American Airlines (AA) received their first Boeing 787  at Dallas Fort Worth Airport on Friday evening. This means two US carriers now have the aeroplane type. American plans to have the 787 in service in two months time.

AA has ordered 42 of both versions of the 787, the only 7-7 plane I have not been on.

I have still to get on a 787, although I have many A380 flights under my belt.

I have been avoiding flying Garuda Indonesia for two decades now! The financially troubled carrier had an appalling safety record, an ageing fleet, European bans, a patchy service culture and massive competition. To turn this around would seem impossible.

Yet last month Skytrax announced that the Indonesian airline has been nominated one of the world’s five star airlines.   This is an honour reserved for seven other carriers:

  1. Asiana Airlines,
  2. All Nippon Airways,
  3. Cathay Pacific,
  4. Hainan Airlines
  5. Malaysia Airlines (currently under review)
  6. Qatar Airways
  7.  Singapore Airlines.

This news surprised me. I have been aware of the changes at Garuda but not realised how dramatically things have turned around.

To recap, in 2007 Garuda were banned from European air space for safety reasons. In the twenty years before, they had seen seven fatal incidents.

The ban was lifted in 2009. This coincided with an ambitious five year modernisation plan called the Quantum Leap.

The plan included:

  • fleet rejuvenation (their fleet age is now an average 5 years)
  • growing the Indonesian domestic market (they have 22% of the market with 16 competitors)
  • improving its international presence
  • building on their LCC Citilink’s potential (it has 8% of the Indonesian market)
  • introducing new brand colours (see below)
  • enforcing “cost discipline”
  •  investing in human capital
New Garuda Livery

New Garuda Livery

Former Garuda CEO Emirsyah Satar even created a leadership exercise in which the management team several times a year gathered to clean their aeroplanes, to show cleanliness was a high priority.  What a message! Emir himself, it was noted, cleaned the aeroplane lavatories as a means of motivating his staff. No wonder, last year, the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) named  Emirsyah Satar as Airline Executive of the Year award. Satar resigned in December and was replaced by Arif Wibowo, former President of low-cost carrier Citilink.

Arif Wibowo (left) and Emirsyah Satar from Poskota News

Arif Wibowo (left) and Emirsyah Satar from Poskota News

In 2012 Garuda was voted as the most improved airline in the world by Skytrax. In July they added a First Class cabin to their new B777s. Last year they joined Skyteam. Then they were nominated as a Five star carrier. They are the first of the Skyteam members to be considered a five star carrier. Of the other five star carriers, three are Star Alliance carriers, three are (currently) One World and one is unaligned.

Garuda are still not making money though with relatively low loads in 2014. They were reportedly profitable in September and their last quarter losses lower. As their success grows, I assume new CEO Wibowo will be  hoping that passenger growth will follow.

My final question is “are they safe now“?

So in conclusion should I stop avoiding Garuda and fly them now?

I am not suggesting that Newcastle looks or feel neglected, it is just a place overlooked by tourists and unfairly critiqued by UK citizens. Yet this ancient settlement at the North of England has a lot going for it. It is well worth a day or three to visit. In Roman times, the city was a fort on Hadrian’s wall known as Pons Aelius.  William the Conqueror in 1080 commanded his son to construct a “New Castle” on the site of the old Roman fort. For many years, a grim industrial city, the loss of UK manufacturing has transformed the city economically and culturally.

Photo 2014-09-23 18 48 54

We walked into the city as part of our 84 mike trek across England following the aforementioned  Hadrian’s wall. It was a fascinating way to arrive in the city. For those preferring an easier way, Newcastle is well served by trains to London and Edinburgh. It has it’s own airport with flights to a range of European ports. FlyBE and Easyjet are the key airlines to check. Book ahead for both, you can get some great fares! For example train to London for 16 pounds or to Edinburgh for 12.

Asthetics: 7.5/10

Check the Latin text above my head

Check the Latin text above my head

Liveability: 7/10

To the chagrin of Geordies (nickname for Novacastrains)the 2013 Sunday Times listing of the top 12 cities in the UK to live in, did not include Newcastle. I am a little less harsh. I don’t think the city is liveable as Bristol, UK but I would live in Newcastle before London! Newcastle has everything you need with less rush, less congestion and less crowding.

The city, sadly, has one of the highest unemployment rates in the UK. Its cost of living is in the middle range for the UK.

Summer temperatures reach 18 degrees celsius (64F) and in winter the temperature can plummet to two degrees (36F).

Culture: 8/10

Last year Newcastle was named as the city with the best nightlife in the UK by the Sunday Times. I would agree with the newspaper’s assessment that you can “get a degree in partying”. 

The city also was voted the best UK city by readers of the Guardian and Observer.

The city enjoys a massive  range of cultural activities outside pubs and clubs including a massive range of shows at the Theatre Royal, mainstream and independent, cinema (check out the historic Tyneside cinema), the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and concerts at the iconic Sage Music Centre. Its also a major sports town.

Crime: 9/10

While Newcastle has a slightly higher crime rate than other UK cities, globally it barely rates for crime! I have always felt safe wandering around downtown but take I the usual precautions. Dial 999 for emergency police assistance.

Transit: 9/10

In the early 1970s, some of the rail lines around Newcastle were consolidated into the Tyne & Wear Metro.  Combined with the bus service, transport around Newcastle, its suburbs, and Newcastle International Airport is frequent and efficient. Check out Wallsend station, which has many of its signs in Latin to commemorate the nearby remains of the Roman Fort Segedunum. I was less impressed with the Fort.


Personal Vibe: 9/10

Newcastle has a great feel. The people are friendly and seem relaxed. We got entertained with history and anecdotes wherever we went!


My Overall Rating:83% - my 33rd favourite city in the world. NB I give Edinburgh the same rating which will upset some people!

Look out for:

  1. Grainger Town the beautiful historic downtown core including Grey Street was voted as England’s finest street in 2005 including Grainger Markets
  2. The redeveloped restaurants and walkways on Quayside and the developments along the River Tyne
  3. Tynemouth Castle and Priory
  4. Chinatown Photo 2014-09-24 2 37 50
  5. St Nicholas Cathedral
  6. The coast -a short metro ride from downtown
  7. Great North Museum
  8. Discovery Museum
  9. Castle Keep
  10. The Sage



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Hiking Hadrians Wall – A walk across England

There are many crazy things I like to do in life. One is walking long distances! I have walked several long distance tracks in Australia, the UK and New Zealand now including the famed NZ Milford track. 

One of my goals was to walk the width of England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea following the path of Hadrian’s wall. 84 miles (140km) long.

hadrians-wall-path-map (1)

And I did it! It took seven days walking West to East.

Photo 2014-09-20 18 22 58

To back track, Hadrian’s Wall was built in the 2nd Century AD by the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrianto protect Roman Britain from “the Barbarians”. It took about 15,000 men six years to build. In places the wall was six metres (20 feet) high.   Today the wall stands fully intact in some sections and in others, there are just remnants. In some places, almost nothing remains of the wall except for some place names: Wallsend, Walton and Heddon on the Wall.

There are two ways to walk the wall:

  1. Walk with accommodation and schedule organised by a tour operator - you can walk individually or with a group
  2. Organise your own accommodation, transport, meals and baggage transfers

We looked at the various packages for the groups and concluded that we could organise it ourselves giving us more control for a lower cost. We were very happy with this decision. Every person, we met who had contracted the group programs was also very happy with their choice.

Using the internet, we planned out our daily route, then booked accommodation based on our final destination. We booked Hadrian’s Haul Baggage Service who collected our bags each morning and delivered them ready for us each afternoon. Great service. Along the way, we used the Hadrian Wall app and Henry Stedman’s book: Hadrian’s Wall Path (see clutched below).

Carrying the book along the whole route. Ignore the fake pouting!

Carrying the book along the whole route. Ignore the fake pouting!

Day One: Bowness on Solway to Carlisle (23km /14mile)

This walk took us from the coast to the city of Carlisle. It was very rural, very pretty and very quiet. We walked on the beach as much as we could and can recommend this diversion. One of the delights of the day was eating fresh berries from bushes along the path.

Photo 2014-09-17 0 20 06

At the very start of the walk

There was little of the actual wall to be seen on this day though some of the stones can be found in the walls of local churches and houses! Lunch was at the excellent Greyhound Inn in Burgh-By-Sands. We overnighted at the excellent IBIS Carlisle and explored this town.

Day Two: Carlisle to Irthington

A shorter leg today of “only” 16km (10 miles) with an overnight at the perfect Newtown Farm B and B. We began a slow climb reaching 100 metres above sea level. The route took us through small forests, farms and past an airport.

I feel like I am in the Lord of the Rings here.

I feel like I am in the Lord of the Rings here.


Day Three: Irthington to Gilsland (16km /10 miles)

Another “short stretch” in which we climbed to 150 metres above sea level (490 feet).  Along the way, we diverted to visit the amazing 700 year old Lanercost Priory (check out the tea rooms) and popped into Birdoswald Roman Fort. It was on this day that we started to see significant sections of the wall.   The delightful Brookside Villa Bed and Breakfast was waiting for us at the end. Delicious dinner and breakfast, superb shower and good bed!

Brookside Breakfast

Brookside Breakfast – apologies to the non pork eaters

Day Four: Gilsland-Once Brewed (13km/8 miles)

We really got into the wild country at this point. The route took us to 300 metres (984 feet) above sea level before dropping to 250 metres (820 feet). We had a look at the “Interesting” Roman Army Museum. For the evening, we crashed at one of the oldest youth hostels in England at Once Brewed. The hostel is about to be completely renovated which is a good thing. Why the place is called Once Brewed is fascinating.

Photo 2014-09-20 18 17 33

Day Five: Once Brewed-Chollerfield (19.5km/11 miles)

Lots of steep ascents and descents in the morning through stunning scenery. This was probably the most spectacular part of the whole walk. We were passed by a couple of Norwegians who were attempting to run the length of the wall.

Photo 2014-09-20 20 53 03

The undulations can be clearly seen

We sat for a while under the tree that appears in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.

Photo 2014-09-21 15 18 46

This is  a very wild and remote part of England.

Photo 2014-09-21 18 02 51

Our picnic lunch spot

After a hard morning’s walking because of  the hard of ups and downs,  we descended steadily 200 metres through the afternoon. Our last tourist visit was to the Chesters Roman Fort and Museum, the best-preserved Roman cavalry fort in Britain.

That night we ended up at the picturesque George Hotel, where we enjoyed the heated swimming pool, spa, dinner and comfy bed!


Day Six: Chollerfield-Heddon on the Wall (26km/16miles)

This was a huge day! In the morning, we climbed again- 200 metres. My calf muscles were protesting at this stage and if I could have, I would have gladly been hauled up some of the climbs. Stopping at St Oswalds Church in Heavenfield, a building so old, it still does not have electricity! That night we slept on a working farm: Houghton North Farm and ate roast dinner at an English pub: The Swan. The wall on this day basically vanished with a few sections here and there up to Heddon on the Wall.

Day Seven: Heddon on the Wall to Wallsend (24km/14miles)

The hardest day as were getting quite tired. We started well but as we got into Newcastle, we flagged a bit hampered by the first rains of the whole walk. It was great to finally finish the walk at the Roman museum Segundum. We explored the mouth of the river where the Tyne flows out into the North Sea. It was here, we reflected on this crazy fun adventure!

Over 140km from my starting point. Behind me is the North Sea.

Over 140km from my starting point. Behind me is the North Sea.

I am so glad I have fulfilled this crazy dream! This is now the second country I have walked across: Lichtenstein is the other-it is much smaller! What big adventure sits on your bucket list? When will you make it a reality?

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JetBlue have launched a series of Flight Etiquette tips for passengers. They are in the indomitable Jetblue style quite fun.

But which of the miscreants of the air will actually watch them though?

Episode one deals with Mr Sprawler. This episode I understand!

(Although why the woman trapped in the middle could not move to the window seat, I do not know?)

Episode Two deals with needing to go to the lavatory from the window seat. I found that one less useful. It starts with the woman drinking lots of fluids (which every airline recommends) and then needing the facilities but trapped in. Not sure what the take away is? Don’t drink too much? Don’t use the restroom? Fly business class if you are a frequent “goer”? Your thoughts?

What are your flight etiquette frustrations?

IMG_1196One of the things I most enjoy doing is sharing my travel tips for better,  less stressful travel. Over the last four years I have shared almost 100 tips for better travel.  Here are 93 of my travel tips grouped into eight categories:

  1. Planning
  2. Booking Travel
  3. Accommodation & Food
  4. Trip Preparation
  5. Packing
  6. Travelling
  7. Travel Problems
  8.  In Location

Any suggestions or requests welcomed.

1. Planning

  1. Stop Wishing and Do it- Life’s Bucket List
  2. Greener Travel Tips
  3. 20 Top Travel Tools
  4. My Essential Travel Apps for 2014
  5. Woofound Explore
  6. Where is this? Cool Tool
  7. Medical Tourism
  8. How far is it from? Great Tools
  9. The Man in Seat 61 – the best guide to riding trains across the globe -ever
  10. How I am carrying money


2. Booking Travel

  1. Getting cheap fares and deals fast-subscribe
  2. Be Date Flexible
  3. What the H*ll is this Code Sharing? 
  4. Getting my cheap fares
  5. Track Your Fare
  6. Main Airline Fees
  7. Get a decent seat
  8. Splitting Rail Journeys- Saving Money
  9. Pin Trips
  10. No Visa? No Entry?
  11. Fixing the Tricky Visa issues
  12. All about Renting a Car
  13. Get your Rent a Car Costs down
  14. Buy Attraction Tickets in Advance


3. Accommodation and Food Options

  1. Travel Tip: Mystery Rooms
  2.  Priceline
  3.  Wimdu and AirBnB
  4. : Don’t Overlook Youth Hostel Stays!20131014-220041.jpg
  5. Don’t let the Bedbugs bite
  6. Eating Street Food
  7. App for food finding
  8. App matches hosts & guests for meals


4. Trip Preparation

  1. Terrific Tripit
  2. Rethinking Hotel Clubs
  3. Car Rental Clubs
  4. Take Travel Insurance
  5. Travel insurance Rocks!
  6. When to use City and Museum passes
  7. Protecting Data & Identity On the Road
  8. Back up Your Documents
  9. Flying with Electronics- new rule & some tips
  10. iDotto Audio Guides
  11. Pre plan your way

5. Packing

  1. Travel Tip  Don’t Check in baggage
  2. Great Luggage App- Luggage Limits allows you to compare luggage between airlines on a particular route
  3. Photograph your luggage
  4. Seven Things not to pack
  5. How to Pack via YouTube
  6. Take a “Multi Plug”
  7. Ode to a Pen-a flying essential
  8. Considering Carry On
  9. Carry On Inconsiderates
  10. Travel Tip:  Take No Toiletries
  11. How many Shoes do you travel with?
  12. Test your wardrobe pre trip
  13. All about laptop travel
  14. Forgetting stuff


6. Travelling

  1. Travelling with Others (without tears)
  2. How I use plane safety briefings
  3. How to close an aircraft overhead compartment
  4. Airport Life Travel app
  5. All about Feet and Travel
  6.  Get to Know your currency
  7. Know Your Tipping
  8. Check your hotel clock
  9. Driving on the wrong side of the road -it may happen to you!
  10. Charge Electronics Constantly

7. Travel Problems

  1.  Don’t Stress
  2.  Treat People with Respect
  3. Trusting People
  4. The Fake Wallet
  5. Yell No
  6. Getting Stuck or Delayed
  7. Line Vigilance
  8. Nervous Flyers Relax 
  9. Stay Well En Route
  10. Credit Card Compatibility Fails
  11. Giving money to beggars – some answers to a difficult question
  12. Lessons from “The Embassy” -seeing others get into trouble gives us some tips


8. In Location

  1. How to say I love you in 50 Languages
  2. Replacing the Concierge?
  3. Travel Tip #Walk
  4. Walking Tours are the best
  5. What floor am I on?
  6. All about #Bargaining /Haggling
  7. Shopping while traveling- 7 tips
  8. I do not carry my passport- a controversial one
  9. Don’t carry a Money Belt-another controversial one. I stick by my advice!
  10. Avoiding damaging the sights/sites
  11. Tips for not spoiling places for others
  12. What to do with left over foreign coins? Some very helpful comments here


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My Top Travel Tips of 2014

Some people collect stamps, some build and race model cars and others garden. Me? I travel. And I blog. That is my hobby and that is how I see it. I enjoy sharing my world with my friends – and others.

Over the last year, I have become concerned, disappointed and distressed at what feels like an erosion of civility in social media. Just as we see teens bullying each other, so I see adults behaving disappointingly.

I welcome your comments. I want to know where I go wrong, what I can learn and what your perspective is. 

Last year one reader wrote “worst travel advice ever.” Really ? Why not just say “I disagree with your advice because….

Another told me I was a disrespectful person because of the way I wrote about something. Really? With respect sir, you do not know me. You do not know how much that accident profoundly impacted me.  He told me that “like most websites, I would probably block his comments“. That says something about this person. If you are blocked every time you comment, maybe it is less a conspiracy and more about your lack of civility.

Sadly we call such people “trolls”. They hide in the dark, waiting for one wrong footed mis spelling, or mis opinion and leap up ready to devour. Instead of engaging in civil discourse, they leave people maimed and smarting.


One friend got so distressed by the rampant onslaught of trolls, that he shut his blog down.

In a disagreement over beliefs, such trolls have told me that I am “stupid”, “ignorant” and “evil”. Really? Stand in front of a mirror. Would you really say that of someone you don’t know?

In being asked to cease writing lies, a stranger to me refused and asserted it was his right to write what he wanted about anyone even if it was lies. Really? Even when it is not true?

I see people being bullied on Twitter. Really?

Are we really at this pinnacle of technology finding our best use is to create anger, dissension and labels? I don’t see that as progress.

In 2015, I call a halt to this. As I said: “I welcome your comments. I want to know where I go wrong, what I can learn and what your perspective is. “

Social Media is meant to be social. Abuse me or other readers, then I will block you. Place a comment? Then be prepared to defend it it discuss it.

Happy to discuss. In the meantime, enjoy this:



Overall fewer carriers seemed to fail in 2014. For many airlines, it was  a much more profitable year. Of concern was how many of the carriers that collapsed were only flying for months.  I am tempted to call 2014 “the Year of the shortlived airline”.

Air One

Italy: 23 November, 1995 to 30 October, 2014

Fleet: 10


Alitalia’s low cost subsidiary never quite made sense. Following the takeover of Alitalia by Etihad, Air One was shut down.



USA: 26 October, 1993 to 28 December, 2014

Fleet: 138

Destinations:  72 (at peak)

On 28 December, 2014, AirTran flight 1 departed Atlanta for Tampa. This flight retraced the very first flight the airline flew under the brandname Valujet back in 1993. Of course, Valujet had a horrific crash in 1996 and was grounded for poor safety practices. The airline merged with smaller carrier AirTran Airways, became an almost entirely B717 airline and managed in 2000 to be awarded the best maintenance award by the FAA.

I loved flying AirTran- I traveled with them 17 times. I was very sad to see it taken over by Southwest (who I also enjoy flying with) and phased out over the last three years. Their slogan was: Go. There’s nothing stopping you. No there is something stopping me! :(



Air Uganda

Uganda: 2007 to 17 July 2014

Fleet: 3

Destinations: 6

Air Uganda was a private airline that was considered to be the country’s flag carrier.  It was started with funds funds from the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development.The government were considering a stake in 2013. In June 2014, Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority  failed an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety audit. The CAA as a result had to withdraw all operating licenses. Without a licence, Air Uganda had to cease flying. Its European lessors then recalled their aircraft.



Russia: 4 October 2013 to 3 August 2014

Fleet: 3

Destinations: 9

In 2013, Aeroflot announced the formation of a new low cost subsidiary. The aim was for the carrier to grow from 8 cities in 2014 to 26 in 2016. The airline was impacted by EU Sanctions and ceased operating. Aeroflot have registered a new Low Cost carrier called in English: Budget Carrier.


FlyOlympic 1 February 2014 to 29 July 2014

Fleet: 1

Destinations: 8

Fly Olympic  flew from Stockhom and Gothenburg to some eclectic destinations: Asmara (Eritrea), Baghdad, Erbil, London Gatwick Mogadishu, Mykonos,  Santorini and Sulaymaniyah. I am not sure of the logic of flying London-Sweden-Africa. UK consumers found their tickets were worthless as the airline was not covered by any travel bond schemes.

Greenland Express June 1, 2014 to September 18, 2014

Fleet: 1

Destinations: 5


Three months after starting, the carrier was grounded. Flying a Fokker from Copenhagen to Greenland via Iceland does not appeal to me! I don’t think it appealed to Greenlanders who could fly the existing carrier Air Greenland’s  widebody A332.

go! Airlines

goLogoSmall (1)

The arrival of Phoenix-based Mesa Air Groupinto Hawaii in 2007 trading as go!  resulted in a fare war, intense battling, legal action and very personal attacks. Their leaving seven years later was not overly mourned.


People Express

USA: June, 2014 to 26 September, 2014

Fleet: 2

Destinations: 9

I feel vindicated by this one. Accused of negativity because I did not think the business plan was viable, I can sadly say “I told you so”.

Their slogan was “Time to fly smart”. Sadly, the operators were outsmarted, after having both planes damaged. The airline suspended operations owing everyone money including Newport News airport which had advanced them money as an inducement.  They still say they are coming back. Uh Uh.

RAK Airways

RAK Airways logo.pngUAE: 2006-2009/2010-1 January, 2014

Fleet: 2

Destinations: 11

RAK snuck in as the first closure of 2014. To explain  RAK let me give some context. The United Arab Emirates is made up of seven emirates. Two of the emirates: Dubai and Abu Dhabi have successful international airlines: Emirates and Etihad respectively. Another of the emirates Sharjah has a smaller low cost carrier Air Arabia. Another state Ras al-Khaimah has been focussed on tourism development which has included the opening of its own airline: RAK. The airline failed in 2009 and was reborn a year later as a low cost carrier.


Tigerair Mandala

Indonesia: 1969 to 2011/2012 to 1 July 2014

Fleet: 13

Destinations: 11

Mandala, originally a military owned airline had four incarnations in its history. Its last one was as tigerair. Its shareholders, one of which was Tigerair Singapore ceased funding the company leading to its immediate closure.



Valuair logo.jpg

Singapore:   5 May, 2004 to 26 October 2014

Fleet: 19

Destinations: 5

Valuair was launched as a no frills carrier with frills such as free luggage and 32″ seat pitch! Taken over by Jetstar Asia Airways in 2005, the brand name was retained for Jetstar Asia’s scheduled services to major cities in Indonesia until October 2014.


World/North American

Primarily charter airlines,World Airways did operate loss making scheduled international and domestic passenger services in the 1980s. World airways planes featured in some TV shows movies in the 1970s and 1980s.


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Not People’s Express…Puh lease

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No visit is complete without the little mermaid!

In 2014, I was lucky enough to visit my sixtieth country

Copenhagen is the 183rd city with a population of over 100,000 I have visited in my 50 years! Flew into Copenhagen with Finnair (see Tuesday’s post), zipped through the very easy arrival procedures as were already in the Schengen zone, found the metro, bought a pass and were heading into the downtown in minutes. Oh, if arrival at so many cities was this easy.

Photo 2014-09-15 21 55 17

Church of Our Saviour. We tried to climb it but it was always closed due to high winds


Asthetics: 9/10

How many cities in the world, have a harbour that is clean enough to swim in?  The harbour and equally clean canal system is one of the most beautiful aspects of the city. The people use both to the fullest extent. We saw swimmers, kayakers, and sail boats along with the ducks and swans. Highly recommend the harbour ferry service and the canal boat tours.

Photo 2014-09-15 15 33 08

Author riding on the harbour

The city has some lovely historic architecture and some very interesting new buildings.

IMG_2890Remarkably, the new and the old do not seem to clash. We did a walking tour which helped us appreciate so much of the town.

Photo 2014-09-15 20 33 09

Livaility: 7/10

Monocle have rated Copenhagen as the most liveable city in the world for 2013 and 2014, a fact locals are very proud about. As noted above, Monocle suggests that Copenhagen balances development and history well. This video shows the qualities of Copenhagen and how Monocle rates the cities it chooses as cities with great quality of life.

I judged it to be the seventh most liveable city I have visited! It is a great city to live in and a very easy city to visit but for two reasons!:

  1. The weather
  2. The cost of living.

1. Only four months of the year have a top temperature over 15 degrees celsius (59F) with one month where it reaches 20 celsius (68F) and winter temperatures sit between minus 2 and 5 (23 to 25F).

2. Denmark has a 25% Value added Sales tax which pushes prices up considerably. We found restaurants, almost all food, public transport, taxis and personal care items cost much more than in other cities. Milk, yoghurt, cheeses were cheaper than at home as were some berries and apples. A four star hotel room costs between $160 and $280 a night.

We chose to stay at an apartment through airbnb. This allowed us to have breakfast in the apartment, make our own lunches, do laundry and prepare dinner. This helped us to save quite a deal of money. Netto supermarkets are the cheapest but Irma have a better range. We found some all you can eat smorgasbords which helped too!  Alcohol costs a fortune!


Culture: 9/10

A key word in Danish culture is hygge (sounds a bit like ‘hoogaly’) which roughly translates to cosy well being, or nice warm atmosphere. Danes are very focussed on  enjoying the good things in life with good friends around them. Danes are ranked the happiest people in the world and it felt like that wherever we went!

Copenhagen has one of the oldest amusement parks in the world (The Tivoli) which has been providing shows, restaurant experiences, fireworks and concerts since 1843. Their roller coaster is 100 years old! The gardens do not feel dated or crumbling and one imbibes a festive atmosphere immediately. Walt Disney reputedly hoped Disneyland would emulate this feel. The Gardens are included in the Copenhagen Card which makes is a very cost effective way of accessing them.

The city is chock full of art, theatre, museums, design and galleries. There are lovely parks scattered around. We loved the Royal residences Amaliehaven (Royal Gardens). The Jewish museum was a sombre reminder that Denmark was one of the only European countries that managed to protect their Jewish population from extermination.The National Museum was free and taught us so much about Denmark. I think it could be assisted to be a little more interesting in the way it displays exhibits. Kids will get bored in some sections!

Check out, Torvehallerne, a food market with an amazing array (60 stores) of fresh food and meal choices. We found this to be a cost effective way of eating and its not far from a Metro station.

Photo 2014-09-15 18 11 59

We loved Joe and the Juice for sandwiches, juices and coffees. Danish coffee house Baresso must be visited especially for their amazing hot chocolates! The middle spoon is pure chocolate!



Crime: 10/10

Copenhagen is one of the safest cities in one of the most peaceful countries on the planet. We felt no fear walking around. We found on the weekends, a lot of very drunk teens but they did not seem to cause too much trouble. (To buy alcohol you need to be 16 or 18 at a club but there is no minimum age to drink alcohol).

We visited Freetown Christiania which operates as a semi autonomous part of the city. They claim to be independent from EU laws. Marijuanah is sold and smoked openly here (we did not partake) but harder drugs are not welcome. Photo 2014-09-15 22 59 31


Transit: 7/10

Copenhagen is a city dominated by bicycles! The roads are full of bikes and they are also stacked up in crowded bike parks everywhere! Be careful not to step into a bike path! IMG_2941

The city’s first bicycle path was established in 1892 and today 36% of all citizens in Copenhagen travel work, school or university by bicycle. I think they are going to need to sort out the bike parking situation if they want to ensure that  Copenhagen is the “world’s best city to cycle in“. Transport authorities are working to make 50% of all journeys in the city by bike.

There are also an estimated 130 bicycle taxis in the city. Bikes can be rented quite cheaply. The wearing of bike helmets seemed an exception rather than a rule.

Copenhagen was late building a metro but now a two line system operates  every few minutes. Many locals were contemptuous of it for not taking them where they wanted to go but we found the system safe, clean and well patronised day and night. As mentioned, we found it the best way to and from the airport. Buses, ferries and regional trains provide links across the city. There are passes which are the most effective ways of travel for the cost of public transport is very high. We did see ticket inspectors on the metro.


Copenhagen Central Station


Vibe: 9/10

Whether is the hygge or the happiness of Danes, we found the city has a great vibe for all ages. Its a city for kids, teens, young adults and us oldies!


The Verdict

Overall I rate Copenhagen at 84%. This puts the city at 24 on my top 183 city list! It would be higher if it was not so expensive to visit! By comparison with other Scandanavian cities,  I put Stockholm, Sweden at 7th place with 89% and Reykjavik, Iceland at 16th with 86%. Thank you to everyone who gave me advice about the city. It was very useful. I want to go back which is always a good thing!

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One does not associate fog with the desert kingdom of Abu Dhabi. Last weekend, chaos hit the capital when fog blanketed it for hours.  There was a 19-car pile-up on  on Saturday morning which left three people injured. The airport saw 20 flights cancelled and thousands of passengers stranded.


One flight EY183 to San Francisco sat on the tarmac for 12 hours before its 16 hour journey! In other words, passengers sat inside that metal tube for 28 hours.Another,  EY023 to Dusseldorf, Germany was kept on the tarmac for 13 hours.  It was then forced to make an emergency landing in Vienna when a 73-year-old male passenger died mid-flight. The plane finally landed in Dusseldorf 30 hours after its scheduled arrival time.

The airline commented “During the time on the ground, awaiting permission to takeoff, Etihad Airways provided passengers with refreshments and information about the reasons for the delay.”

Passengers were told that the airport was too crowded with other stranded flights to allow them to get off the plane to wait. Surely, they could have found a way around this so they could de-plane the passengers? The USA has a four hour rule. European Union have a compensation policy  which provides up to €600 to passengers whose flights have been cancelled or delayed.

Etihad has promised to review its procedures: “We are to review our policies on the length of time aircraft can remain on the ground, with passengers aboard, while waiting for a takeoff slot.”

In the meantime, be warned about flying through Abu Dhabi.


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I have never booked a flight to HEL before!

Re-assuredly, I was also able to book flights out of HELsinki, the capital of Finland quite easily. I was bemused that one of  my flights was AY 666 (Biblical number of evil) from Copenhangen to HEL. None of the crew or passengers were sprouting horns and the only non human creatures we encountered were popular Finnish Comic Moomin family products which the airline was selling on board.

Old Finnair DC 10 with Moomin colours

Old Finnair DC 10 with Moomin characters

Of the 15 One World member airlines, I have now flown 11 of them (and two ex members!) for about 1.1 million kilometres ( 700 000 miles) on every continent from Australia to Zimbabwe, Aberdeen to Zurich and several spots in between!

Somehow, Finnair had eluded me. The fifth oldest airline in the world, it has had planes in the air (with various logos) since 1923 covering Europe, Asia and three cities in the USA.

In 2014, I flew Finnair four times, two short haul within Europe and two long haul between Asia and Europe. We flew in all three classes:

  1. Business- all planes are converting to flat beds but be warned some of the older planes not there yet, amenity kit, headphones
  2. Economy Comfort- 34″ to 35″ legroom, quality headphones, priority boarding and fast exit
  3. Economy- 31″ to 32″ legroom

For the price, I would highly encourage booking in Economy Comfort on the long haul sectors if you do not want to fork out for business. Those extra inches do make a difference! I am also glad we went for the exit seats on the European sectors.

Booking: 9/10

Finnair have been marketing heavily their connections between Europe and Asia. With good connections in Helsinki, a traveller can shave off three to four hours on a journey from Asia to Europe compared to going through Dubai, Doha, London and even Moscow or Zurich.’s booking process takes eight steps. It is visually generally clear in presenting all of the different fare and flight options. It was also easy to back track and make changes. I ended up finding the same fares on Skyscanner for several hundred dollars less and booked through an on-line travel agent.

Finnair charges for advance seating. It makes exceptions for Full fare economy, Business Class, and high status Frequent Flyers. We arranged our seats through the efficient call centre as Sapphire and Emerald passengers from other One World airlines cannot choose seats online without the fee.


Check in: 9/10

Finnair opens on line check in 36 hours before departure. At this time, there are no charges for seats.  On line check in was sporadic. It worked for two of our flights and not for the other two. There was no logic or explanation to this.

Face to face, check in was very friendly, very welcoming and very efficient at all airports.

There are self service kiosks at many airports in Europe that you can use to check in. The ones in Helsinki, Oulu and Stockholm will print bag tags. They did not appear to be extensively used and could be a faster option for airport check in.


Lounge: 7/10

Finnair use a mix of lounges so we found ourselves in a generic lounge run by an airport lounge operators, a One World partner lounge and Finnair’s own lounges. The result was a very inconsistent product.

The Helsinki International lounge which was renovated in mid 2014 is, as you would expect, top class. It even boasts its own sauna (clothing required) which I did not get to sample due to our short connection times! Food and drink selection were excellent. My only criticism is that the space felt very claustrophobic and crowded.

No lounges were worth the 48 Euro fee, Finnair charges for casual users (which we did not pay).


Boarding: 8/10

We got priority boarding on all sectors, so we were spared the worst of the scrum! Helsinki seemed particularly chaotic with a lot of people crowded into the gate area.

Photo 2014-09-12 8 40 07

Cabin crew were very welcoming. On Asian sectors, a Finnish and “local” staff member were at the doors so you got a welcome in English, Finnish or the local language. The Cabin crew were astounding on all sectors. They were friendly, energetic and helpful on all of our flights.The airline works them hard.

On the Asian long haul flights,  the crews are split 50/5o between Asian crews and Finnish staff. The Asian staff are paid less than a third of the rate of the Finish staff.  I noticed that the two staff groups did not socialise with the other, staying within their national groups.

Passengers on the Asian flights were a 60/40 mixture of Europeans fleeing winter for the beaches and shops of Asia and Asian nationals travelling to Europe for business or work. The flight out of  Bangkok had many exhausted Finns many nursing fresh tattoos, burnt skin and hangovers who slept for most of the flight!


On board: 8/10

Finnair use rather dated Airbus 330s and 340s on their long haul sectors and 319, 320 and 321s on short haul.  A350s are coming in the third quarter of 2015.

Photo 2014-09-12 8 50 11

I found the colour scheme on board a little confusing. The airline’s colours are blue and white which is reflected in the cabin but they used a green and white theme on board craft with pillows, and duvets (quilts). Every  long haul economy seat has a small pillow and blanket. In Business and Economy Comfort, we got a very nice duvet/quilt and pillow.

Business class passengers were given a very miniature cardboard eco friendly amenity kit along with menu (see below).  It felt cheap.

A “New amenity kit with high-quality brand products” is currently being introduced to Finnair and will have to be an improvement on the current non-event. The new amenity kits are also being offered to Economy Comfort passengers. There were additional supplies in the business class lavatory such as razors and toothbrushes which economy comfort passengers had access to. I am still using the toothbrush in my travel bag!



Dated Business Class but comfortable



Finnair have had  no fatal or hull-loss accidents since 1963 and is  ranked one of the safest airlines in the world. Briefing was conducted in English (not Finnish). In fact, we rarely heard Finnish on board. Cabin crew were strict about safety and checked passenger seat belts and insisted on putting laptops away in storage.


Meals: 6/10

Finnair meals were disappointing in quality, quantity and presentation-  in all classes.

On the long haul flights, a meal is served after take off and a light meal before landing. Economy passengers are given a choice of two main meals and in Business, there are three. Business Class meals can be pre ordered.

For Economy and Economy Comfort, there are no free snacks provided mid flight. You have to purchase chips, fruit and peanuts which Business Class customers can help themselves to. On short haul, there are options to buy food on sectors of two hours plus. Bring your own snacks is my advice!


Long Haul Economy Meal

The airline’s alcohol policy is a little confusing. On flights to all destinations except North America and Thailand, beer and wine are all served free of charge and other alcoholic beverages are available for purchase. On North America and Thailand bound flights beer and wine were only available during meals. If you wanted more, then you had to pay for them. This illogical penny pinching left a sour taste in my mouth!

You can order a bottle of champagne  (42.90 Eruos) or box of Godiva chocolates to celebrate an occasion mid air!


Photo 2014-09-30 23 19 36

Business Long Haul Meal


Entertainment system: 4/10

It would be fair to say that the Finnair system on international flights comes a distant last when compared with almost any of their major competitors between Europe and Asia . The system itself was clunky (I kept trying to touch the screen to change channels to no avail!), the screens  are small and the selection very limited.  A couple of episodes of a few TV shows and a lot of older movies.  I know things will be much improved with the A350s next year but it means if on board entertainment is a priority, Finnair will disappoint. Suffice to say, I finished a book on both long haul flights.

They provided an excellent range of Finnish and European papers in Economy Comfort and Business. I am not sure about Economy.

On short haul, there was only a main screen.

The feature that I most loved, is the camera mounted on the front of the aeroplane, which allowed me to watch take off and landing.


Finnair Business Class Screens

Finnair does not yet offer WiFi. They have promised it as standard on their new Airbus A350s which will be delivered form next year. Interestingly, their competitor Norwegian who fly the 787 from Bangkok to Scandinavia offer WiFi for free.

Finnair would have to be the most aggressive airline I have ever seen with their on board shopping. They made Korean, Ryanair and Air Asia who seem to spend most of their flights selling, look like they were standing still! On the long haul flights, the duty free trolley passed the aisles twice and we had three announcements about options and purchases.


De-Planing: 10/10

European efficiency was at work on all flights into HEL with connecting gates clearly announced and explained. Staff were very friendly on plane departure wishing us all a good day. I walked off all flights feeling I was a valued guest.


Transit at Helsinki

On through flights, Finnair offer what appear to be fairly tight connections. The system works. The airport is small, customs and immigration relatively efficient and the airline holds flights to ensure connections.

When there, look for the Book Exchange in the Schengen part of the airport. Its a great idea. I left and took a book!


The Verdict

My Flight Rating: Overall 76% (3.8 out of 5).

Skytrax: Finnair has a 4 star rating from Skytrax – which I think is a little generous when compared to 4star Emirates or LAN. Skytrax customers rate them at 65%.

Positives: Staff friendliness, good connections at Helsinki, shortest journey times between Europe and Asia,
Negatives: Entertainment, meals
Would I fly them again? Yes, especially between Asia and Europe. Their option works.  It will be interesting to see their future.  The Finnish government owns more than half of the airline but have considered selling its share to under 50%. They face stiff competition from the Middle Eastern airlines and discount operator Norwegian is starting to encroach on their space.

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