forward to the Travel Year 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
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
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
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
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
(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
I've been on that plane!
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
Let's hope the air crash
investigators can quickly piece together what happened.
Madrid Air Traffic
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
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!
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
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 :)
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
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!
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!
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.
Business Class frenzy!
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.
on the press wires was Singapore Airlines, another of the world's top
rated airlines. Their launch was to much fanfare and the product,
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
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.
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
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
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.