Mobile Phones are the new Cigarettes

Well, I certainly have an opinion about how addictive mobile phones have became, but this post isn’t about that. This is about how, at least in the air, mobile phones became the cigarettes. Sort of.

For years, I have heard cabin crews around the world saying “This is a no smoking flight” and then this little light above my seat will turn on. 

 

No Smoking, please!

 
Surprised I was during my last flight when instead of the old, reliable “No Smoking” light, I found a new one.
 

But I want to use Facebook!

 

With the (awesome!) changes in air travel policies allowing people to use mobile devices during take off and landing, it makes sense to have a sign to ask the passengers to turn those off when needed, right? I just never thought it will take the same place that cigarettes had for so long. 🙂

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Modern entertainment on board of Old planes? Someone made it happen 

These days, we are used to wait until we can board a modern plane to be able to enjoy modern entertainment. Not only that, many planes used on short-haul flights have no entertainment system at all.

However, many passengers travel with their own entertainment systems, in the form of smartphones and tablets, all of them wifi-ready (of course, this is the year 2016!)

Someone, somewhere, thought about how to offer modern entertainment aboard old planes without investing tons of money in a very expensive upgrade. These are the ingredients they used:

  • WIFI network (without Internet access)
  • Media server with dozens of movies and TV shows connected to the WIFI network
  • An app available for both Android and iPhone devices (that you must install before boarding the flight)
  • The personal device (tablet, smartphone) the passenger is carrying with him or her

Voila! BYOD (Bring your own Device) applied to on-flight entertainment! A very simple setup that enables airlines to provide up-to-date entertainment in old planes used for short-haul flights using the devices that every passenger carries with him/her.

You would imagine I saw this in an American or European carrier, wouldn’t you? Not at all. It was a Latinamerican carrier, LAN from Chile, in a flight between Buenos Aires and Iguazu. Check it out.

Amazing! Congratulations to the person that designed and implemented this!

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Flying is about the little things

Flying with kids is a nightmare, that’s well known, not only by the kids’ parents but also by those that are going to be sharing the flight with them. Well… That came out a little dramatic. To be honest, it’s not a nightmare but it’s definitely not pleasant.

So, when you encounter airports and airlines thinking about how to improve the experience of those traveling with (or nearby) kids, it’s good to recognize it. Many airports are creating kids’ playgrounds, for instance, to make the wait more joyful for the kids and easy for the parents. However, that’s not what I want to write today about.

One part of the traveling experience that’s more difficult with kids, especially with small ones, is the security checkpoint. Starting from the fact that you are probably traveling with twice the amount of carry-on luggage when with your kids, plus the baby stroller, plus the baby milk and food, and continuing with the funny situation when your 18-months old child is walking alone through the metal detector. Precious moments happen during that time.

And imagine how it’s after, when you need to pack everything again and preventing your kid from running away. Beautiful!

Barcelona-El Prat thought about how difficult the security checkpoint is for the parents and the kids so they added a little crib at the end of it so you can put your kid there while you pack everything again or if you are required to have a longer security check.


Well done Barcelona! It’s a simple thing but makes a big difference so you don’t need to run around trying to catch your kid and packing all the baby food back into your bags after the security check. More airports and airlines need to think about things like this because the flying experience, like life, it’s about the little things.

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“That’s a nice keyboard, sir”

We all know that there’s quite a paranoia about air travel safety, especially since 9/11. Some of the new measures introduced after that horrible incident make a lot of sense but others feel like theater, moreover if the security staff don’t take it seriously enough.

Last time I flew to Athens, I was stopped and asked to open my laptop after my luggage went through the security scan. It wasn’t a surprise to me because that happened to me in the past in other airports. The idea is to make you turn on your laptop, to see if it’s a real computer that works or a bunch of circuits that someone is trying to sneak through security for some, possibly, not-so-good reasons.

However, in this case, it seems that the security staff just wanted to see how pretty my keyboard was because not only he didn’t even ask me to turn the laptop on, but he didn’t even care to check the screen or anything at all. He just asked me to open it and that’s it. With staff like that, one wonders how many things happen to pass the security checks that shouldn’t do it at all.

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TIP: Connecting from Terminal 5B to Terminal 3 (Heathrow)

During this year I had connected many times at Heathrow Airport in London. In most of those cases, I was traveling with British Airways. Connecting in Heathrow always takes time, especially when you are changing Terminals so saving as little as 10 minutes in your connection might make the difference between catching your next flight or losing it.

Whenever you are connecting in this airport, you need to follow the signs that say Flight Connections.


If you are arriving to Terminal 5, it’s important for you to know that it actually has 3 sub-terminals A, B and C; the last two are not connected to the main building so you need to use an underground train to get to the main distribution area. From there, you usually need to take an internal bus to get to the next terminal.

However, there’s a little trick that will save you time, and it’s not that obvious to everybody. When you are arriving to terminal 5B or 5C, you have two options to get to the underground train: taking the elevators or the escalators. If you take the first option, you will reach the underground station directly, but if you choose to use the escalators, you will need to go through another level before getting to the station… and there’s the trick.

Taking the escalators will allow you to reach an area where the internal buses stop for passengers connecting to other terminals. Most travelers don’t know that so they go straight to the elevators and lose around 10/15 more minutes; if you take the escalators, you will see a bus stop area that will connect you to the other terminals without you needing to get to the main Terminal 5 building. Taking the bus directly in the Terminal 5B area save me a lot of time when I was there last weekend, almost 20 minutes compared to previous connections I made in Heathrow.


So, next time you are connecting in Heathrow and you arrive to Terminal 5B or Terminal 5C, don’t use the elevators; use the escalators to the intermediate level, go to the bus stops area and enjoy your extra 20 minutes. 😉

[Images courtesy of Heathrow official website & essential travel.co.uk]

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Rules of Argentinian Street “Futbol”

Pelota I don’t know what you do when you are waiting for a plane. I usually work, read, but also check internet sites and social networks. Some days ago, I was in the lounge, waiting for a plane, and someone posted the rules of argentinian street football (that thing the “americans” call soccer and the argentinians call “futbol”). It was funny to remember how I used to play that way, so I took the liberty to translate those rules into english so people can learn more about the argentinian culture through one of our favorite sports.

  • The Fat guy is always the goalkeeper
  • If there’s no Fat guy, goalkeeper changes with every goal, but the most “boludo” ends up being the goalkeeper
  • If there’s a penalty, the goalkeeper changes from the Fat guy to a good goalkeeper
  • The match finishes only when everybody is tired
  • It doesn’t matter if a team is winning by 20 to 0, the one that scores the last goal wins
  • There’s no referee
  • If there’s no blood, there’s no foul
  • Nobody simulates a foul, the one that does that is a “puto”
  • There’s no off-side
  • The two best players cannot play for the same team
  • Whoever shoots the ball out of the field needs to go and get it back
  • If there’s no agreement if a goal is valid, it’s decided with a penalty
  • There’s no crossbar in the goal, the height of the goal is determined by the height of the goalkeeper
  • There’s always one that’s called to have lunch (or dinner) by his mother
  • You need to pay attention to the cars that might come by the street
  • The prize for the winner is a Coke; nobody pays it
  • If there’s no ball, you can make one out of socks
  • There’s always one that complains because all his teammates go to the attack but never come back to defend
  • There are constant debates because the own goal is bigger than the rival’s one
  • The goal’s posts are made by hoodies
  • There’s the goalkeeper that likes to dribbles and ends up losing the ball
  • The “morfon” that never passes the ball, never gets the ball from his teammates
  • If the owner of the ball gets angry (i.e., because nobody passes him the ball), he leaves with the ball and the game ends
  • Goal from behind the mid-field line isn’t valid
  • If someone holds the ball for too long and someone hits him, it’s his fault for holding the ball too long
  • The ball is still in play even if it bounces against a tree, monument, the wall or whatever other thing around
  • The game isn’t suspended by rain
  • If the one that plays better arrives late to the match (and the teams are even at that time), the more “boludo” gets replaced by the best player
  • If the one that plays worst arrives late, he doesn’t get to play because the teams are already complete
  • You celebrate the goals as if you are winning the World Cup final

These rules apply to playing football in a park, as well. Basically, anytime we play in any place that’s not an actual football field 😛

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Flying ’round the globe

I reached another milestone in my Homo Avionus evolution: a trip around the globe. Like Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s famous book but in less time and definitely in a more comfortable way.

Some statistics of my trip:

  • Visited 3 destinations in 3 different continents
  • Stopped at 8 different airports, in 7 countries, including my favorite one (Changi)
  • Used 6 different type of planes, including a Boeing 787 for the first time, from 4 different airlines (Iberia, American Airlines, Japan Airlines and British Airways)
  • All the above in just 10 days and 17 hours (in your face, Mr. Fogg!)

 

Phileas Fogg

That must have costed you a fortune!“, some of you might think, and you’ll be wrong. Airlines groups like OneWorld and Star Alliance have special fares for this type of trips. In my case, the whole thing was 60 % of what it would have costed if I’d visit each destination separately. The reason is that I am taking less flights, which is good for the airlines and good for me as well because I also saved more than 2 days of traveling – it would have been more time effective if I wouldn’t have a long layover in Tokyo but well, what you can do…

The cost and time saving was exactly the reason why I did this trip this way. I needed to visit those 3 destinations due to my work, and doing it separately would take too much of my time because each location is in 3 different continents. Normally, I would need 3 weeks to go to each of those places individually, plus adjusting to new time zones and back every time. This way, I did it faster and more effective, even though my colleagues thought I was kind of crazy for doing it.

One plus was that because I was flying east, I adjusted quickly to each time zone in the first two destinations – 5 and 9 hours difference with my home time – but not so well in the last destination because the seats in the overnight flight I took to get there were quite old and uncomfortable and I couldn’t sleep well before arrival. Altogether, it paid off.

Another interesting outcome of this trip was to compare the service from 4 different airlines in a very short period of time. And the winner was… None of them, but the new seats and entertainment system in Iberia are definitely an improvement. The service of many airlines is decaying, something I am not the first to say; at least the crews were quite good and helpful, in general.

The whole adventure was a very nice experience. It got a little confusing at times – one morning I couldn’t tell where when I woke up – but it was more than entertaining and now I can scratch it off from my bucket list.

You should try this yourself. Check the site of your favorite airline group and start planning your trip around the globe! Otherwise, I will need to send you this gift…

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