Thursday, August 13, 2009

Air Travel Sucks! Trains Rule!

Why air travel sucks:
  • Airports are damned far away. Planes are noisy and so usually outside or far from cities. So travel by car, metro/subway, bicycle... takes time, especially during the morning rush hour (I just missed an 8:50am flight even though I started 2 hours earlier from home [which means I woke up at 6am]- so I shall complain!).
  • You have to arrive atleast 40 minutes in advance or they will not issue you a boarding pass because you may not clear security in time. (once they give you a boarding pass they have to wait a few minutes past departure time if you don't board - I believe).
  • Severe restrictions in the number and size of luggage. (I sometimes have 2-3 laptops and you will hate me when you're behind me in the line. I know of someone who flys every week and has a metal plate in his knee/jaw/somewhere... he has spent more time flapping his arms in a single year than a normal human does in their lifetime).
  • The security rules on what you can/cannot bring are always changing or are different in every country/airport so even seasoned travelers can be caught off guard. Take your shoes off, don't take 'em off; no lighters, but matches are ok; remove belts, don't remove belts; only 1 carry on allowed, including purses & laptop bags (come on Luton... you can't be serious), or $25-50 for an extra bag (go to a different queue to pay for that if you didn't in advance - 'thanks Easyjet, you make it real easy')... I am almost in favor of the full body scanners where they can see everything over/under your clothes/skin/bones. There is little privacy anywhere, everybody's beach photo's are online, young people wear skimpy clothes anyway... 'why so serious' about this?
  • Road warrior, not! Plus a lot of passengers are casual travelers so they don't know the rules and at 7am in the morning everyone is going to be stupid . 'madam, take your jacket off'; Lady: 'huh?'; 'put the toiletries in a clear x ounce bag' (I really pity the guy/gal who has to repeat this a 1000 times everyday and still be vigilant); 'put your laptop in the tray, put the shoes separately'; 'don't put the jacket on top'...
  • For a 1 hour flight, here's the total time spent: 1 hour of driving to airport + 1 hour in checkin/security + 1 hour flight duration + 30 mins to collect bags + 1 hour driving away from airport = 4.5 hours. Talk about efficiency!
  • Congested seating... its not that airlines are now like buses, they are worse! If you are a premier/gold member (thank you Austin Powers)... you get 5 extra inches! or pay $50 for that privilege. 3rd class has just been re-introduced!
  • Germ factories... 100's of people in a confined space: breathing, sneezing, touching, kissing... for hours. Have fun CDC! (and perhaps Joe Biden was right atleast about airplanes... hard to stand those who put on no deodorant and those who put on 2 liters of their favorite eau de toilette - just do the literal translation)
  • Crappy service. Budget airlines have proliferated and lowered the rates and services. So for business travelers at small to medium companies (which have way more employees than the F500 biggies) there is no choice... since everyone is trying to save, the dept admin will book your travel on the cheapest one. And crews at budget or traditional airlines, with some exceptions, are just tired of unruly/rude passengers, nearing retirement, hate their job, dream of days gone by...
  • "Please switch off your electronic devices... we are going to take off/on/up/down/sideways...". Has any of this been proven with scientific testing... or we've decided to just bore everyone? Shutting down communications is welcome (during the entire flight), but why can't I listen to my iPod, watch video or read my Kindle ebook or write an email (offline)?
  • Disgusting food or whatever it is. Almost everyone has no free food (fine, no problem), but the ones that sell you food... what am I paying for? (Air Canada sells 6" Subway sandwiches for $5. When someone opens a 2 hour old sandwich like that... there are going to be sick people).
  • I've got plenty more... but am preserving my fingers for the next section.
Why trains (like in Europe and parts of east coast US?) are awesome!
  • Show up 5 minutes before departure! Yeah, it only saves 55 minutes in the morning... but at that time of the day every second counts.
  • The train station is in the city and connected to the local train/subway station! Sweet! Takes only 30-40 minutes to get there. They have a park-n-ride or bike stand (good luck at the airport) and other options as well.
  • Full-sized bathroom!
  • Cafeteria/bistro/dining car! Wow... decent food, real espresso... freedom of movement!
  • No body searches you! And nobody needs to see what toiletries you you use.
  • Bring as much luggage as you can lift/push around! Nobody's stopping you.
  • Walk around... jump around, sleep... play music, whatever you like!
  • Stretch your legs in a real human sized seat!
  • If the train is late: just sit around & relax, eat a banana, read a book... (If a plane is late you sit on the floor near the gate with a million people cursing or worse on a cramped airplane).
  • I could go on... but this is a first draft.
Anyone else with opinions on this?
Someday when I have more time to waste than this post... I'd like to survey which one of the above is the most hated thing about air travel. I can't blame Michael O'Leary for trying to run a profitable business, but no thanks... ('yeah, Mr. Expense Report Checker... that's 50 cents for 1 visit to the loo', 'What? You want a receipt?' BTW: lots of train stations in Europe charge for using the loo) I don't object to flying his particular airline or any particular company mentioned in this post/rant or even charging for toilets (just put it on my tab when I buy the beer). I just object to flying until they fix this mess (and please bag OBL meanwhile, someone).

Anyway, this is more of a rant than a blog post. But it's time someone fixed this mess.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paris + WiFi = Free

Here's the Google Map of all the 260+ accesspoints:
(And the above website has loads of information on what else to do in Paris, with some information available in the English version of the website as well).

And here's how to signon :

Ok, if you needed help with that... here's the Google Translate output on the useful part:
1. Identify signage Paris Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi logo Paris
This indicates that you are in the area (of) an oasis Paris Wi-Fi
2. Turn on your Wi-Fi equipment
3. Select the Orange network.
4. Start your regular internet browser and type any website address (eg
5. Select your pass Paris wi-fi 2h offered by the City of Paris and the Ile de France
6. Now you can surf freely on the Internet, send and receive emails, and all this without needing to be connected in any way!