Thomo gets Dumped

This happened in Maui a few years ago. We were there attending a friend’s wedding and decided to head to the beach … where I learnt a new respect for the Hawaiian shorebreak. Interestingly, this video was also blocked by YouTube for breaching community standards. Took about two weeks to get it back up again. I am not sure whether to be annoyed or proud 🙂

Leaving on a jet plane

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So there I was, flying off again from Changi airport, one of my favourite airports, heading to Jakarta, one of my favourite cities, and I noticed this ground crew.

He had just finished doing whatever it is they do to the ‘plane and we were taxiing away. Below is an expanded shot from the photo above.

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Do all ground staff wave goodbye to their charges when the ‘plane leaves?

What a nice airport!

Singapore Airlines–you got to be kidding!

imageI went to book a flight on SQ from Brisbane to Jakarta and then on to Singapore. Singapore airlines quoted over $4000 Aussie dollars for that in economy class. Now I know that the airlines all have restrictive trade agreements with travel agents in Australia but really, $4,000? Malaysia Airlines at $700 will definitely get this one!

imageJust to make sure I was not being unfair to Singapore Airlines, I did a flight booking for Brisbane to Singapore only. That was $590. So do I conclude that the cost of travelling an additional 1 hour 40 minutes and return is $3,410?

One more check to be really really fair.

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So, it seems that for $690 I can travel to Jakarta from Brisbane on Singapore Air. The return flight Jakarta to Singapore is the one costing $3,300. Er, just for interest, I checked the first class flight, Jakarta to Singapore. That was one US $846 so I have no idea where the other $3,000 comes from!

Singapore Air, you may be a great way to fly but your booking system has a wee issue or two

Ten Things I learned in the UK

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Friends Douglas and Gillian decided to get married – the decision, like all good decisions, was contemplated and made jointly and the result was an April wedding in Dundee, Scotland. Right says Thomo (you’ll remember my full handle is Thomo the Lost which never augurs well for long distance travel), I think we should go to Scotland for the wedding. It’ll do us good as we’ve not had a wee holiday for some time (OK, so I didn’t say “wee” but I could have).

A quick bit of planning, reference to 18 airlines online booking pages on their websites (sorry KLM – your booking page caused me problems, sorry Qantas, you are just too expensive and sorry Qatar, yours was the most appealing but your return flight meant I would have missed Salute) and we were ready to go via Etihad Airlines.

The plan was to fly into London Heathrow (not my airport of choice but the only one I had at this stage), rent a car and drive on up to Dundee via Carlisle and Edinburgh. Credit cards were flashed, money changed hands and we were off.

The 10 things I learned?

  1. Heathrow sucks. Sorry, you might be holding Olympics in a couple of months time but you really cannot organise things. They are so used to queuing that they think this is a normal state of affairs. We queued for over 90 minutes (this is not an exaggeration and judging from what the nice immigration lady said, this is quite normal). It took 90 minutes to reach the immigration officer. Lesson – fly into Schipol in the Netherlands then arrive in London through Stanstead. Or fly into Birmingham, Manchester, anywhere but Heathrow!
  2. If you already own a GPS, pay the upgrade for the Western European maps and use it. In our case, the cost was AU $99 and we had to bring it from Australia. we could have “rented” one in England for AU $20 a day. As we were travelling by car for 11 days, the arithmetic there is pretty straightforward.
  3. The English generally are quite nice, especially up north. That is, they are quite nice until you meet the Scots then the English seem a bit miserable. The Scots really are suh a warm, open and friendly group – well, except for the buggers driving around Edinburgh.
  4. Single Malt whisky does not keep the cold out … but my goodness you feel great about being cold.
  5. Scotsmen can’t drink – neither can South Africans. Surprisingly, the last two men standing at the wedding were the two Aussies (and the groom it must be said but we were still leading 2:1)
  6. When you are driving, you really get an idea of exactly how small England and Scotland are, especially when you have an Australian view of things. We would think nothing back in Oz of driving 500 kms in a day and will, at a pinch, do 1,000. Try that in the UK and you run out of island very quickly..
  7. The Scots missed the boat when they didn’t invent pockets. The kilt is fine and warm but my hands were cold. Trying to put them in your sporran just doesn’t work. Build me a kilt with pockets and I’ll be a happy bloke.
  8. Did I mention Heathrow sucks? When you’re busy with your creams and such in your plastic bag prior to the security check, you may sometimes not hear the words “take iPads out of bag”. Not sure why you have to do that – it’s a freaking x-ray after all – I suspect that most security checks have no real idea what they are looking for and it is all for show.Anyway, be that as it may, you forget to take your iPad out and your bag goes through the x-ray. Anywhere else in the world, the security staff frown at you, you take the iPad out and the bag and iPad are immediately x-rayed again and you are on your way with no real delay to other passengers. Did I mention the English love to queue? At Heathrow, your bag is put aside with the bags of other similar security miscreants and it remains until a security officer can come along and test the bag for explosives, search the bag and then (wait for it), put the bag and the iPad in a different coloured tray and pass it through the x-ray again. This whole process adds a further 20 minutes to the user security experience.
  9. The English love to complain about the hotel room they booked on the Costa del English Tourist on the Mediterranean being in a building site. I am pleased to inform you that the practice is alive and well in the UK. The Holiday Inn in Wimbledon South (sorry Kas, we ran our of time) was a building site. The taxi driver drove three times past it before we noticed the name behind the hoardings. Waking in the morning to see a big burly workman staring in your window is always a pleasure as well. Room service breakfast was to move to part of the building site, grab your sausage and powdered egg and take it back to your room to eat. All this luxury for GBP 80 per night.
  10. I learned what a Scotsman wears under his kilt.

Having noted all that, at the end of the trip both of us are hoping for Scottish Independence. We also know that we will return to the Highlands, especially to the area around Spearn Bridge. We will also return to the lovely pub in the Lowlands at St Boswells – the Buccleuch Arms Hotel, a lovely spot to spend a night or two.

Oh, and one other useful hint for weary travellers … the left luggage operations in the London mainline stations are a godsend.

Thank You Etihad Airways

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30 minutes spent online trying to sort a flight itinerary out to attend a mate’s wedding in Scotland in April. Worked (finally) all the connections and which day Etihad flew to Birmingham or Aberdeen etc. Finally got an itinerary sorted, pressed the button that takes you through to actually booking and paying for the flight and the result?

A Bug in their software.

Sigh – maybe I should check Emirates instead!

Qantas Sales or Lack Thereof

There was an article in the Australian Business Traveller reporting on Tony Webber, an ex-Qantas economist who was suggesting in the Sydney Morning Herald that Qantas should levy an extra charge on passengers who, shall we say, are more fulsome of figure … OK, fat folks!

“People who weigh more should pay more to fly on planes, in the same way that people who exceed their baggage allowance must fork out extra” says Webber, now an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School.

His rationale? The more a plane weighs, the more fuel it must burn – which directly impacts costs. (As we detailed earlier this year, fuel costs represent almost $300 of a $2,200 international airfare)

“If the critical weight limit (per passenger) is 75 kilograms and a man weighed 100 kilograms, then the surcharge would be $14.50 one-way or double this for return” Webber explains.

Right!

Well, it seems that Qantas (and indeed Virgin) rejected this idea today in an article, Airlines reject fat levy.

Want to know what one of the problems is with Qantas? Today I asked our traveller coordinator to book my next return flights, Singapore to Sydney. I asked her to check Singapore Airlines and Qantas for comparable fares on comparable flights. The flights?

Singapore Airlines carrier:-
11.02.2012 via SQ231, 00:45/11:50
27.02.2012 via SQ222, 16:15/21:20

Qantas carrier:-
10.02.2012 via QF320, 20:15/07:00
27.02.2012 via QF319, 16:25/21:35

Or

10.02.2012 via QF320, 20:15/07:00
27.02.2012 via QF031, 17:30/22:25

So – flights at roughly the same time of day. The result?

By Singapore Airlines:  S$1226 + tax S$453.80 = S$1679.80

By Qantas/British Airways: S$1558 + tax S$546 = S$2104.00

OK, so those prices are in Singapore dollars and represent travel on Airbus A380 or Boeing 777 aircraft. Qantas is S$424.20 more expensive (AU $318.00). Now, given Singapore Airlines Service levels, why would I pay $318.00 more to fly Qantas when I am never sure whether they are going to cancel flights at the drop of a hat?

Seems a simple equation to me really.

Hotel Embarrassment

“Hello, this is Ian Thompson in room 714.”

“Good afternoon Mr Thompson, how may I help you?”

“My TV does not seem to be operating.”

“I will send the technician to your room immediately.”

“Thanks.”

There’s a knock at the door.

“Mr Thompson, you have a problem with the TV?”

“Yes, it does not seem to want to operate.”

Click! The technician switches the room master switch on. The TV sparks into life as does the lighting in the room.

Sigh – how many years have I been travelling and living in hotel rooms?

Thomo versus the Volcano

Thomo looking, er, fulsomeI mentioned in an earlier post that I was spending some time by Taal Volcano in Taal Lake. I also promised that I’d post this picture of Thomo, relaxed, with the lake and the volcano in the background.

Yes, Thomo has retained his fulsome figure, in part from the philosophy espoused on his t-shirt.

Really, the Tagaytay City, Taal Volcano, Taal Lake area of the Philippines is just gorgeous and well worth a visit for a weekend.