Here are some random thoughts on air travel from my last few weeks.
US travel is much much easier than it used to be. In the years immediately post-9/11, it was such a hassle to go anywhere. Despite the fact that we still have to take off our shoes and put liquids into ridiculous transparent bags, it’s much less hassle than it was.
Ubiquitous free wifi is still a distant dream. It makes sense to offer it as it’s a differentiator, it’s a fairly cheap thing to provide, companies and advertisers can sponsor it, etc. If Samsung and others can set up recharging stations for laptops in many airports, can free wifi be far behind? As I already wrote, I’d choose an airline offering free wifi – even if their tickets are more expensive. Probably dumb, but true.
One on flight (US Air, I think) I pulled down my tray table to see a full-tray advertisement. Never seen that before. The ad was for Sony noise-canceling headphones.
In 2002/3/4 I was Gold on Delta. Even so, I never used their lounges. I still have the Gold membership card and I used it to check-in in Chicago. The woman didn’t look at it, but handed me a invitation to the Air France lounge. So I went in. There’s “free” everything (though not wifi): sandwiches, wine, beer, champagne, newspapers, coffee, etc. Lots of business types. Meanwhile on the other side of the wall the regular punters are sitting in discomfort surrounded by super expensive and bad quality crap food offerings. The frequent flyers board calmly straight from the lounge, first of course.
Esther, who has about 10 million miles with various airlines, told me that in Frankfurt she gets taken to an entirely separate Lufthansa building. From there the “senators” are driven to the plane in a Porsche.
I hate taking Air France through Paris. They’re always a risk – I’ve been hit by strikes about 3 times, had to stay overnight in Paris (far less attractive than it may sound when you’re bussed late at night, after waiting for hours to get things sorted, to the cheapest economy hotel as close to CDG as possible), they’ve lost my bags (temporarily) a few times, etc. BUT, the meal last night out of Chicago was really excellent.
Terminal 2F at CDG is full of ridiculously expensive stores. It’s nuts. I did once buy a watch in one of them, back when I was spending way too much time in airports and I had taken to buying cheap watches in them for some reason. The watch shop in terminal 2F has extremely expensive watches. There are dozens of models for around €3,000. I saw one for €9,950. How many of them would they sell a year? It couldn’t be too many. If you’re going to spend that much on a watch, would you just pick one up at CDG? Or do a little more work and get it elsewhere? I guess if you’re that rich it may not matter to you. And there are plenty of other insanely expensive stores there too, with Hermès scarves, Mont Blanc pens, etc. It feels somehow wrong – I mean economically wrong, as though much more money could be extracted from travelers if they weren’t all selling outrageously expensive stuff.
In the waiting area at CDG for the flight to Barcelona I sat next to an American family. The son was saying how the flight from Paris would go West to get to Barcelona. The father corrected him, saying it went South, and then corrected himself saying it was actually South-East. I guess that’s not too remarkable – I’ve probably been on many flights where I couldn’t have correctly given the direction accurately – but it did make me smile. The conclusion of the conversation had the whole family believing something wrong, just because the father figure had stated it categorically, and then made a correction to make his claim even more precise and authoritative. The act of refining his opinion seemed to the family to lend extra weight to his claim – it wasn’t just South, it was South-East – while simultaneously revealing to others that he didn’t really know.
It still takes bags half an hour to emerge in Barcelona. Vegas is about the same, perhaps with more of an excuse.
I had about a 5 hour delay going in to Vegas. We got in at about 2 in the morning. Outside with my bags there was a queue of about 1000 people waiting for taxis. No kidding. It went back and forth about 4 or 5 times out the front of the terminal, running the whole length of the building. But it was well organized and moved fast. Still, a bit daunting. It was raining but not too cold, and we were covered.
It was about -17C overnight in Chicago on Wednesday. I shoveled snow a few times, for the first time in a long long time. I used to do it for fun in Canada, and do my neighbor’s driveway as well, to their amazement.
The Van Galder bus service out of O’Hare is pretty good. Efficient, not crowded, reasonably priced, easy to find/use etc.
I hired a car from Fox rental cars in Oakland. $16/day for a PT Cruiser. Hard to beat. No GPS though. I’m going to rent a car with GPS next time I do something like that. I made about 5 driving trips with multiple Firefox tabs open on my laptop showing Google maps.
Well, enough for now. I’m very happy to be back in Barcelona. I could live here forever.