web Musings of The Global Traveller

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Flight Connectivity Index as at 31 December 2009

Six months ago I published the first Flight Connectivity Index (FCI) - a measure of how well connected by air every country is to every other country. The FCI value is the number of other countries to which you can fly directly from a given country, based on published schedules of IATA airlines. Domestic flights do not count. To simplify the calculation, countries are defined as members of United Nations, as opposed to using one of the many other country lists available.

Reduced flight connectivity overall

This is the first update of the Flight Connectivity Index. The average FCI has decreased from 23.0 to 22.3. This is partly due to seasonal patterns, but also partly due to the global recession and a couple of airline failures.

The full index will be posted separately. Here are the countries with the highest and lowest FCI scores as at 31 December 2009, with the changes from 30 June 2009 in brackets.

Selected 31 December 2009 FCI results

There are 192 member countries of the United Nations, thus the maximum possible FCI is 191 (because domestic flights do not count). No country has direct flights to all other countries - the highest FCI score is 110 for Germany. Four countries have a zero flight connectivity index - these are the small countries of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco and San Marino. The average across all countries is 22.3 (23.0 at 30 June 2009). The top 10 flight connectivity index values at 31 December 2009 are equal to or greater than 67 (68 at 30 June 2009), and the bottom 10 are equal to or less than 3. There are 58 countries with a FCI of 9 or less, 3 countries with a FCI of 100 or more (Germany, UK, France) and 17 countries with a FCI score of 50 or more. The countries with the highest and lowest FCI values are shown in the two tables below.

Flight Connectivity Index (FCI) - Top 10
as at 31 December 2009

1110 (+3)Germany
2107 (+3)UK
3105 (+1)France
484 (-2)USA
5=82 (-1)Italy
5=82 (+6)UAE
781 (+2)Netherlands
878 (-2)Turkey
9=67 (-1)Russia
9=67 (-1)Switzerland

Flight Connectivity Index (FCI) - Bottom 10

as at 31 December 2009

No flights
189=0San Marino
183=2Marshall Islands
178=3 (-1)Comoros
176=3North Korea
178=3 (-1)Palau
176=3Saint Kitts & Nevis
170=4 (+1)Botswana

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Having a backup plan for flight misconnections

Many readers of this blog or my trip reports on Flyer Talk (eg this trip report) know I spend a fair bit of time preparing for the possibility of things going wrong with flights. Not matter how well prepared there is always a chance of the unexpected causing a flight misconnection or to miss a meeting - be it stormy weather, airline schedule changes, aircraft maintenance issues, new security rules, hold ups for VIPs to arrive or airshows to take place, and so on.

Today I have such a potential issue to deal with and am taking a few minutes out of my busy day to prepare myself as well as I can. When I booked this trip many months ago, a connection I have later today seemed more than reasonable with an acceptably low risk of misconnection. However, heightened security and immigration checks following the underpants bomber incident the other day means I now have a higher risk of not making the onward flight. It is not certain that I will misconnect, but the chance is higher than my threshold for comfort and worry-free travel.

So there are a few steps I'm taking now to mitigate the risks.

1) Consider if it really matters if I misconnect? If it isn't too important then I should stop worrying and do more fun &/or productive things instead.

Unfortunately for me, misconnecting here will cause significant inconvenience.

2) Try to check in for the onward flight. If already checked in this reduces the risk of misconnection in two ways. First, I save time from not needing to go to check in at the transfer airport (with a likely struggle to meet check in deadlines) and instead can go directly through security to the departure gate. Secondly, the airline operating the second flight is more likely to hold the flight a few minutes if necessary so I can board if I am already checked in than hold it for a longer time if I am not already checked in.

Unfortunately for me, I have not been successful in checking in for the onward flight.

3) See if other flight options are available.

Using availability tools (like I see there are several possible solutions if I misconnect. I could be rerouted and there are a couple of flights with spare seats operated by the same airline that still get me where I need to go in time for when I need to be there, and most crucially depart an hour later than the flight I'm booked on. Or, I could be moved to one of 2 other airlines that operate this particular route, both of which have later flights with spare seats. Both of these solutions depend on the goodwill of the airline which I'm booked on.

A misconnect would only occur for reasons outside my control (I haven't just arrived at the airport late due to sleeping in). I am travelling on an expensive ticket. I have high frequent flyer status with the alliance the airline is a member of. So, I think the odds are good that they would accommodate me on one of those options if needed.

4) Consider whether to be proactive or reactive. I have a choice to make - take the flight I am booked on and hope to make the onward connection, or change my flights to a less risky alternative? The change option requires either flexible tickets with the alternative being within the ticket fare rules, or acceptance by the airline that the risk of misconnection is high enough to warrant a proactive change.

In my case today, a misconnection is not sure enough for the airline to volunteer to make changes proactively. However, I do have flexible ticket and so could reroute (but not switch to the other airlines flying the same route as this is not within the fare rules and thus not allowed as a voluntary change). I've decided not to reroute voluntarily because it does not seem necessary in my circumstance - I'll either make the onward flight (most likely outcome in my view) or the airline will satisfactorily resolve a misconnection (quite likely in my view). Being stranded seems fairly unlikely, based on current information I have and I am lucky enough to be in a position to be relatively well informed of any late developments. (This isn't always the case. Many times I've been travelling a complicated itinerary when something has gone wrong and had to make decisions based on little information, and more importantly try to convince airlines to make changes on the fly at the same time.)

5) Keep an eye open for changes to the situation. There may be things between now and boarding of my next flight that changes the situation. For example if the flight is significantly delayed then the risk of misconnection becomes much greater and the airline may be willing to reroute or rebook of their accord. One way I can keep appraised is to check, as well as watching departure screens (if accessible) and news websites for any major change to security rules.

Seasons greetings

I haven't posted much in the last week or so due to a crazy travel schedule that has seen me spend more time in the air than on the ground.

While I'm waiting for my next flight supping sake in the airline lounge, I want to wish all readers the best for the holiday season and the year ahead.

There will be more posts shortly. Some based on my odd travel experiences of the past few weeks, some based on the unfolding travel security rules and processes, as well as the usual mix of travel news, issues, inspiration, information and advice.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Travel security rules in flux

In the aftermath of the incident on the Amsterdam to Detroit flight, travel security rules are again in a state of flux. For now, changes appear to mainly affect flights to/from USA. However, additional security delays are affecting passengers on all flights at major international hubs.

Since the new rules are not yet finalised, airline websites have scanty or possibly out of date information. Some of the rules are only being advised once onboard. As a general rule, allow more time at airports for check in and for security and be prepared to deal with changes. For example those in the middle of a trip with 2 carry ons may find they can only take one bag onboard.

As the situation unfolds I can only hope that we now don't have a war on solids to match the war on liquids.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

US Passenger Bill of Rights

A christmas present for some, the US Department of Trade (DOT) has issued rules around maximum times passengers can be held onboard on the ground. I haven't had a chance to read the rules but earlier when I heard it was being considered I was sceptical that we'd end up with a practical scheme.

Cranky Flier seems to share my concerns and brings up a few practical issues with the DOT mandate.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Unusual travel week

The past week has had an odd mix of travel highs and lows for me.

  • An inaugural flight.
  • 3 strikes threatening my next trip.
  • Race to rearrange travel as a consequence.
  • Strike called off.
  • Got middle economy seat after last minute flight cancellation, my first middle seat in years (I usually go for an aisle seat in economy - yes I have been spoilt).
  • Fantastically scenic but odd flight (scheduled once per week) to complete (for now) my aim of flying every flight in Air NZ network.
  • Stay at a newly renovated hotel which has also just converted to a major chain.
  • Preparations for upcoming trip.
  • Reflection on the journeys I have taken this year.
  • Planning for some 2010 travel.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How to get to | France

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the email me link at top right, or leave a comment.


This post is about how to get to France generally. There is also a post more specifically on how to get to Corsica, France.

Source: Wladyslaw Sojka

France is one of the easiest countries to visit. You can arrive by train from several countries (including United Kingdom via the Chunnel), ditto for bus, car, ferry (UK, Ireland, north Africa, Italy) and boat along the Rhine. Many airlines fly to France (mostly Paris), including:
  • Star Alliance - Adria, Air Canada, Air China, ANA, Asiana, Austrian, blue1, bmi, Brussels (joining *A soon), Continental, Croatia, EgyptAir, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore, Swiss, TAP, Thai, Turkish, United, US Airways
  • Oneworld - American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malev, Royal Jordanian
  • Sky Team - Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern, Czech, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean
  • Other selected - most European (western, central and eastern) airlines including low cost airlines, most Middle Eastern and North African airlines

TIP If longhaul fares to Paris are high check fares for London, Amsterdam and Brussels. From all these cities there are high speed trains to Paris as well as several flight options.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

British Airways Christmas strike is off

To the great relief of a million travellers, a court ruling has cancelled the BA strike that was to be held by cabin crew between 22 December and 2 January. British Airways and the union have not resolved their differences, so a strike in 2010 is still possible but it cannot be held until after another vote. So BA flights are safe for at least the next month.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strike season

Adding to the normal holiday season travel hassles are several strikes and an airline failure.

  1. British Airways cabin crew (Unite union) on strike from 22 December to 2 January.
  2. Some airport ground staff (coincidentally also Unite union) at Aberdeen and London Heathrow on strike 22-23 December, 26-27 December and 3-4 January. Affected airlines include Air France-KLM, Atlantic and Wideroe at Aberdeen and Emirates, Thai and Turkish at Heathrow.
  3. Some Qantas engineers on strike 17-21 December and again in January.
  4. Eurostar staff on strike 18-19 December and 26-27 December.
  5. UK budget airline flyglobespan has shut down.

Good luck to all those impacted. For some general advice, see my post on travel strikes from 2 years ago.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

British Airways strike (22 Dec to 2 Jan) update #1

There are a few options for affected customers (ie those booked to fly BA between 20 December and 4 January), although these will not necessarily solve all issues.

1) Right to cancel with cancellation penalties waived.

2) Right to change dates within 12 months with change fee waived.

3) If your ticket is a flexible fare (eg a Oneworld Explorer) you may be able to reroute, switch airlines or change dates in accordance with fare rules.

4) When flights are cancelled you can be rebooked on other airlines.

So far BA has not yet cancelled flights but instead has blocked every flight from being sold (to cap the number of people they need to deal with). People with affected flights who have the means (ie lots of $$) to book refundable tickets on other airlines are doing so because there may be no options available by the time BA gets around to cancelling their flight. On many routes which British Airways flies the flights operated by other airlines are now either sold out or have only very expensive fares available for purchase.

The situation is fluid and will change from day to day. So it is important to keep informed (refer to news and advice on and sites such as Flyer Talk) and also to be in close contact with your travel agent if your ticket was bought through one.

How to get to | Comoros

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the email me link at top right, or leave a comment.


Source: Sascha Grabow

Other than catching a ride on a supply ship from Madagascar (in itself difficult to travel around), the only way to visit Comoros is by air. A few airlines fly to the capital of Moroni, including:
  • Star Alliance - none
  • Oneworld - none
  • Sky Team - Kenya Airways
  • Other selected - Comores, African Express, Air Austral, Air Madagascar

TIP An award or around the world ticket on Sky Team (Kenya Airways) is a good option for travellers from central and northern Africa, Europe or beyond.

TIP Otherwise, if not starting from Kenya or Tanzania it is difficult and expensive to reach Comoros. Allow plenty of time for connections across separate tickets and infrequent flight schedules.

Monday, December 14, 2009

British Airways strike confirmed 22 Dec to 2 Jan

The results of the BA cabin crew ballot are in, and a British Airways strike for 12 days over Christmas has been announced. Sometime today BA will respond with an announcement on how it intends to deal with the strike and assist affected passengers.

The risk averse, particularly those flying BA on or before Christmas Day, should already have made or now be making alternative plans (eg see my previous post on the potential strike).

Passengers affected by the strike, some of whom do not have the option of buying an extra ticket on another airline, rerouting voluntarily or changing dates, are waiting to see what help BA will provide (as they must under EU reg 261/2004). BA should start contacting passengers flying on 22nd in the next couple of days and then continue with passengers flying on later dates.

In my case I have 3 BA flights in the strike period, none in the first couple of days of it. I am sitting tight for now - there is a chance the strike may be called off. If it is not then I have some unpalatable choices about contingencies to make later this week. I have already researched other airline options to my destinations, and backup accommodation if I get stuck en route. I won't be waiting too long to make any changes because the alternatives will quickly sell out now the strike has been confirmed.

Never a dull moment

My travel life is never dull.

The inaugural flight I referred to (Rotorua to Sydney in case you are wondering) not only was special for being an inaugural flight but had added unplanned drama.

1) Nearly missing the flight due to bad weather - I needed to fly to Rotorua but the airport was marginal for a few hours.
2) The flight nearly being called off due to the bad weather.
3) Police escorting passenger off the aircraft after we'd all boarded. This delayed the flight by nearly an hour. The last time I'd seen this was last year in Russia.
4) Almost missing my onward flight (65 minutes scheduled transit time most of which was lost due to the late arrival).

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to get to | Sri Lanka

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the email me link at top right, or leave a comment.

Sri Lanka

Source: Bernard Gagnon

The main way to reach Sri Lanka is by air. Airlines flying to Colombo include:
  • Star Alliance - Singapore, Thai
  • Oneworld - Cathay Pacific (from Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore), Royal Jordanian
  • Sky Team - none
  • Other selected - most Indian airlines, many Persian-Gulf and Malaysian airlines

TIP There is plenty of competition from Chennai, Bangkok and Singapore. If you cannot get a reasonable fare to Colombo from elsewhere in Asia or further afield check the option of separate tickets via one of these 3 places. Don't forget to allow plenty of time to connect (eg a day).

TIP There are not many low cost airlines flying to Colombo. Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur, a couple of European airlines during northern winter season and several Indian airlines.

TIP Around the world or longhaul award tickets to Colombo on Star Alliance or Oneworld are fairly easily obtained via Bangkok or Singapore, as long as the booking is made early enough. This may change as Sri Lanka returns to being a popular tourist destination now the Tamil-related violence is gone.

TIP Several airlines operate a triangle flight with short hop between Male and Colombo in either or both directions connecting to a longhaul destination in Europe, Middle East or Asia. If fares to/from Colombo are high check them to/from Male instead with a separate ticket for the extra flight.

TIP In the past Colombo has had very low longhaul premium (ie first and business class) fares (to North America, Europe or around the world). So low that many people travelled to Sri Lanka to get these cheap tickets. The best bargains are long gone due to fare increases and currency movements, however from time to time there are some cheap longhaul fares that are worthwhile as long as you can get to Sri Lanka cheaply or easily.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Inaugural flight fun

I'm looking forward to my 13th inaugural flight soon. They are usually a lot of fun. I wonder what surprises the airline has in store for us?

Due to aircraft scheduling this one is a bit odd in that the first flight on the international route is headed to the home country not from it as is normally the case. I hope that doesn't curtail pre-departure festivities.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Quick Questions

I get a stream of travel questions in my email, which I'm happy to help answer. Sometimes I get questions posted as comments on unrelated posts. Those are generally more difficult to deal with, in that replying as a comment is off topic for the post and if I don't have an email address I can respond privately.

Email is my preferred medium for dealing with travel questions, but copying the idea from One Mile at a Time, I'm also happy for questions to be asked as comments in this post.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sheraton photo sharing site

Sheraton has launched a new site called Sheraton Shared Moments, Shared Moments or Sheraton Moments (all 3 names are used in confusing branding). The site doesn't (yet) do much. You can upload pictures with a brief comment.

If you want to be enticed to share your pics, they have a competition to win one of 5 week-long stays at a selected Sheraton (Diana Majestic in Milan, Lisboa Hotel & Spa in Lisbon, Stockholm in Stockholm, La Caleta Resort and Spa in Tenerife and Miramar Resort El Gouna Red Sea in Hurghada). The competition is only open to residents of UK, UAE, Belgium, Denmark, Norway & Sweden.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sale fatigue or playing the odds of a better sale?

I think I've been spoilt this year. There have been too many airfare and accommodation sales.

Today I went to book a great sale air fare only to back at at the final purchase to confirm stage because my inner voice asked if this was really the best rate I could get for that particular trip.

I also went to book several nights of accommodation for a few upcoming trips in an Intercontinental "72 hour" sale (sneak link here for early bookings in the really 96 hour sale period). These 72 hour sales have been recurring throughout the year. Once again I found myself backing out of booking at the final step figuring I may be able to do better booking later and there is no urgency to book these nights.

Hopefully it doesn't come back to bite me later with higher rates.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Reflections & lending a hand up

The end of the year and start of a new one is a time for reflection for many, including me.

I have a lot to be thankful for, and so one of the ways I give back to those less fortunate is through Kiva. For other travellers (or anyone) who wishes to give someone poor an opportunity and a hand up I urge you to consider a Kiva loan too. This isn't charity per se, but is a helping hand to those who can use it. You pick who receives your loan, which can be as little as US$25, from the many people and groups vetted by microfinance organisations around the world. There are also Kiva gift certificates if you are stuck for a holiday present idea.

If you are on Flyer Talk, you can join the FT Kiva team (see the Kiva thread for more info).

Friday, December 04, 2009

Iraq and airport security

Over on the A Wing and a Prayer blog, Gray has finally posted the long-awaited report on his flight to Erbil (or Arbil) in Iraq. I'd flown this route about 18 months ago and blogged about the unusual descent to land in Iraq and a couple of other aspects of the flight, and so I was interested in his take on it as well as whether there have been significant changes.

However, one comment Gray makes in the post has gotten my attention. He prefers security checks to be at the gate (as they are in Vienna and Berlin for example) rather than centralised (in most USA airport terminals).

Some of the airports I fly through regularly (eg Singapore and Wellington) also have security checks at the gate. I'm no fan of them.

1) If there is a last minute gate switch you often need to go through security again.

2) In most airports there are limited facilities beyond gate security checkpoints. Fine if you can always time it just right for boarding a flight. Not so good if boarding is delayed or if you are directed to go to the gate earlier than necessary by an announcement over the PA or on the departure monitors. I'd much rather spend extra time in the lounge, or shops, and head to the gate at the last minute.

3) When there is a tight connection a security check at the gate may be the difference between making the onward flight and misconnecting. Centralised security generally means no security for transits, at least for domestic travel (plus within the Schengen zone in Europe) within the same airport terminal.

I've flown enough to appreciate that centralised security can also have downsides. Notably when you are stuck in an enormous queue and running late for your flight. If you were in a queue at gate security instead you might get picked out of the line so you can make the flight or be sharing a queue with other passengers on the same flight (thus it may be held for you). However, this ignores the queues for security checkpoints at the gate can also be long and be shared amongst multiple flights.

It also ignores that centralised security by definition makes full use of all the security officers, whereas security at the gate may have some gates manned with no queues while other gates have lengthy queues.

In summary, centralised security should be more efficient than security at the gate - less screening of transitting passengers and more consistent usage of available security officers and equipment. Which type do you prefer?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Countdown to World Cup 2010 draw

With the World Cup draw a day away there are many people waiting to book flights within South Africa once they know where their teams are playing.

It is shaping up as a logistical nightmare. The venues are far enough apart that for most fans who wish to follow a team and see more than one game there is no choice but to fly. The domestic airlines simply do not have enough aircraft to take all the fans who wish to move from one venue to another, and so it is likely there will be a significant number of charter flights operating. To date there has been no details of the charter flights.

Some people will take no chances, so I expect the websites and phone lines of the main South African airlines will be clogged tomorrow. The airlines include:

  • South African Airlines
  • Comair (British Airways subsidiary)
  • Kulula
  • 1time

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

How to get to | Index

I have started a series of blog entries on how to get to various countries and places. To help make it easier to find a specific entry, this post will serve as an index and will be kept up-to-date with links to all the other posts.

Currently 98 countries and 23 places have been posted. Ultimately I plan to cover every country and some interesting places. If any reader wishes me to blog soon on a particular country or place please use the contact me link or leave a comment.

Countries & Places

North America, Central America & Caribbean
Costa Rica
El Salvador
St Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
United Kingdom
- place Cayman Islands
- country USA
- place Alaska
- place Hawaii
- place Puerto Rico

South America
- country Chile
- place Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua)
- country Ecuador
- place Galapagos Islands

Atlantic Ocean
- place Greenland
- place Falkland Islands (aka Malvinas)

South Africa
Western Sahara

- place Corsica
- country Norway
- place Svalbard
United Kingdom
- place Scotland

Middle East & Caucasus
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
- place Abu Dhabi
- place Dubai

Indian Ocean

Burma (aka Myanmar)
- place Hong Kong
- country Indonesia
- place Bali
- country Malaysia
- place Sabah
North Korea
South Korea
Timor Leste (aka East Timor)

Australia & nearby
- country Australia
- place Lord Howe Island
- place Norfolk Island
Papua New Guinea
Timor Leste (aka East Timor)

Pacific Ocean
- place Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua)
Cook Islands
- place Noumea (New Caledonia)
- place Tahiti (French Polynesia)
New Zealand
- country New Zealand
- place Tokelau
Samoa (Western Samoa)
- place American Samoa
- place Guam
- place Hawaii

- place Antarctica

Create your own visited map of The World