Up in the Air

Written by admin on June 16, 2010 – 11:56 am -

If you’ve been wondering what’s it’s been like, George Clooney had an easy time when it came to being a road warrior.

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. George Clooney had a great time—believe me. He wasn’t trying to fly his way around volcanic ash or sleep on a cot in an airport for six days. Airport hotels? Heaven on earth given the alternatives.

Goorge Clooney could watch TV in his hotel room or the bar without being bewildered and depressed by cancellation notices, dire forecasts, and overflowing toilets. Nor did he have to deal with people sleeping everywhere or children crying. His life was good—or kinda.

Not wanting to miss the drama, I managed to arrive in Washington, DC in time for my granddaughter’s seventh birthday on the 24th. My flight wasn’t impacted in the same way as people who couldn’t take off last week and until Wednesday of this week. That’s when the airports officially opened in most of the E.U., even though flights were departing from some parts of Europe, depending on the day and the hour.

Please don’t think I’m making light of a dreadful situation. Rest  assured most people have concerns over the impact of volcanoes and climate change. But after all, volcanoes are natural and happen—honest—every day; they just tend to be smaller and politer. In any case, let’s hope we’ll never experience this type of travel disruption again.

Not only were the lives of passengers and flight crews disrupted, but planes weren’t where they were supposed to be. When the skies were declared safe, many flights were cancelled because there simply weren’t aircraft to transport people from here to there.

Robin Worrall, who writes special reports for The Danish Centre for Energy Savings in Copenhagen, was heading to Washington, DC. His initial flight from Denmark to London was cancelled. Luckily he was able to get a connection and made the first scheduled United flight to leave the U.K. on Thursday the 22nd, just when the ban was lifted.

Worrall admits to feeling a wee bit guilty, as well as lucky, as the plane departed, because he’d had a reservation on that specific flight. People who’d been stranded since the time Heathrow closed on the 14th surrounded him.

The flight attendants were in excellent spirits since many of them were returning home. They welcomed everyone as the passengers were boarding. Some commented about how expensive London was compared to the U.S. At least their housing was covered during the paid but unwanted furlough. That wasn’t the case for many others who had no option but to wait it out. No matter what was the reason for their trips, it was as if people had been handed “get-out-of-jail and pass-go-collect-$200” cards.

Before the DC-bound flight took off, the captain assured everyone that United wasn’t taking any chances. Off they went and after a few minutes, everyone clapped. The French aboard naturally shrugged and said, C’est normal. You’d think the plane would have had every seat filled, but much to Worrall’s surprise, there were two empty ones next to him in the Economy Plus section of the cabin. “I was lucky in every way,” he said. “The flight over was pleasant and we landed only eleven minutes late.”

Bonjour Paris’s events‘ editor Lisa Buros didn’t have the same luck. She and her fiancé were headed to the U.S. for their dream wedding, only to have to call it off because the guests would have arrived in time, but they wouldn’t, since their flights from London were cancelled and cancelled again.

Lisa adopted a stiff-upper-lip British attitude and has rescheduled the event. “We’re going to have a hurricane wedding in Las Vegas and do anything we please.” she said. The pair can’t wait to be surrounded by family and friends. Gee, this type of agony might have split some couples up. But I suspect this one will be dining out on this story for many years. And then some. No doubt the grandkids will roll their eyes.

As for me, I managed to make it to my granddaughter’s birthday and on time. But, I would have flown half way around the world to do so—and darn near did.

Please post your stories if you were inconvenienced by the volcano or were waiting for anyone who was. Let’s hope this will be the one and only occasion you’ll have the opportunity to rant this way.

If you were the recipient of an act of kindness while stranded, please share that as well. We’ve been hearing those stories too. Someone was musing as to whether or not there will be romances (even weddings) resulting from chance meetings in airports.

© Paris New Media, LLC


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Posted in Around the World, Paris |

Airport lounges – worth the price of admission?

Written by admin on October 13, 2009 – 4:39 pm -

Do you think you need access to airport lounges? If so, why? If you need to ponder the question, you’re probably not a frequent traveler, who’s been bumped from planes or missed connections. It’s unlikely you know the interiors of airports as if they were second homes.

Those traveling in business or in first class internationally don’t need to join a club. Paying big bucks for plane tickets usually entitles them to a guest pass. It’s the least an airline can do to show its gratitude. It may not sound like a big deal. But, for passengers with connecting flights and a lengthy layover, these retreats can be godsends.

Some clubs/lounges are clearly better than others. For example, I haven’t been overwhelmed by the Red Carpet Clubs in the U.S. The ones is Asia (for that matter anywhere but in the U.S.) are so much nicer.

There are some airport clubs, where no one would be devastated, if they were stranded for the night. These clubs come complete with hot and cold running food, lounge chairs where someone can sleep (some even have a sleeping room) and a large selection of libations. Lucky passengers can have a free massage then continue on to their next destination in a more relaxed, Zen-like, state.

If you’ve decided to join a lounge, what would you like to find?

The following are a few suggestions on my list. Please, feel free to add more.

- peace and quiet
- enough area in the lounge so passengers don’t feel as if they’re sitting on each other’s laps
- separate areas for children
- good food and good beverages; alcoholic ones should be free
- an extensive assortment of newspapers and magazines – in different languages
- large flat-screen TVs with different broadcast channels. Not everyone wants to watch the news or sports
- a business area with computers, printers, copiers and even a fax
- plenty of plugs including multi-standard ones; there should be a collection of electrical cords and adapters that may be used in the lounge
- free WiFi

Moving right along:
- well maintained washrooms and showers available for passengers with a long layover or who want to clean up before proceeding to the next destination
- sufficient amenities in the event travelers can’t put their hands on a toothbrush, etc.
- quiet areas that are designated for people who want to sleep in a lounge chair, chaise or massage chair where cell phones are forbidden
- Band-aids and simple medications (e.g. Tylenol, Tums) for heart-burn and headaches, so club members aren’t forced to leave the premises to find a pharmacy

Club members voice that they want personnel staffing the clubs, who are qualified and are authorized to provide VIP service, can answer questions and solve problems.

Additional things on travelers’ wish lists:
- Priority check-in facilities for passengers and their luggage
- Announcements at boarding time in the lounge so people aren’t forced to continually check the airlines’ monitors

Some say the ultimate perk (other than better-than-usual customer service) would be having a door on the outside of the security perimeter that leads directly to the screening area. And a special exit area for club members to use when boarding flights – so they aren’t forced to wait with other passengers.

What would provide you the incentive to part with hundreds of dollars to become a club member?

Realize, there’s nothing wrong with sitting in an airport’s concourse (most have WiFi) and new restaurants and bars inside the departure areas are finding that captive travelers spend real money eating and drinking because it’s a good way to fill time.

If you belong to an airline club, which ones do you consider the cream of the crop? And which clubs do you think are the worst?

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris


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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Preparing for a travel day from hell

Written by admin on December 22, 2008 – 12:32 pm -

As I sit overlooking Hong Kong’s landscape, there’s a nagging feeling radiating through my consciousness that tomorrow is not going to be calm. I know that in preparation for the journey I will need some serious therapeutic relaxation.

I am faced with 24 hours of sitting on three planes, waiting in airport lounges, clearing customs and hopefully arriving at my chosen destination as scheduled, in order to celebrate the holidays with my family. Rather than taking time to look at a last few Hindu and Buddhist temples, I’m praying to the airline and the weather gods.

Watching the boats and ferries navigate Victoria Harbor, the waterway that separates Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, is always magical. Lights twinkle and entice tourists and residents to venture out and explore Hong Kong, one of the world’s greatest playgrounds. It seems so peaceful. But, I know tomorrow will be a stress test.

One of my ways that I pamper myself in preparation for a long day of travel, it to make time for a massage and spa treatment.

As much as I’d like to eat a spectacular dinner, this is the time to pass on a large repast. After a morning spent running from one place to another at a full gallop, in the afternoon, I indulged in being pummeled and pampered at the Four Seasons Hotel spa.

For less than $100, I lived the life of a decadent sybarite. The spa session included a massage, a light lunch at the hotel’s pool and the use of the spa’s facilities. What a fabulous set-up. During my four-hour sojourn, I also treated myself to time in the sauna, the steam room and the Jacuzzi.

After that workout, spending a couple of hours in the vitality lounge where I was lulled into a stress-less sleep was imperative. As if that weren’t enough, each guest is given a spa robe and all of amenities one could want and need. Plus tea and a selection of ‘calming’ drinks and water are yours for the taking.

Each chaise in the relaxation room has its own mini-television screen and earphones, plenty of reading material, extra towels and a fuzzy cotton blanket that would make anyone feel as if they’re in a private cocoon.

Even though showers are mandatory before using the shared facilities, the “after” shower with its “rain sky” shower head is enough to make anyone feel as if they’ve had a mini-escape from seeing and doing. Hopefully, it will minimize any upcoming travel stress.

Some people opt for a massage after arriving at their destination, especially if their hotel room isn’t ready. Some airports have shower/massage rooms for people who aren’t traveling first class. They’re not free, but are godsends if you have to go straight into a meeting or simply sightseeing.

When departing from home there is plenty of pressure just getting to the airport and insuring everything and everyone is in order. A trip to the gym and possibly a swim are perhaps all that can be managed. Long-haul flights are precisely that — long.

But before embarking on the return trip, rather than shopping, it’s probably more constructive to prepare mentally and physically for the trip home. If the hotel doesn’t have a spa, there will be one nearby that does. Or surf the Internet. Unless one is traveling from Siberia, there will undoubtedly be dozens of spas that are unearthed. Perhaps the spas won’t be as luxurious as the one at the Hong Kong Four Seasons Hotel, but after any massage and spa treatment travelers can’t help but be more relaxed for the long haul back home.

If you have other favorite travel relaxation suggestions to add, please do so. Who said flying around the world is easy?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis


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Posted in Consumer Traveler |