Tag Archives: airports

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…:

—8<—

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…

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

Read on: Will Eugene drop his embargo already?…

Rage and F1 in Japan.

I get to Japan a lot on business.

Normally the airport procedures you have to go through to get from airplane seat to airport exit, luggage in hand, are quick and efficient. But just sometimes, it seems, things don’t run quite so smoothly: just recently we landed in Osaka and the line for passport control lasted two hours! Just look at the crowds of disgruntled travelers. This is just… unacceptable! I mean, Japan, come ON. Is it really that difficult to put more staff on? Hello?

Read on: Things only got more unusual…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

Parade!

As if the Beijing temples and Summer Palace weren’t sufficient, we also managed to experience a full-blown state military parade right on Tiananmen Square!

One word: grandiose.

We got there early in the morning in fully festive spirit, as did other ticketholders – all 50,000 of them! Most had cameras, and many were decked out in full traditional national costume – including most of the children. Oh, and as I explained how in my previous Beijing post, there wasn’t a cloud to be seen anywhere over the capital.

beijing-china-military-parade-2015-1

beijing-china-military-parade-2015-2

Read on: spectators assembled, troops at the ready, let’s begin!…

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Smoky Santiago.

Santiago (the capital of Chile) is situated in a valley between two mountain ranges. The bigger of the two is called the Andes. The other… I never did get round to finding out its name. Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is that, by and large, the wind here tends to blow across these ridges – i.e., not down the valley – leaving the valley, and Santiago, thoroughly ventilation-less. This means there’s nothing to shift the thick smog that hangs over the valley. It looks, to be honest, disturbing. Imagine breathing that in all day and night, year after year. Yikes!

smoky_santiago_1
smoky_santiago_2

Read on: Quite a big city…

Hotel to cathedral.

I’d been wanting to get to Scotland for ages, and just recently I finally made it. But it was only for two days in St Andrews, and although those were a super two days, they hardly equaled ‘doing’ Scotland. Far too short a stay. A proper trip to Scotland requires several days touring the country, driving around lochs, walking in the mountains. Oh yes, Scotland has plenty of mountains. When the plane took off I could clearly see the snow-clad peaks far away to the north. Alas, they’ll have to wait for next time.

Scottish scenery – it’s just crying out to be your desktop wallpaper. Have a look!:

scotland-views-2

Read on: I don’t need to say much here – the photos tell the story…

Australian winter, Scottish summer.

What are the differences between a chilly Australian winter and a hot Scottish whisky summer?

There are plenty, but the main ones are: First, here in bonnie Scotland – at least on the eastern side where we were last week – there are no palm trees to be seen out the window. Second, the sun moves in the opposite direction, and does so very slowly: it gets dark around 10pm and gets light around 4-5am. Sure, it’s at a latitude of 56 degrees north after all!

Anyway, here we were in sunny St Andrews in Scotland, United Kingdom!

scotland-1

Read on: Green and pleasant land…

Guatemala – what a gala (of color). Part 1.

Which airline to choose to get from Madrid to Guatemala was a no-brainer: practically the only airline to fly direct is Iberia. It’s like, why would we fly with a connection – heaven forbid a North American one? :)

So off we popped, direct to Central America…

The first bit of land on the other side of the Atlantic was Haitian (I think), and then came Jamaica. Over the mainland we flew over Honduras, and next up was our country of destination – Guatemala.

Madrid - Guatemala

Madrid - Guatemala

Madrid - GuatemalaHonduras coming into view

Incidentally, Honduras – why’s it called Honduras? You can find out here. It appears there are two alternative versions. The first starts:

In Spanish, the word “honduras” means “deep waters” or “depths”. It is a peculiar name for a country, but there is also a peculiar story behind how our country got this name.

Madrid - GuatemalaYou have reached your destination

Not everyone (who lives outside Central America maybe) is able to point out Guatemala on a world map. Not everyone knows it’s in Central America even – many think it’s in South America. But no, Guatemala is the quintessential Central American country – the most central Central American country, in fact.

It sits neatly between Honduras, Salvador, Belize and Mexico. Firther to the south there’s also Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and then Columbia and Ecuador.

I flew over this nest of cuckoos curiosity a while back. Unfortunately that was at nighttime so I saw nothing at all of it. This time things were different:

Madrid - Guatemala

Madrid - GuatemalaVolcanism on the horizon. My cup of tea

Madrid - Guatemala

Madrid - Guatemala

Madrid - GuatemalaA Fuji competitor!

Madrid - Guatemala

Madrid - Guatemala

Turns out there are 33 volcanoes here, three of which, I’m told ‘represent a threat’. That makes sense: this part of the world’s seen plenty of volcanic activity in its time, some of it very sad. For example, in the sixteenth century Agua destroyed the first capital of the country; and in 1965 Pacaya blew its top violently and has been erupting constantly ever since.

And right now Fuego‘s causing all sorts of problems for the locals. And on the first night after we arrived there was even an earthquake! I missed it as I was in a jetlag-compensating deep sleep. Not sure if that was a good or bad thing.

We went for a walk up Pacaya while in Guatemala; not to the top – it’s smoking like a bar steward right now up there – but around the old crater near it. Impressive. So impressive in fact that it warrants a post of its own. I wasn’t expecting that there’d be a lot to report back on from here – I was proved wrong!

All the photos are here.

Back soon folks!…

Mumbairport.

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!