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Looking forward to the Travel Year 2008
20 January 2008

Looking forward to 2008, I'm confident already that it could shape up to 2007 in terms of being my best yet. However, let me not get ahead of myself - it will turn out as it turns out, but what I already have planned is exciting me!

A couple of short haul trips kick off the year in February - the first to Malta with a great number of my friends and the second to Marrakech later in the month, my first visit to this apparently wonderful city.

March sees my usual big holiday of the year and this year I will be heading down to Australia, so look out for a new section to this website. I'll be taking BA Club World to Hong Kong, Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class onward to Sydney and then Singapore Airlines First Class to get back to Hong Kong via Singapore. That one I am especially looking forward to.

Next up is an interesting fare that I learned about from Flyertalk. Suffice to say it starts in Colombo and ends in New York and I've managed to divide the trip into two main parts and route my ticket through Sydney. So I'll be back in Australia in May, as well as Singapore, Colombo and Paris. The exact flight details can be seen on my flight listing, but the main event for me will undoubtedly be trying out the new Airbus A380 "Superjumbo" in Singapore Airlines business class cabin on the upper deck!

Also there is a strong possibility of more business trips for me this year, not just to New York, but also to Asia Pacific area, so I await those trips with excitement.

On the short haul side, I have my first trip on Ryanair coming up in June when I go to Cork for the weekend. I can't say I'm looking forward to that quite as much as Singapore Airlines first class or the A380, but you have to try these things, don't you! You can really only criticise once you've experienced it I guess - and you never know it may turn out to be OK!


Looking back to the Travel Year 2007
20 January 2008

I think, looking back, I can't really have even begun to realise how wonderful my travel year 2007 would turn out to be. Just one look at my flights in 2007 will show a plethora of premium cabin experiences and trips to many parts of the world.

Two of my major trips were recorded in sections of this website. I diarised both my trip to Asia in March and my two visits to the USA during the year (yes, yes I know the diary section from part two is still outstanding ).

However, that was only the beginning. I managed four other long haul trips in the year. Two visits to my perennial favourite Bahrain. And late in the year, two unexpected business trips to New York on new business class only airline EOS, which I reported on here.

On the short haul side, I must say I found flying in Europe to have become a serious chore. This may have come down to having had only one business class sector (my first flight of the year - to Nice), but mainly I think it comes down to the pain with security, the one bag rule and British Airway's appalling punctuality. Signs are positive that improvement in those last two things are on the cards in 2008.

Overall, with almost 92,000 miles under my belt (for reference that's equivalent to 4.5 returns to Sydney or over 13 return flights to New York!) most of them in premium cabins, I can safely say that's it's been my best travel year yet!

(In case you're wondering how much of those 92,000 miles I carbon offset, the answer is nil. A big fat zero. I will have paid the unfair Airline Passenger Duty to the UK Government to a level six or seven times greater than the cost required to offset the carbon from my flight. It's the government's choice not to spend this unfair tax on carbon offsetting, not mine. I would obviously happily pay the carbon offset if this unfair tax were rescinded. Get European airlines in the carbon trading scheme and get rid of these unfair taxes NOW!)


I've been on that plane!
20 January 2008

It was with great relief that I read of the lucky escape that the passengers of BA038 from Beijing, which crash landed at Heathrow last week. In one of my more geeky moments, I decided to use the Heathrow and Gatwick movements website to check whether I'd ever flown on that aircraft, registration G-YMMM. And yes, you guessed it - I have!

I must say that this revelation has made the whole situation seem much more real to me. Back in February 2006 I enjoyed a very short hop between Bahrain and Doha on this very aircraft. OK, so I was airborne for only 15 minutes or so, but nevertheless I believe it's the first and only time I've flown on an airliner which has subsequently crashed.

Let's hope the air crash investigators can quickly piece together what happened.


Madrid Air Traffic Control visit
22 April 2007

Well, it's been a while since my last update, mainly because I've been concentrating on writing up my trip to Asia

I recently went on a short business trip to Madrid and my colleague over there is married to one of the managers of the Air Traffic Control centre for most of Spain, which is based near Madrid. And just as I thought I was about to be whisked off to dinner, we ended up at the ATC centre where I was given a guided tour. All I can say is wow! What an experience. It was fascinating watching all the controllers at work at rows of huge radar screens. It was all far too confusing for a novice, but wonderful to see what goes on behind the scenes. I must say that after about half an hour of being in there I was pretty stressed out myself, I really don't know how these people do it - it's a massively stressful job.

As someone who travels frequently by air, it is easy to take for granted getting on an aeroplane and flying somewhere without considering all the work that has to go into getting me from A to B safely and quickly. So I just wanted to dedicate this small section of my sight to all those people who work tirelessly all day to ensure that the whole global aviation things moves along smoothly - your work is greatly appreciated, especially by this frequent flyer!


Strike called off - at the eleventh hour!
30 January 2007

A wonderful piece of news last night, BA and the T&G union have reached agreement and the union has called off the planned BA cabin crew strike. I must say watching the joint announcement by Willie Walsh (CEO of BA) and Tony Woodley (General Secretary of the T&G) was a first for me, and both appeared calm and complimentary about the other, keen to stress this was a new start for the airline/employee relations. So far as I can tell this is indeed an important watershed moment and I hope the industrial relations problems that have plagued BA for a number of years have taken a massive step forward.


Strike Blues
21 January 2007

BASSA (the trade union representing BA's cabin crew) have just announced the first of three 3-day strikes. Unfortunately the second of these is supposedly on 5th-7th February, the day I'm supposed to return from Nice. So I'm not quite sure what to do. Options include booking a backup flight on easyJet (for 37) or trying to move the BA return to Sunday night instead. Or just cancelling the trip altogether, or indeed waiting and hoping that the strike doesn't go ahead. Not sure what I'm going to do yet, I think I need to speak to my friends and decide what we're going to do!


Bucket loads of cheap BA miles :)
13 January 2007

Well I picked up a little gem of a scheme on the BA board at Flyertalk this week. It appears that Marriott are allowing members to buy a virtually unlimited amount of Marriott points at a very reasonable rate of US$10 per 1,000 points (even better with the current :$ exchange rate). These points can be transferred into Tesco Clubcard points at various rates, the most efficient being 125k Marriott points for 35,000 Tesco Clubcard points. Then, you can transfer your Tesco Clubcard points into BA miles, so 35k Tesco Clubcard points = 84,000 BA miles!!! This effectively means you can buy BA miles for only 0.79p each, compared to the cost on BA.com of 1.6p. Full details can be found on this thread.

So this has enabled me to procure some much needed miles for my forthcoming summer holidays to USA (I will be spending probably 3 weeks there in June and September, so keep an eye out here for an report section)!


March 2007 - Asian Tour in the planning!
8 January 2007

I'm currently in the final stages of planning for my usual 2 week holiday in March and this year I'm going to be visiting Asia. Not to give too much away at the moment, but the itinerary includes the following:

Flights: Gulf Air First class, Singapore Airlines First class, Thai Airways First class, ANA Business class

Places: Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore & Kuala Lumpur

Hotels: IC Bangkok, IC Beijing, IC Tokyo Bay, IC Singapore and Hilton Kuala Lumpur

I will of course be creating a new trip section for this holiday (my first new full section since California in Sept 05 ), so look out for this beginning in March!


Multiple Annoyances...
17 December 2006

The BA board at Flyertalk is a bit like a radio station at the moment. Every time you tune in, the hits just keep on coming. The latest serious degradation in customer service is the announcement about reductions in checked luggage - a new maximum limit of only 23kg per bag, from a previous limit of 32kg. This will lead to many travellers, top business executives amongst them, being forced to repack their bags on the floor of the check-in area. A truly bizarre move, as you can't pay excess baggage - the 23kg limit is absolute, you cannot check-in a bag that weighs more.

This comes hot on the heals of the seating fiasco. A botched implementation of a new seating policy, which saw many frequent travellers seats being moved around, no clarity on what the new policy actually is, shoddy technical implementation so that you don't know if not being able to secure certain seats is a new "feature" or a system bug and an apparent serious degradation in the seats available for BA Golds and other Oneworld elites, particularly when travelling with others on the same PNR.

Both of these nonsenses are BA specific, but they come hot on the heals of the new security policies pertaining to liquids in hand baggage and the hugely increased passenger surcharges. Flying from the UK has rarely been less enjoyable and looks set only to get worse. Bad news for those of us stuck here. Those who aren't should take one simple piece of advice if considering travelling to or through the UK. Avoid.


New Business Class frenzy!
18 November 2006

There has been a veritable frenzy of new business class announcements in the last few weeks. Perhaps the main three are Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines who both launched new products in all three classes and, this week, British Airways announced a major upgrade to their business class product, Club World. What more perfect subject for my first blog entry?

First off the mark were Cathay, the Hong Kong based airline. Despite trumping their competitors in announcing their new offerings, the announcement was lacklustre and details of the new products very scant. The only information I've been able to find are small pictures on their website. It appears that the new first class is very luxurious, as one would expect from the purveyor of one of the best existing first class experiences in the world. The business class has adopted the increasingly popular "herringbone" layout as seen initially on Virgin Atlantic and latterly on Air New Zealand and Air Canada. This design provides seats at a 45 degree angle to the cabin, offering good space and privacy, and with aisle access for all.

However it is the economy product which appears to be truly revolutionary. The seats' main feature is a hard back, which allows you to recline without impeding into or stealing space from the seat behind. For someone like me who has spent more than their fair share of time down the back, I must say this is a truly welcome development, as long as the standard seat pitch is not being reduced to accommodate it.

Next on the press wires was Singapore Airlines, another of the world's top rated airlines. Their launch was to much fanfare and the product, especially the business class (see image left), very impressive on first look. Singapore's strategy seems to be to sell width, rather than legroom and with 1-2-1 seating plan across the wide cabin of their new Boeing 777-300ER's this is clearly the widest business class seat currently available. However, what the seat gains in width, it loses in length, with the seat in front much closer than on other airlines. The sleeping position is at a 45 degree angle, with the feet fitting in an alcove in the seat in front. A less efficient, but more luxurious evolution of the herringbone design. Prices will have to rise accordingly, if this product it to make money, as the seat map shows markedly fewer seats in the same aircraft space as before.
 

In the first class stakes, the new Singapore product is extremely luxurious, with a huge seat and massive LCD TV widescreen. However, this is only the product for the new 777 aircraft, there will be another, even better product available when Singapore gets its first Airbus A380 toward the end of 2007. At that time there will be at least four separate First class seats available on Singapore airlines, depending on aircraft and route, which will be somewhat confusing as there is no information on whether these new seats will find their way onto Singapore's existing fleet of Boeing 747-400's and 777-200ER's.


 

Last, and least only in terms of it being in one cabin and only being an "upgrade" rather than a new product, is British Airways. Their new Club World product is really only an upgrade of what went before, retaining the revolutionary forward-backward design of seating in their business class cabin. Improvements include widening the seat at the shoulders and providing armrests that fold down, thus improving the sleeping experience, and a new Z-bed configuration which, while not flat, provides an increased length of 6' 6" over the flat version which is only 6' long. Other new features are a frosted glass electronically operated screen divider and a revamp of the in flight entertainment offerings, featuring AVOD for the first time. A PDF document with more pictures is available on this website. Installation should be completed by April 2008.
 

So all-in-all it's been a good few weeks for premium class travellers with some exciting new products being announced. As always when new products come along there will be some uncertainty for travellers about which routes and dates are going to be equipped. I hope that all the airlines involved provide clear communication about this over the next few years.


Archives

Looking forward to the Travel Year 2008

Looking back to the Travel Year 2007

I've been on that plane!

Madrid Air Traffic Control visit

Strike called off - at the eleventh hour!

Strike Blues

Bucket loads of cheap BA miles :)

March 2007 - Asian Tour in the planning!

Multiple Annoyances...

New Business Class frenzy!