If you download and use the Travelocity app to book a hotel room of $US99 or more, they will give you $25 off the booking. I used it for a resort room in Thailand. The code one uses is MOBILE25. The deal is available until 30th november 2014.

I checked with kayak.com which lists almost all possible rates one can get for a hotel. The Travelocity rate was a good one and the extra $25 was a bonus.

photoI am an ingrate though. I am unlikely to use the app regularly. It does promise exclusive special prices not available but I am not convinced about that!.  It will also keep all of my itineraries in the one place but I use Tripit to store my schedules so that Travelocity feature is of no real benefit for me. Thanks for the $25.

photo (1)

The app is available at the apple store where you have to have a US itunes account and at Google Play.  It is free to download.

 

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Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign. If you haven’t already done so, please stow your carry-on luggage underneath the seat in front of you or in an overhead bin. Please take your seat and fasten your seat belt. And also make sure your seat back and folding trays are in their full upright position.

On a flight to San Francisco, the passenger next to me, scoffed through the safety demonstration, drank through the flight and swore through the landing. He told me that he had been in a plane crash and that nothing would help. This seems common, with most passengers dozing, reading or ignore the pre flight safety demonstration.

Are safety announcements an anachronism?

Accounts of  US Air Flight 1549‘s evacuation indicate that one of the key reasons many passengers were able to quickly escape was that one passenger  intervened when another tried to pull the emergency door in. The New York Times reports  that he said: “‘No, you’ve got to throw it out.”  This was because he had paid attention during then briefing.

My action: Even after 1013 flights I force myself to engage with the safety briefing. Just as the pilots rehearse their safety, this is my time to listen.

 

Seatbelt: Prepare for Panic

When the seat belt sign illuminates, you must fasten your seat belt. Insert the metal fittings one into the other, and tighten by pulling on the loose end of the strap. To release your seat belt, lift the upper portion of the buckle.”

Unsurprisingly in an accident, people panic. What is surprising is that many passengers as a result of that panic, forget how to release their seat belt.  Following the 1992 crash of US Airways flight 405, which landed in the water after take off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board noted, “Some passengers tried to move from their seats while their seatbelts were still buckled, and other passengers had difficulty locating and releasing their seatbelt buckles because of disorientation.”

My action: I buckle and unbuckle the seatbelt three times during the safety drill to remind myself of where it is and how it works. Then tighten the belt ready for takeoff.

Passengers from Asiana 214 Source: AP

Passengers from Asiana 214 Source: AP

Emergency Exits

Please take a few moments now to locate your nearest exit. In some cases, your nearest exit may be behind you. 

When a plane comes down, the crew’s evacuation goal is to empty a full plane in 90 seconds. I want to be in that 90 seconds. Australia’s CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) notes that: “Over 70% of airline accidents are survivable. 71% of people who die in survivable crashes, do so after the aircraft comes to a complete stop.” On the clear San Francisco morning of July 6, 2013, there was no sign that Asiana’s Boeing 777 aircraft would be lying in pieces with smoke pouring out of it. When the plane crashed, many passengers at the back of the plane were not aware of what to do in an evacuation. 

My action: I do count the rows to the exit seat in front of me and behind me. I wear trousers and closed in shoes which will protect my legs and feet if I am going through a burning plane or down the slides. In a smoke-filled cabin, it is recommended that one breathes through a piece of your clothing to filter out the smoke.

 

Oxygen Mask

If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.

I have only seen the oxygen masks deployed once. This was on the ground and was a technical failure! In the air, the deployment will be accompanied by a sudden and severe vibration, an automatic automated announcement telling you to put your mask on and a very steep descent by the plane. The scary thing is that sometimes the oxygen in the plane can drop in 15 or 20 seconds and in 30 to 45 seconds you can pass out.

My action: I need to be able to get your mask on quickly if necessary.

 

Brace Position.

There have been myths surrounding that the brace procedure that is only useful for preserving dental integrity for identification after a crash or designed to increase the chance of death to reduce insurance-paid medical cost. Not so. In a report on British Midlands 1989 Boeing 737 crash: “Passengers who adopted the fully flexed “brace” position for crash-landing achieved significant protection against head injury, concussion, and injuries from behind irrespective of local aircraft structural damage”

CASA notes that “Hands placed one on top of the other and on top of the head. Fingers should not be interlocked.” Should something fall on you during a crash landing, you want to protect at least one hand (preferably the one you write with) because you’ll need it to unbuckle your seat belt when it’s safe to do so. Your other hand is in that position to provide some protection to your “strong” hand, which will be doing the unbuckling.  This protects the head from flying debris.

My action: work out how to do the brace position in my seat on each flight

HudsonSplashdown_P_20090130102301

 Life vest/jacket 

A life jacket is located in a pouch under your seat or between the armrests.

Of the passengers on the US airways plane that ditched into the Hudson, 140 of the 150 passengers failed to grab their life jackets.   “Many passengers reported that their immediate concern after the water impact was to evacuate as quickly as possible, that they forgot about or were unaware that a life vest was under their seat…Other passengers stated that they wanted to retrieve their life vest but could not remember where it was stowed.” This is a reminder that panic in a crash will lead to mistakes. Another good reason to focus during the briefing.

The NTSB notes that, “after exiting the airplane through the overwing exits, at least nine passengers unintentionally fell into the water from the wings,”

My Action: I have got into a habit of checking to see if the jacket is there during the safety briefing. A friend of someone I know used to steal life jackets from planes as a bizarre souvenir. It can take an airline a while to find that a jacket has been taken.

I hope I don’t find myself in a crash (as I hope you don’t). The chances are rare but if it happens, I want to be ready.

 

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rj.com

rj.com

Middle Eastern carrier Royal Jordanian received their first Boeing 787 last Wednesday evening. Named “Crown Prince Hussein Bin Abdullah II“, the plane flew non stop from Seattle to Amman, a 13 hour flight. It is pictured below at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. Royal Jordanian is the second Middle Eastern airline to operate the 787, after Qatar.

rj

rj.com

RJ will receive four more of the Dreamliners thus year giving them five by the end of the year. They will replace the airline’s currently A340 and A330 planes. With 24 business class seats and 246 seats in economy, the carrier will introduce the plane into regular service in September. 

This three minute video shows the assembly of Royal Jordanian’s 787. Quite engrossing actually.

With this delivery, there are now 20 airlines flying 180 of the 787. I have not yet flown a 787. By contrast there are 138 of the A380 with 11 operators. I have flown 380s with six of the operators. 

Royal Jordanian is the flag carrier of Jordan operates 500 flights per week to 59 destinations using 33 aircraft. They are a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation and of the Oneworld global airline alliance.  Skytrax rates them as a three star airline. Customers on the Skytrax site rate them 5/10. I would rate them higher at 8/10.

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Is this a new trend?

Another fight over whether a seat should be reclined or not leading to an aeroplane diversion occurred this week.

En route from Miami to Paris, on American Airlines flight 62, passenger Edmund Alexandre demanded that the female passenger in front of him  not recline her seat. After she refused,  Mr Alexandre got into an altercation with the flight attendants. After grabbing one of the attendants, he was restrained by federal air marshals. The Boeing 767 then diverted to Boston.

So, is it a new trend? Are we going to see open war in the aisles of planes?

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My partner flew Malaysia Airlines two weeks ago and had the choice of four empty rows of five seats per economy passenger to stretch out in. This was how empty the plane was.

A photo doing the rounds of the internet shows a starkly empty Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330 operating as flight 146. The service which departed Melbourne at 740am flying direct to Kuala Lumpur arriving at 1415 on Thursday 14 August 2014 had about 60 people on board.

My next Malaysia Airlines flight is in two weeks. I called to arrange a “good seat” to find that all of the bulk head and all emergency exit seats are currently empty. This is unusual so close to take off and suggests that the load on my flight will be light.

mh 146

While very comfortable for passengers, there is no way any airline can sustain this. Already in financial trouble at the start of 2014, the carrier is estimated to be losing $US2 million a day after tragically losing two planes. They have been attempting to fill planes with cheap fares. We have been finding fares way below discount carrier Air Asia.

Today, the long awaited restructure was announced by the airline’s largest shareholder  Khazanah Nasional Bhd. Some of the actions are ones I foreshadowed in May. The 12 point plan called Rebuilding A National Icon – The MAS Recovery Plan” includes:

  •  creating a new airline company by 1 July 2015 which presumably will have a name other than Malaysia Airlines. Currently Khazanah are calling it “Newco”. I am curious to know what the name could be. Air Malaysia? New Malaysia Airlines? Hibiscus Malaysia (after the national flower), Aero Malaysia?
  • de-listing from the Kuala Lumpur Stock exchange by the end of 2014
  • re-listing by 2019 on the Stock Exchange
  • keeping current CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya ntil July 2015
  • aiming to return to profitability by end of 2017
  • shedding six thousand of the 20 000 strong workforce with Khazanah  investing in a “Corporate Reskilling Centre” to assist MAS staff who did not go to NewCo. This includes transferring 3,500 MAS workers to other companies owned by Khazanah Nasional
  • focusing on being a regional carrier- I assume this means flights between KL and Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Londom will go. I am also assuming their discount subsidary Firefly will be sold off

Malaysia Airlines has a 5 star rating from Skytrax yet only comes in at 18th on their latest ranking of airlines. Never understand how that works. Surely all of the five star airlines should be at the top of the list. It was 14th place last year and tenth the year before. I rate them at 84% which puts them in the top 12 of the airlines I have flown (out of the 88 airlines I have been on).

 

 

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As a runner, I am really interested in this event taking place next Saturday at Budapest Airport in Hungary. They will play host to a competition between airlines to see who is the fastest airline …on the ground.

bud-runway-image

On Saturday 6 September, a 12 kilometre (8 mile) race involving 1,000 runners will take place on Budapest Airport’s Runway 1  (13R-31L) to raise funds for  child cancer charities. The runway is 3km long so I presume teams will run it four times.

There will be prizes awarded for:

  1. The fastest male and female
  2. “The Fastest Airline in the World”
  3. “The Fastest Airport in the World”
  4. The fastest male and female airline CEO
  5. The fastest male and female airport CEO

There are representatives from the following airlines taking part include:

European carriers:

• Adria Airways
• Aegean Airlines
• Aer Lingus
• Air Arabia
• Air Baltic
• Air Berlin
• Air France
• Air Nostrum
• Blue Panorama Airlines
CityJet
• Czech Airlines
• Edelweiss Air AG
• Etihad Regional (previously Darwin airlines)
• Germania Fluggesellschaft mbH
• Germanwings
• Iberia Express
• LOT Polish Airlines
• Montenegro Airlines
• Norwegian Air Shuttle
• Ryanair
Swiss International Airlines
TAP Portugal
• TEN Airways
• transavia
Uzbekistan Airways
• Vueling
• Wizz Air

Middle Eastern Carriers

•  Onur Air
• Pakistan International Airlines
• Qatar Airways
• Saudia


UK Carriers:

•  bmi regional
• British Airways

• easyJet
• Jet2.com
•Flybe

 

US Carriers:

• American Airlines
• Southwest Airlines
• United Airlines

 

The only one that is missing is the late Malév.

May the best team win. Any predictions on winners?

 

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After “that incident” on United Airlines this week, the Knee Defender, a gadget that blocks airplane seats from reclining, has seen a boost in sales. It’s website crashed yesterday under the weight of orders for the $US21.95 Knee defender! The device consists of two clips that slip onto the seatback tray.

kd_in_use_j1

The incident, occurred, on  United Flight 1462 from Newark, New Jersey to Denver, Colorado. A male passenger (48 years old), seated in a middle seat of row 12 used the Knee Defender to stop the female passenger (also aged 48) in the seat in front of him reclining.  Ironically they were seated in the 737′s Economy Plus section which has 35″ leg room compared to 31″ in regular Economy.

737-900v1

 The female again asked him to allow her to recline her seat and he refused. She then appealed for help from a flight attendant who asked the male to remove the device. He again refused. At this time,  the woman  stood up, turned around and threw a cup of water over the male.  The pilot then diverted the plane to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and both passengers were deplaned. Flight 1462 continued onto Denver arriving 1 hour and 38 minutes late. 

I am wondering if there really has been a spate of bad behaviour on planes this year or are we reporting it more?

I personally hate reclining seats. They made sense in the old days when we had 36 to 40 inches between seats but in today’s environment when airlines have cut us back to 29, 30 or 31 inches, they are an anachronism. When in Economy, I choose seats in exit rows or the front row to avoid being subjected to the possibility of someone pushing their seat back onto my 185cm (6’1″ frame). I don’t recline unless I have no one behind me or I am “up front”. I feel sorry for the people behind me.

http://dbagjournal.wordpress.com/

http://dbagjournal.wordpress.com/

Clearly, if these knee defender sales are any indication, other passengers feel the same. In fact, a survey of 1,000 passengers by Skyscanner last year found that 91 per cent of passengers would like to see reclining seats banned on flights. Some airlines (Monarch, Ryanair, Spirit and Allegiant, for example) have removed reclining seats from their planes or disabled the mechanisms. In the meantime, the four largest U.S. airlines – American Airlines, Delta, Southwest and United all ban the use of the Knee Defender. That ban seems to have been irrelevant in the case of flight 1492.

Do you want to see reclining seats removed? Or will you buy a knee defender?

I know that Iceland has been somewhat topical with a volcano threatening to blow!  It is also one of the most amazing stunning and interesting places, I have ever visited. I have been hankering to go back since my visit there five years ago. On top of that I well and truly want to see the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.

mjc iceland

Many years ago, I had the privilege of watching the “Southern Lights” ( Aurora Australis) in Tasmania, Australia. the shimmering, dancing colours is an image I will never forget. My appetite is whetted for their Northern equivalent.

This “Great Value Vacations” package offers airfare and four nights accommodation from USA for $899 is a great deal between January to March.Bookings must be made by August 29.

It includes:

  • Round-trip economy class airfare to Reykjavik/Keflavik (KEF) from NYC and Boston. You can fly from other cities
  • airport transfers via the Flybus Airport Shuttle which delivers you from the airport to hotel door- its a great service
  • 4 nights in Reykjavik at the Reykjavik Lights hotel which Tripadvisor users rate at 89%. It is 3km (2 Mlles) from downturn meaning taxi or bus will be necessary,
  • Daily breakfast (a big money saving in Iceland)
  • Reykjavik city sightseeing tour
  • Northern Lights Tour which departs at 9pm or 10pm and lasts for three hours
  • free time to explore the city

I priced the package separately. Icelandair was selling NYC to Reykjavik for $63o return and the Reykjavik Lights hotel cost $728 for four nights. Icelandair were also selling a similar priced package but it was for three nights and they did not include breakfast. I found availability for the Great Value Vacations tour through most departure dates. I could not see a way of easily extending a stay on the website which is what i would want to do.

IMG_1332 They do offer an extra day tour for $US125 which I would take up. It makes the whole package $1024. The tour goes to the amazing Gulfooss waterfall (above), Geysir geothermal area and Thingvellir National Park and Fontana’s natural steam baths. I would also try and do a second Northern Lights tour!

As mentioned, the company selling this package is Great Value Vacations, 486 Sunrise Hwy, Suite 200 Rockville Centre, NY 11570. I have not dealt with them before and have no connection with them. Contact: info@greatvaluevacations.com OR 800-896-4600

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In 2010,  the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoell led to the biggest European airspace shutdown since World War Two with one hundred thousand flights across Europe cancelled and eight million passengers stranded.

Over the weekend Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano has been shaken by earthquakes and started a small eruption. Located in south-east Iceland under the country’s largest glacier Vatnajoekull,  Bardarbunga rises to more than 2000 metres. It has an ice layer of between 150 and 400 metres thick. So far, there is no indication of imminent flooding caused by glacier melt. There have been fears that this volcano will have the same impact as Eyjafjoell if it erupts.

I fly to Scandinavia in three weeks so I am very keenly concerned!

Iceland has evacuated the area, closed the roads to the area (see below) and suspended all flights in a section of airspace over the glacier.  It declared a “Code Red” but downgraded that to “Orange” on Sunday morning. Iceland’s airports remain open. The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that it would not close UK airspace in the event of an eruption. The CAA said it would issue a notice to individual airlines who will decide where to fly. 

iceland volcano

Here is live feed from three cameras in the area:

 

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For two days only. Scoot is offering a very cheap way to get to Singapore from Gold Coast,  Perth and Sydney. Flight dates: from today until 30th November.  The first passenger pays fare and taxes and the second passenger only pays taxes. The offer does not apply to their Business Class fares.

In addition, the airline is also taking 15 per cent off the price off Super & Stretch seats which give you 35″ of leg room.

I found good availability looking through October and November. The cheapest price I found from Sydney to Singapore was AUD 646.95 return for two ($US602). Thats $A323.47 each ($US301). The most common roundtrip fare for two is $AUD727.

Note you need to add:

  • seat (a super seat costs around $50 a person for each segment)
  • a bag for $34 each way per person
  • meals and drinks with a light meal combo including drink costing $12 and hot meal combo being around $15

A round trip in a super seat with a hot meal on each flight and sharing a bag cost around $1000 for two people. This compares to $620 per person with Air Asia or around $700 for Malaysia and $750 for Qantas, Malaysia, Emirates and Etihad.

Watch out for Scoot sneakily trying to add travel insurance of $144 per passenger and they charge a $9 per passenger per segment “processing fee” for a Credit Card payment which I find galling.

Bookings have opened from today 22 Aug 2014 until 2359 hrs, 24 Aug 2014  (Australian Eastern time) and can only be made via this page.

140822 scoot

Scoot is Singapore Airline’s low cost subsidiary.   They have a 3 star rating from Skytrax.  Scoot customers give the carrier a rating of 7 out of 10 on Skytrax. My Overall rating of Scoot is 74%.

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Rolf-Bucholz-

 

Rolf Buchholz a 53 year old German is the world’s most pierced man, according to the Guiness Book of Records. He sports 453 piercings plus two horns on his forehead.

This week, he was barred from Dubai. No reason for refusing entry was given by airport officials but airpirt workers reportedly told him that  officials were concerned he could be a practitioner of black magic.

Ironically, he was on his way to a guest appearance at Cirque le Soir nightclub in Dubai’s Fairmont Hotel. This incident will generate some publicity for them?

(For the record, he has 16 piercings in his right ear, 15 in his left ear, 25 in his eyebrows, 8 in his nose, 94 in and around his lips, 2 in his tongue, 8 in the rest of his body, 3 in his nipples, 4 in his navel and 278 in the genital area. My question: Why the horns?)

 

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