially with their London to Hong Kong flights starting later this year.

Monday, May 01, 2006

25 Years of Frequent Flyer Programs

Inside Flyer has a nice article online (free) on the early days of frequent flyer programs at American, United, Delta, TWA, Braniff and Northwest. An interesting insight - and gee things have changed a lot.