Alone in a plane

The other day I read the story about a man that found himself completely alone in a flight from Delta Airlines. This happened a couple of weeks ago and it was published by the person itself through his Twitter account and then it was picked up by several media, like CNN.

The story reminded me of a time when I took a flight with just 5 other passengers. The plane was an Airbus 320 so we basically had a quite a lot options where to sit, especially me because I was the only person in a Business Class that was set up in the first 7 rows of the plane. I basically spent the flight having a great service from the cabin crew, lots of attention (“Do you want another coffee, sir?”, every 10 minutes) and a quite, really quite 3 hours flight. The crew told me that this happened more times that you could imagine, but none of them mentioned to have experienced the “only one passenger” as it happened to @ohhleary.

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The Battle of Baggage Claim

You see a crack in their lines and you try to pass through it but you are not fast enough, and someone else has been quicker than you: an adorable old lady who give you a fierce stare you will never forget: “Back off!”, those eyes tell you. You desist and try to find another way to achive your goal: your luggage, that eventually will appear in the baggage claim.

Above introduction is just a simple example of many of the different awkward moments you are going to experience when trying to find a way to reach for your bag in the baggage claim area. If there’s a travel experience that shows the actual true nature of humans is this, what I like to call the Battle of Baggage Claim.

Imagine this: you finally arrive at your destination in a foreign country after a very long journey, sitting in a middle seat. You finally exit the plane and you try to understand how to pick up your luggage. Not an easy task. You are tired, a little grumpy, and those signs never are the same. You finally find the sign when a business class traveler pretty much runs you over (those guys are always trying to be the first ones everywhere!).

You shake off the bad mood his or her rudeness have produced to you, finally find the baggage claim area and you see that your bag is going to be available in the belt number 7. You pray it’s not the one that’s already full of people but no god was listening to you at that moment. “All that people was in my plane? Really?”, you think, not being able to understand how physics allow all that people to get into a plane in an “orderly manner” but now became a sort of disorganized mass of airport zombies looking for human brains, or in this case, bags.

When you finally get there, to the baggage claim, you see that everyone else is also tired and grumpy so no matter if it’s a little kid, a young surfer or a businessman, all of them are pushing each other somehow to get a place in front of the belt and be the first to pick up their bags.

Baggage claim

The Battle is about to start

Of course, the bags don’t come in the order people wants: they appear randomly, not even in the expected order (priority ones first, the rest after). All luggage looks pretty much the same after a 10 hs flight, so two different people try to reach for the same bag and they have a sort of non-verbal argument over it: “it’s mine”, “no, no, it’s mine”. Check the tag number! “Oh, sorry, it’s yours” says one of them.

Then, you finally see your own bag. You smile but then you realize there’s a lot of people between you and your bag. You take a deep breath, close your eyes and charge.

Baggage Claim II

A crack in the zombie lines!

It’s madness. It’s insane. It’s the Battle of Baggage Claim. The worst designed part of the traveling process, and you are lucky if you are not pushed by a person, or hit by bag in the process of retrieving your own. Those that lost their luggage are left behind. You leave the airport proud(?) of your victory: it was tough, but you got your bag!

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Runaway bride

Friends and fellow travelers gave me cool feedback of my post about the “sit-sleeping lady”. It seems strange things are always interesting for people.

Another quite curious situation was when I travelled with who seemed to be a runaway bride:

Runaway bride waiting for her luggage

Runaway bride waiting for her luggage

If you are siting in a plane and you see a woman, wearing a wedding dress and traveling alone, that’s quite a logical assumption, isn’t? Maybe, she wasn’t escaping from her wedding but actually going to get married in another city/country, completely dressed up just in case. Who knows. I didn’t have the chance of talking with her and when seeing these things in airports, i prefer to invent my own story about it.

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The Breakfast Bag: the most awesome value-added experience I have seen in a while

The life of a frequent traveler sometimes can be improved dramatically with very simple things. It wasn’t until I traveled to Sweden a couple of months ago that I was introduced to a complete new world thanks to one of those simple things: the Breakfast Bag.

The Breakfast Bag

The Breakfast Bag

The Breakfast Bag is quite a descriptive name for this thing because it’s basically a bag, with a quick breakfast inside, made of a fruit, yoghurt, juice, some pastry and a cup of coffee or tea. “Yeah, so?” some of you might say but I will explain why this is a lifesaver.

When I travel for work, I tend to book very early or very late flights so I can make good use of the day. That means that many times I wake up in a hotel at 3 or 4 am, get ready, take a taxi and go to the airport to board a plane that leaves at 6 or 7 am. That means that most of those times, I cannot get breakfast in the hotel because i leave before they open; that’s not a problem only because I actually paid for that breakfast I cannot get, but also because sometimes I cannot get breakfast for another hour or so depending how far the airport is from the hotel I am staying.

By now, you should get the picture. Imagine then my surprise when I was in Göteburg last March, leaving the hotel at 4 am, sleepy and hungry, and when after checking out, the hotel staff tells me: “Don’t forget your Breakfast Bag, sir”. Imagine those slow-motion scenes in the movies where the two lovers run to each other. Got that, right? That’s how I felt when approaching the table where the bag was, I opened it and found what I have always looked for.

This happened in a hotel from the Scandic chain, and I do hope more hotels start to implement it. From now on, when I am traveling somewhere, I check for hotels that have a Breakfast Bag, the ultimate value-added experience for crazy travelers like me.

PS: Hana, you definitely know how to pick hotels! 🙂

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How to clean an airplane window

I know you always wondered how they clean airplane windows, so i wanted to show how they seem to wash the cockpit windows, at least in this airport 🙂

Washing your plan is a risky business

Washing your plan is a risky business

Risky job, isn’t?

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Flytiquette #2: respect the cabin crew

After making sure I take a shower before I travel, my second most important flytiquette rule is:

“Under all circumstances, respect the cabin crew, pay attention to their instructions and thank them for their help”

I have traveled to every continent in the world, using dozens of different airlines, which means I have probably interacted with hundreds of pilots, flight attendants, and other cabin crew members, both in business and economy class. I have found different level of services that made my flight more or less pleasant, but I always have followed my rule because I found it very important.

When you travel by airplane, you have hundreds of people inside a little cabin, trying to get somewhere. They are traveling with their anxieties and their fears, as well as their good mood and cultural diversity, and all of them are trusting the pilots and cabin crew will get them to their destination, safe and on time.

A lot of things can go wrong in a flight, and the cabin crew is the only barrier between those things and the passengers. Yes, they also serve food, bring drinks, make jokes and all that, but their main responsibility is the safety of the people traveling in their plane.

When you understand that, you realize that even if you are having a bad day, their day is probably more challenging than yours. Behaving properly during your flight and paying attention to the cabin crew’s instructions is the least you can do, isn’t?

Due to that, one of the most important flytiquette rules I follow is to respect the cabin crew and always tell them “thank you” when they help me with something. Sometimes, I even get a nice smile back when I do it. A person that cares for my safety and even smiles at me is definitely someone deserving my full respect.

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How much time do you need between connections?

The answer to this question is as evasive and elusive as the answers to questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why bacon is so tasty?”, but I will make an effort to offer some clues you can use to find the answer by yourself.

Why is this important? Because if your itinerary involves more than one flight and you didn’t make your reservations with enough time between you land at the airport and you get to the next plane, you might lose your flight or your luggage. This last part is also a consequence of not calculating the time between connections properly, something my friend Bel always does wrong and then her luggage doesn’t arrive to the final destination. So, for her and for you, my occasional reader, I will try to dig more into this issue.

If you want to plan your layover (*) properly, you first need to understand that there’s no universal answer to this question. It’s not that you will always need 2 hours or 10 minutes, because it depends on the airport and the type of flight you are taking, but I will give you a couple of examples of the issues you can find:

  • Domestic connections don’t require as much time as International ones because you don’t need to go through passport control. The same applies to Intra-Schengen (**) flights if you are traveling through Europe.
  • Some airports (like Changi) don’t require you to go through passport control when connecting between International flights; other airports do, and that alone – passport control – could take more than 30 minutes in very busy airports like Heathrow and several northamerican ones
  • Some connections require you to change terminals, which takes a lot of time; changing a terminal in Frankfurt (Germany) will definitely take you more than 30 minutes – if you run like Usain Bolt -, and in Charles de Gaulle (Paris, France), you will most probably need to take a bus between terminals, something quite slow depending on which terminals you are
  • When you have a connecting flight in less than 45 minutes to 1 hour, you are risking that your checked bag won’t be transferred in time to your next plane, no matter if you catch it on time. Transfer of bags never takes less than 30 minutes in really busy airports, and it usually takes a lot longer when it requires a connection that include international flights
  • If your itinerary includes flights with different airlines, especially from different airline groups, keep in mind that will likely require a change of terminal. Airlines from the same groups share terminals while those from different groups usually don’t.
  • You need to keep in mind that some flights have more probabilities of being delayed than others. Apps like FlightTrack will show you statistics about how often a flight departs on schedule, and if your first part of the trip includes a flight that is delayed often, you better keep that into consideration when planning the connection

The above is just a list of the issues you might encounter. There are others but I hope this is giving you an overall idea of the complex algorithm that you need to take into account when planning a trip with more than one flight. Then, some hints to calculate the time between connections:

  • If you are connecting domestically, or Intra-Schengen, not changing terminal, and flying with the same airline, you usually need less time (less than 1 hour if everything goes well, in some not so crowded or complicated airports – it even took me just 10 minutes in Munich once)
  • If you are connecting internationally and the airport has an international connections area that doesn’t require passport control, you will need more or less the same time that you need for a domestic or Intra-Schengen connection
  • If you are changing terminals, or going through passport control, or changing airlines (even if it’s a partner airline), you better calculate enough time for that change by checking the airport website. More and more websites are including maps and information about how much time it takes to connect from one terminal to another, so you better use it before booking your flight

My personal and very general rule for time between connections is: more than 1 hour when I am flying through Europe without checked bags, 1.5 to 2 hours if I am flying with checked bags, and more than 2 hours if I have a connection in the United States. This doesn’t apply to every itinerary and it’s a simple rule I use to quickly check if a connection makes sense to me. I have been told I am extra careful with this; well, I almost have never missed connections or luggage due to the above (well… I actually did but only a couple of times when the flights were delayed for quite longer than expected).

The risk of not booking your flight with enough time between connections is that you might not catch your connecting flights, or your luggage will not get to the final destination with you. Not always you can find the best connections, but if you have the chance, take the above information into account before booking your flight, and start your business or leisure trip with the right foot. And then come and share your experience with me. Always happy to learn more about traveling 🙂

(*) Layover: time between two connecting flights, basically. Airlines call it this way when it involves a hotel stay as well but not many know that airlines call “sit time” to the time between connections.
(**) Intra-Schengen: basically, flights between two countries that are part of the Schengen treaty that allows free movement of people between their borders. This applies to virtually all members of the European Union.

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