web Musings of The Global Traveller

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Connexion by Boeing Going?

Catching up on some news posted at blog Upgrade: Travel Better I read that the future of the wireless internet Connexion service is uncertain with Boeing reportedly looking to sell or close down the division. A need to drive up usage may explain the recent increase in sproiking of the service with free minutes and discount codes for suitably equipped flights. While these offers are not new, in the past few months there seems to be an increase and I'm also getting stuff posted & emailed by airlines rather than just offered at airport gate lounges, and appears to be a more concerted effort.

I must say this news surprises me as I see more and more people using the service - both as the equipment rollout covers more aircraft and also more awareness of it amongst frequent flyers.

Stay tuned for more news.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Is There A Doctor Onboard?

As has happened all too often this year again I hear the call "is there a doctor onboard?". I don't know whether travellers are getting sicker or airlines are being more careful in a litigious society, but it seems to me that this announcement is being made more and more often. A few years ago the call for a doctor was very rare (at least on my flights), yet this year perhaps one in six longhaul flights has the call.

Personally I hope to never need medical attention in the air, nor for any travel companions. However it is very reassuring to know that in most cases a doctor is willing to help out should the need arise. The airlines are also doing their part - in this most recent example Singapore Airlines gave the doctor an upgrade from economy to first class for helping out. Not only is this rewarding a kind soul but is also recognition that without the help of medically trained passengers there is a risk of needing a costly diversion en route.

Heres to all the selfless doctors and nurses who help out in the air.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

BA Announce Major Changes to Carry On and Checked Luggages

It's been a busy few weeks travelling and a few close shaves with major weather delays. I've also had some unplanned burning of a lot of miles for a funeral and a honeymoon (no, not mine). But I digress, the topic for today is British Airway's upcoming changes to both carry on and checked baggage allowances including (apparently) strict enforcement.

I reported over a month ago that changes were coming, and now it is official - both emailed and on BA's website. From July the weight limit on carry-on goes, but strictly 1 main piece plus a smaller personal item able to be fitted under seat in front. Carrying a bag, briefcase and umbrella/suit bag (or even my favourite some duty free)? Under the new rules that will be one too many. From October checked bags will be limited to 23kg (50lb) per piece, and 1 piece for most passengers (2 for travel to/from USA & Canada, and 2 for first/business/world traveller plus). Over the weight limit and you'll need to remove items, get an extra bag and if over the maximum number of pieces be charged a hefty fee (120 pounds for longhaul!).

All reports to date are suggesting enforcement will be strict (and not only at check in, security will be assisting the airlines) with no room for leeway. It remains to be seen whether this will be possible, but it is concerning enough to many regular flyers who have come up with lots of bad scenarioes. Eg see Flyer Talk's BA forum discussion.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Nose Glued to the Window

The day was one of those pristine flying days. The routes featured stunning scenery. Yes - I had my nose glued to the window all the way.

From take off over the tranquil harbour, banking to fly low over rolling farmland and then out past rugged surf beaches and over the wind whipped sea. Then we fly almost directly over the top of the classic volcanic cone that has featured in some movies as stand-in for a more famous volcano. Again across a body of water and peaceful sinuous tongues of land reaching for the sea. Over mountains with a light dusting of snow on the tops and a view across the rift valley and long fault escarpments and across the strait to the other main island. More rolling hills, these barren and bare, and valleys with forest plantations, which give way to the wide open plains. The flat expanse covered by a patchwork of fields and windbreaks and crossed by many meandering braided rivers which contrast against the arrow straight roads and rail tracks. As we circle the airport to land we get views across the city and estuary to the broad flanks of the twin extinct volcanoes jutting into the sea and the large circle of the coastal lake beyond.

The next flight is, if anything, even more scenic. A large mountain range dominates the horizon on one side, and on the other is the gentle open sweeps of a huge bay where plain meets ocean. At first we are flying along the great plain but soon we reach the first of the fold hills, the barreness apparent even through the light snow cover. As we steadily head inland the ranges grow on either side of the aircraft - low at first but steadily becoming higher and higher. We pass canals and dammed lakes, the water shining an irridescent turquoise thanks to the glaciated water running off the peaks. Big river valleys reach deep into the mountains. As we begin our descent the land shines brightly, the schist and mica outcrops reflecting the strong sunlight, as does the snow on the tops. Now the mountains appear close on either side of the aircraft and the pilots' hard work becomes apparent. We pass close over ridges as we descend towards the bowl containing the airport. Skifields break the emptiness of the mountains underneath while deep canyons are scarred by tortuous ribbons of roads cutting into the heartland. Today the flight path is different from the usual approach and we burst into the confined basin above the airport, below the peaks towering on each side but far too high for landing. The pilots expertly spin the aircraft in a pirouette around the sides of the bowl as we sharply descend to final approach over a small hill and across the swift deep river and all too soon we touch down.

We have a small delay in departing as we wait for another aircraft to take off, there being no taxiway and only one tug to push back, and also wait for a landing aircraft. As we wait we admire the view and say farewell to the lovely town. The taxi down the runway is short and we spin around at the end before immediately rolling for takeoff. We lift off very quickly and steeply climb above the lake, banking as we go around a modest hill and thankfully avoiding the mountain a short distance away on the other side of the lake. We keep climbing to clear a rugged mountain range that appears to leap out from the lake beside the airport. The snow is still high on the range but soon the slopes will be packed with skiers. The great mountain range appears to the side and stretching out in the distance ahead of us. The cloud is banked up far on the windward side but our side is clear, protected by the great range. The highest peak, fittingly, pierces the clouds with its distinctive shape. As we retrace our path across the mountains, hills and plains, the sun sinks lower in the sky. The mountains casting shadows for hundreds of kilometers until eventually the sun sets. The silhouette of the alps is both striking and familiar as we descend to land. The city lights cast a glow before us, while in the distance are pin pricks of light from smaller townships.

This was a great day to be flying.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Disrupted Sleep

Normally I dont get affected much by jet lag. Over the years of extensive longhaul travel I have learnt to regulate my sleep to minimise the effects (some might say I had plenty of practice with the boozy life of a student).

However, the last few nights I have struggled to settle in to a normal sleep after several short trips to North America, Asia, Europe and Australasia over the last few weeks. So far the usual tricks haven't worked so I'm looking for something to break me back into my normal cycle.