web Musings of The Global Traveller

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Singapore Airlines new first and business class

Just a quick report on the new first and business class which I have now experienced. As I posted when the new Singapore Airlines product was launched, the key feature is width. The seats are very wide, as are the screens.

The first seat is like a supersized skysuite (747 first class seat on Singapore Airlines). I found the seat very comfortable if not a bit too slippery - I ended up using 3 pillows to wedge myself into the seat, somewhat unsuccessfully. The huge screen is a bit disappointing as the movies and programs are not in wide-screen format thus look a bit odd.

The business seat (no longer called Raffles) is also comfortable. I had good fortune to get a bulkhead seat - it looked like the others could be claustraphobic despite the width thanks the the design.

The IFE had a few bugs, as any new system does. It was a little slow to respond, but not as slow as Air New Zealand's avod for example. I thought the 2x and 3x fast forward was a nice improvement, but the Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand 2x, 4x and 8x work better. The menu was simple and intuitive. I missed the time remaining that the older Wisemen systems showed when pausing, fast forwarding or reversing. I hope they can add this.

The bathrooms are nice and stylish. The first one is huge (for an airline bathroom) with throne facing forward. A minor design flaw is to have the cloth towels above the tissues, meaning the open tissue can get dripped on.

The food is much the same, but the cutlery, crockery and glassware have changed. I liked the new plating for satay.

Gotta dash.

Seasons greetings

Wishing all my readers a happy festive season and all the best for the new year. Travel far, travel wide and travel well.

PS. While I am taking some time off I will be continuing to post over the holidays.

Friday, December 22, 2006

PA announcements early hours of the morning

Despite not being able to get any work done I decided against sleeping the few hours until my next flight - that way there is no chance I'll oversleep and miss the flight. The last of the flights for the night has long departed and most of the handful of lounge users are trying to sleep. So it came as a surprise to hear a few calls over the PA.

In flight phones

Filling in time in between flights (the work I intended to do kept crashing :-( ), I was reminded by a post by Muse of Fire that Qantas and Emirates are rolling out onboard phone service early next year. Perhaps there could be a phone section in the hold? I'm still not looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas travel woes

On my original travel plans I would now be caught up in the mess of London's fog flight disruptions - already 3 days of massive cancellations and delays, and looking like it will be another 3 or more days before flights return to normal. Fortunately for me my plans changed.

I can but imagine the chaos in the busy travel period that is the lead up to Christmas. Hopefully most get to where they need to be in time.

The best thing for those caught up in it is to keep yourself informed and be aware of options available to you. Do you really need to take that trip? Can you take the train a day early instead? Can you rebook on another airline? If transitting through a London airport can you connect at a mainland europe airport instead?

Best wishes

BA seat selection update

In an earlier post I mentioned that British Airways had changed it's seat selection policy. BA has now clarified that one world sapphire and emerald elite members should have access to the same seats as BA Executive Club silver and gold members respectively. It may take a bit longer for the IT systems to resolve this.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Airport weather current and forecast

Thanks to a Flyer Talk thread discussing current delays and cancellations in the UK for freezing fog, I found a website that has lots of useful airport weather information for many airports all around the world,

For example, right now at Denver International Airport the weather is "heavy snow and blowing snow and freezing fog" - so I'd expect major disruption to air traffic. The forecast shows improvement tomorrow. This info is taken off official airport weather reports and forecasts but with the codes translated into english to make it easy to read.

I've also learned that Great Circle Mapper has some weather information if you search on airport information.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Travel agents sue airlines over fuel surcharges

It isn't only passengers that are unhappy with airline fuel surcharges. A group of Australian travel agents are suing several airlines for lost commissions. (Source SMH) One of the arguments used relates to fair trading (Australian Trade Practices Act), which if successful should be good news for most passengers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Qantas sale

The Australian newspaper is reporting the sale of Qantas on a rebid by private equity buyers less than 24 hours after their first bid was rejected.

Watch for lots of changes to Qantas. Slightly worrying, Macquarie which owns Sydney airport will now have a significant stake in the airport's biggest (by far) customer.

Carry on liquids ban spreads - to Australia

From late March 2007, Australia will adopt the new EU rules against liquids in carry-ons.

The fact they have announced the introduction of a security policy to take effect in 3 1/2 months time highlights just how much of a farce this is. Obviously there is no real risk since if there was it would be implemented immediately (or indeed already).

UK travel woes

In the past year air travel to/from/in the UK has gotten harder (and in many other places too). We have seen and experienced:

  • the August bomb plot, and the resulting no liquids rules
  • carry-on restrictions - none at all in the immediate aftermath of the bomb plot, and now limited to 1 small piece with no extra personal items
  • massive delays at security everywhere

But it looks like it will be getting worse next year, not better. Here are just a few things coming in the next few months:

  1. From December 5th British Airways changed it's seat selection policy. There is confusion on how it is working - apparently computer programming doesn't yet match the stated policy, but it appears losers are those flying business class and non-BA One World elites who have less access to pre-selecting seats than before. Some discussion on Flyer Talk here.
  2. British Airways will be limiting the weight of each piece of checked baggage to 50lbs/23kgs. With the low limit on carry-on luggage, expect more passengers to be hit up for excess bag charges (and to buy a new bag at the airport) - a whopping £120 per longhaul flight. This change was proposed for earlier this year but was cancelled after the bomb scare, but will now occur from 1 February 2007.
  3. As previously posted, Air Passenger Duty (APD) will double from 1 February 2007 to a maximum of £80 per longhaul departure. Unfortunately this increase will be retrospective, applying based on date of travel not date ticketed - so expect big queues as airlines attempt to recover the extra taxes at check in.
  4. A discussion on Flyer Talk on a threatened British Airways cabin crew strike, possibly next February.

The combined effect of all these changes is to make air travel through UK much more unpleasant, especially relative to continental Europe. I think it is time to start learning the airport tips and tricks for Paris CDG, Amsterdam and Frankfurt; and forget about London LHR.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Getting the same crew

As a frequent flyer I often get the same crew, especially when flying a smaller airline. However this weekend it seemed I was stalking (or being stalked by) a cabin crew member whom I had on 6 flights over 2 days (out of 10 flights flown). Another crew member I had on 5 flights (only some of the flights were the same). Yet another crew member I have flown with lots of times before was on 3 flights. So between these 3 crew members I had a familiar face on all my flights.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

UK passenger tax to double

As if they weren't steep enough already, the UK passenger tax will be doubled from 1 February 2007 (refer about half way down the Pre Budget Report). So tax on premium cabins for longhaul flights will rise to a whopping £80 each - ouch. The justification given is to tackle climate change by reducing aircraft emissions. Somehow I can't quite believe the UK Government will put the money raised to climate change initiatives and nor will the extra tax reduce travel by much.

Indeed, it could actually increase travel as savvy travellers make some flights out of UK are shorthaul with a connection to longhaul travel from the EU. Watch out for advertising in the UK along these lines from Air France KLM, Lufthansa, etc.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Christmas season travel

Normal travel patterns go out the window around Christmas / New Year, especially in the Southern Hemisphere where it is also summer break.

Savvy travellers know that to book flights and accommodation for popular destinations at this time of year you need to plan well ahead. It isn't uncommon for people on Flyer Talk, for example, to book longhaul business and first class awards for Christmas / New Year 330 days out when the awards are first released.

Conversely, business travel drys up which means last minute bargains can be found on some routes. An opportunity for that last mileage run to requalify frequent flyer program (FFP) status, or to escape the relatives?

Here is a selection of tools that can help the savvy flyer pick up award and paid availability (note an understanding of what booking codes mean and how they work is needed - watch for a later post on this).

  • for Star Alliance (*A) FFPs, sign up to Air Canada Aeroplan or ANA Mileage Club and use the online award search - no mileage is needed in your account (warning United Mileage Plus in particular has much reduced availability compared with other *A FFPs)
  • for One World FFPs, sign up to Qantas Frequent Flyer and use the online award search - no mileage is needed in your account (warning less than half of all one world destinations are included in the search engine, although the most common ones are all there)
  • I am not sure if Sky Team FFPs have a similar lookup - if a reader knows please contact me using the link
  • for paid bookings check out Expert Flyer (can also find awards on Qantas and fare listings plus rules), or Seat Counter (can also find awards on United and Northwest - expect more to be added), or T & T (set up a profile with expert mode switched on or use login "flyertalk" and password "tandt"), or Availability Public Backup.

No one system is perfect however with practice in interpreting these tools do give a good guide as to whether that award or paid fare is available.

I'll post some explanation of booking codes soon.