Tag Archives: airports

One man went to MOW, went to SVO connection.

At last, I’ve done it!

A few days ago I had my first ever flight connection in Moscow. I was flying from Geneva to Beijing via SVO (btw, the Moscow to Beijing leg was my 99th flight this year, meaning the one after it – to Tokyo – was my century!).

Something not sound quite right there? Let me repeat: via SVO.

That is, without going home, and simply transferring from one airplane to another at the airport – for the first time EVER (despite flying into or out of SVO a zillion times already). Oh well, seeing as though I was here, might as well see how it compares with other airports…

First off, the main finding: a connection in Moscow is easy and straightforward – almost unnoticeable. Main thing, as least for a Muscovite, is to switch off the autopilot so as not to head towards passport control but instead to ‘International transfer’. Then it’s a matter of a quick X-ray, and some 30 seconds later you’re already in the neutral zone, in among the gates and duty free shops.


Well, that wasn’t difficult. Surprisingly smooth. And that’s in spite of all the inadequacies of Terminal F, the former – infamous – SVO2!

SVO-2/Terminal F is very old (built specially for the 1980 Moscow Olympics), very cramped, and very uncomfortable to use. Everywhere there’s a kinda dirty gray gloom. There is just no way you can compare this place with the likes of other intercontinental hubs like Munich, Heathrow 5 or Zurich – much less shiny new Dubai, Hong Kong, Narita, BCIA, KLIA or Changi. Well, you could, but it’d be like comparing… mincemeat with motorbikes: no point whatsoever :).


Read on: It’s not all doom and gloom…

On the Avatar set – in China.

Believe me – in China there’s plenty to look at. I gave myself  a present for my for 50th B-Day and spent a few days there recently. Get ready to say ‘wow!’ when you see some of the upcoming must-see spots!

As I’ve said before on these here cyberpages, the funny thing is – most of that ‘plenty‘ is practically unknown to non-Chinese folks. The conspicuous historical monuments that were lucky enough to have survived the Cultural Revolution are known about, like those in Beijing and around, like the Great Wall of China, Lhasa and plenty more. But there’s a lot more besides, most of it unheard of outside the country. Just ask around – you’ll be met with blank stares. Maybe a few folks know about, say, Mount Kailash but that will be about it!

Oops. Yes, I’m certain I’m repeating myself somewhat here. I’ve already bemoaned this state of affairs not long ago. Accordingly, without more of ado, let me get on with another bit of Unknown China!…

Today’s bit of Unknown China shouldn’t be referred to as a mere bit. For it could well be one of the Top-20 most beautiful places in the world. It’s Wulingyuan – a ‘scenic are that comprises several national parks, one of which is the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park‘.

From somewhere out of sight waaaaay down below rise up huge rock columns. Jagged, naked sheer sides, with green vegetation on top. Utterly mind-blowing and jaw-dropping, moreover – in any weather: can’t say that for many similar natural installations, especially those in Kamchatka.

In overcast murkiness these stone columns get wrapped in a white fog. The actual scale and distances involved get totally lost, with the brain just giving up attempting to gauge them. They can’t be viewed with the rational mind; only with emotions. Then all of a sudden the sun will come out and the scene is transformed: all the detail and colors come to the fore, but still the brain isn’t able to cognize! Check out these contrasts in some of the pics below…

The heights of these columns are just silly: hundreds of meters tall they are. This one in the next pic is a whopping 1080 meters tall – more than a kilometer! Incidentally, it’s called Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, but more about that later. And the stone arch in the pics – that’s also daft-high: around 1000 meters up. You can walk across it too, if you’re brave enough.


Read on: Gulp!…

JFK Reloaded.

Most US airports are catastrophically crummy when it comes to connections. So, when planning multi-leg air journeys, if you ever get the opportunity to not have a connection in the country – take it; even if that means using the in-flight services of your most hateful airline!

But out of all American airports, one in particular is so awful… well, you just feel embarrassed for the country for accommodating such an abomination. Yes folks, this airport is so appallingly atrocious that it needs to be avoided at all costs. As a frequent business traveler I established a strict embargo on using it several years ago already, and if you too travel the world up in the air quite a lot, I recommend you do the same.

At least, that’s the situation as I know (knew?) it. But then along comes D.Z. singing its praises after a recent positive experience there (why he was embargo-busting in the first place I’ve yet to find out:). Must say, his arguments seem convincing. So I’ll now pass the reins over to him, and let you decide for yourself…:


Location: On board the Moscow to New York Delta flight (DL467), September, 2015. 

News: From December 1, 2015 Delta Airlines will be stopping its flights to Russia, for reasons known only to itself. However, I think Aeroflot and other airlines will be fully aware of the reasons, and understand, share and support them.

‘Delta’… the airline with traditionally unobtrusive air service. But this time… 

…One of the toilets at the front is ‘reserved for pilots only’. To one side of it there’s a trolley blocking the aisle; to the other there’s a flight attendant installed telling all-comers not to go further – ‘it’s for the pilots, and there are some safety rules’ or some such. When pressed, she remarks: ‘Use the other toilet!’. Ok! So the whole of business class gets in the endless line for the loo on the other side!

So what shall I do now? 

Terminator Genisys – watched! Mad Max 4 – watched a month earlier. Emails all sorted, Kaspersky Daily blogpost ready for publication.

But then, suddenly, somewhere between Norway and Iceland I notice the onboard Wi-Fi! $14.95 for an hour, $27.95 for the flight, $45.95 for the day. Ok. Credit card inserted, PIN entered, logged in. Let’s see how fast this baby goes…


Woh! No sooner do I press ‘enter’ – I’m fully connected to the WWW! EH??!!

Read on: Will Eugene drop his embargo already?…


Continuing the airport theme

Holy moly! This is one ultra-modern, cavernous travel hub. It resembles more a museum than an airport. All polished and shiny too. However, not all that glitters is gold. It’s also a very slow moving, uncomfortable airport. Although I’m sure they’re trying their darndest, they’ve still a long way to go in terms of service. “They rebuilt the airport, but didn’t think about the passengers who’ll be using it!” A.Sh. commented verily.

Back to the plusses (alas, briefly) – it’s got a real nice and spacious business lounge, and the food they serve there is out of this world; much better than the usual sandwiches and cakes. And lots of proper drinks too :). But can they provide Wi-Fi that’s fast and easy like in most other international airports around the world? NO!

The Wi-Fi here is slooooow, and insists on a text message to your cell phone “for confirmation and security”. Er, no thank you, I don’t need that kinda Wi-Fi. So we decided to dine properly instead. Oh, what a delight… If they served up such choice cuisine in every business lounge, I’d not bother with the Internet at all – ever, anywhere! I’d also not fit into my jeans.

Mumbai airportThere will always be jaywalkers no matter where you are. No matter if there’s a zebra crossing two meters away!

Read on: beware the Indian customs rules…

Chek Lap Kok: No quick walk.

Flying round the globe as I do, I get to see all sorts of different destinations, a lot of different airports too. Which got me thinking – I should make up a list of the world’s best airports. Incidentally, that also got me thinking about perhaps making up another list – of the world’s worst airports!

And yes, what is now the ‘old’ terminal of Sheremetevo (‘F’) will be top of that list for certain! But today’s theme is great airports. And it just so happens that I recently flew from what I think is my favorite on the planet: Hong Kong International Airport, aka Chek Lap Kok.

Hong Kong airport

Read on: So what’s so great about it? …

How I missed my plane.

I’m a mathematician.

So, based on the numbers alone – with my constant frequent flying – I’m hardly surprised: sooner or later it had to happen – I missed my plane!

It’s happened just once before – back in May 2010, towards the end of one of my customarily lengthy round-the-world tours. I’d… let my hair down a wee bit too low at a conference in Cyprus, got ’20:00′ and ’02:00′ – or something like that – mixed up, and that was that – late. Flight missed. That was in Limassol, heading for Tokyo. In the end I managed to get a flight the next day.

So, now I’ve notched up two missed flights. Still, that’s pretty good considering I fly hundreds of times a year!

This time I was late for my plane leaving London for Nice in France. So how did I manage it?

Well, due to some bizarre oversight, I looked at the wrong place on the piece of paper that had my flight details on it, and instead of having my taxi take me to Terminal 5, I asked the cockney driver to head for Terminal 4! Once I realized the mix-up upon arrival, I got onto the Heathrow Express to get to T5 – but then that took 40 (!) minutes (I’d have been better taking a taxi, darn it!).

This was after the journey from downtown to the airport, which took 80 minutes (London + Saturday = traffic jams). Should have taken the Tube! The following Monday was a bank holiday (national day-off), so maybe that was why there was even more traffic than usual. And we’d left the hotel with loads of time to spare! All the same, the terminal mix-up decided my fate that day. Late. Flight missed. :-/.

But – oh what joy! Turned out that an hour later a second plane would be taking off to Nice “for those who’d missed the first one” ( :%) ). I really needed to race to make that one – and I don’t mean a steady jog but a sprint. But I rushed in vain. The plane stood for another hour on the ground since Heathrow too was suffering from bad traffic (also due to the bank holiday?). An airport traffic jam. In short, it wasn’t my day. The following day thankfully made up for that…

Heathrow traffic jams

Heathrow traffic jams

See you tomorrow… Au revoir!

Killing Time in Airports – Frequent-Flyer Style.

In order to ease the mind-numbing tedium of hanging around Munich airport, T.T. and I started playing “Any-Letter Airport Code”. It’s a reasonably pointless game – but a great time killer – in which you take turns to come up with a three-letter airport code containing a letter from anywhere within the previous code (i.e., not just the last letter, like in similar party games).

It turned out to be quite fun. Here’s what we got:

MUC-DME-MAD-DBX-LAX-LHR-FRA-PUN-DUB-BRU-BCE-PEK-PKC- (and this is where it got trickier! But we got there!) -KUL-CUN-NAS-SVO-SFO-OGZ (I thought I’d beaten T.T. here for sure, but then he comes back and finishes me off!) – ZUR! Eeh, the things you (we) do when bored, eh? :)

It was just then that a stewardess approached us and told us to switch off all our electronic devices in a thick German accent that brooked no opposition.

Any-Letter Airport Code got me thinking: we could set up and organize a large-scale, multi-participant game of “Boarding Pass Bingo”! The idea is pretty straightforward:

More: A very weird game! No cheating possible …

The UK’s PR Disaster: Heathrow.

In Geneva we’d been told all sorts of horror stories about London’s Heathrow Airport recently having been turned into a nightmare of delays, huge lines and other horridness you’d normally expect from some backward banana republic, not the UK. Strange, I thought – just last week I was in England and all was OK at its main airport. Now? There’s just one word to describe it: chaos. Lines for both security and passport control were two hours long, and we hear they can get even longer. It’s so bad it resembles the hellhole that is New York’s JFK, or Moscow’s Sheremetevo about ten years back.

We were lucky – we weren’t heading for the UK. We were just connecting there. Thank goodness. Otherwise we’d have had to have joined in the fun. So here’s a warning to anyone going to the UK soon: be prepared. Make sure you’ve plenty to read, listen to, and/or watch on-the-go! I can’t imagine what’s going to happen here later this year when the Olympics start… I think getting to France first might be the best option – and coming through the Channel Tunnel!

More: It’s always sunny in… Geneva

High-Sea Pu-East

Here we are continuing the world airport theme.

I’d heard a lot of good things about the new Pudong airport in Shanghai (Shanghai Pudong is written 上海浦东, and is translated, probably, as “High-Sea Pu-East”; the Han character “pu” – 浦 – I’m told has no meaning on its own).

Anyway, like I was saying, I’d heard a lot of good things about it. Now, after experiencing it, I’m ready to join in chorus of praise.

The building is huge – no, it’s ein Koloss! (since I’m writing this in Frankfurt Airport, I couldn’t resist getting a little bit of Deutsch in here!). Tons of space and air… The only thing that spoils it all is the grey sky outside the stained-glass windows… Ground services move about between the planes on a four-lane route painted on the apron. Now there’s a first.

In short: brand spanking new, big, convenient and quick (by the time you’ve walked from the arrival gate to baggage retrieval, your luggage is already on the conveyor). Do you remember my tale about JFK airport here? Well, in Pudong, it’s the exact opposite! It seems to me that China is preparing for becoming the most flown to and from country in the world (or has it made it already?).

Here’s a rather unusual but nice and shiny sculpture in the arrivals hall. Though you can’t quite see it in the pic, behind it water runs down the walls.

Sculpture in Pudong Airport

See more > VIP lounges, kids area and a beautiful sky …