If there’s one thing I like is simplifying my travels – and one thing that does help simply it a bit is Transport for London’s Oyster Card.

My “current” Oyster card. I’ve lost count of how many of them gone through (although I have got enough webcredits out of TfL)

Now, if you’re visiting London for more than a few days, I’d strongly recommend you get an Oyster card – as paper tickets are expensive compared to Oyster tickets:

  • Oyster Card cost £5
  • Zone 1 to Zone 1 ticket (Cash) £4.70
  • Zone 1 to Zone 1 ticket (Oyster) £2.20
  • Saving = £2.50 a ticket

So you’ll need to buy two zone 1 tickets to recoup the cost of an Oyster. A more relevant example would be:

  • Oyster Card cost £5
  • Zone 6 (Heathrow) to Zone 1 (Central London) ticket (Cash) £5.70
  • Zone 6 (Heathrow) to Zone 1 (Central London) ticket (Cash) £5 peak, £3 off peak.
  • Saving = 70p to £2.70 a ticket.

So as you see, it’s pretty easy to recover the cost of your Oyster card quickly.

Oyster has been available on the Underground, Buses and trams for a while, with Rail services finally coming aboard from January 2010 (with SouthEastern High Speed, Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect between Hayes and Harlington and the Heathrow Terminals as the exception).

However, Oyster is available beyond London too in limited destinations. These include:

  • Operated by c2c: Purfleet, Ockendon, Chafford Hundred and Grays
  • Operated by Greater Anglia: Brentwood, Shenfield, Boxeborne
  • Operated by London Overground: Watford Junction

A full map is at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/london-rail-and-tube-services-map.pdf. Be warned, that you must keep within the zones and destination in the map, or you could be hit for penalty fares (like someone did… and got stung for £42,550 fine for dodging fares by only touching once with their Oyster Card).

If your travels need to take you beyond Central London, it’s worth considering the rail networks. There’s more to London than just the centre of it…

… as there is more of the United Kingdom than London.

Posted by Kevincm | 2 Comments

It seems new airports seems to be jinxed with problems, with Berlin Brandenburg Airport being one that springs to mind. Another airport that has managed to shrug off delays is Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

Hamad International Airport (previously known as New Doha International Airport) has had a string of delays, but is seemingly almost ready to receive passenger planes now (the airport is receiving cargo service already).

The airport is configured with two runways, with the ablity to handle to 29 million annual passengers at its opening, made up of three concourses

New launch dates have been set, with the following set:

  • Soft Launch – 30th April
  • Full Opening – 27th May

The first carriers to move over from Doha International to Hamad International include Bangladesh Biman Airlines, flydubai, Air Arabia, Iran Air, Air India Express, Yemenia, Pakistan International Airlines, Nepal Airlines, Syrian Air and Pegasus Airlines.

Qatar Airways will be looking to move in to the new airport once lounges and most of the facilities are complete. Additional airlines should join the carriers at Hamad airport from the 27th May as operations from Doha International Airport are wound down.

In terms of distance, the two airports aren’t that far away from each other – about 4 miles. This should aid passengers who require onward ground transportation.

How the launch goes will be the interesting part. New airports and terminals have been ridden with problems in the past – hopefully Hamad International Airport should avoid some of these with a phased opening.

Posted by Kevincm | One Comment

It seems the orders for narrow body aircraft come thick and fast as Shandong Airlines are to order fifty Boeing 737 aircraft.

_MG_5591Shandong Airlines Boeing 737-800 at Seoul Incheon Airport. Image GhettoIFE.com

Shandong Airlines is owned by Air China, and operates both Chinese Domestic and International routes, with a fleet of Boeing 737-300s, 737-700s, 737-800s, Bombardier CRJ-200s and CRJ700s.

The airline also holds orders for the Chinese produced COMAC ARJ21 (in addition to the new Boeing 737 order).

16 Boeing 737-800s and 34 Boeing 737 MAX-8 are being discussed to form part of the order to drive its fleet and route expansion.

The order for the planes is subject to governmental approval.

Shandong Airlines appears to be on a march for growth as it goes into the future – as other Asian airlines consider their short and long haul strategies for maintain customers and profits. How other carriers plans go on will be an interesting thing to watch.

An interesting aside is that whilst Shandong Airlines have got 10 orders for the COMAC ARJ21, they hold no orders for planned Chinese domestic airliner that is planned to take on the Airbus/Boeing duopoly – the C919…

Posted by Kevincm | No Comments

It’s Easter Sunday, and its time for an Airplane art special.

This Sunday, it’s a British Airway Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner arriving at it’s home base at London Heathrow Airport (shot from a BA 787-8. Very meta).






The images are clickable if you want to see a larger version – and yes you can keep them for your desktops!

More airplane art next week!

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First up… have a look at the video below:

YouTube Preview Image

The bags appear to be gate checked, and have promptly been tossed from the jetbridge down to the loading area

The location of the incident has not disclosed, but it’s made the media on CBC News.

Air Canada has given a response on the Youtube page:

We apologize for the totally unacceptable mishandling of our passengers’ baggage captured on video. We are in the process of identifying the employees involved whose employment will be terminated pending the outcome of our investigation. Their actions clearly contravened our standard baggage handling procedures which require gate-checked bags to be hand carried to the ramp.

We take matters involving the protection of our customers’ personal possessions very seriously. The actions of these individuals are not representative of the vast majority of our employees who work hard every day to take care of our customers.

The following appeared on Twitter too:



Well, whilst this isn’t on the scale of United Airlines breaks Guitars, it does put forward a salient point when you gate check your luggage…

… do you know exactly what’s happening with it?

Posted by Kevincm | 3 Comments

It’s Saturday again, and it’s time to put your seatback in the upright position, ensure you luggage is in the overhead bin and your tray table is stowed as we go to this week’s video.

This week, for those of us who have flown aboard A380s (or with some airlines, Boeing 777s and A330s) one of the more interesting flying sights is the pilot’s view when coming into land. On some aircraft, they broadcast the landing sequence.

This video by PilotEye.tv takes it one step further, with the view inside the cockpit as they complete the final 10 minutes of the flight, landing into San Francisco International aboard the inaugaral Lufthansa Airbus A380 service.

YouTube Preview Image

It’s not a view often seen (and its a big get up with the amount of GoPro cameras mounted).. but its impressive.

Another video next week!

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Following Iberia’s lead, Lufthansa is to set about trialling a new “Print at Home” Luggage tagging service.

The service – known as “Home Tag” will be rolled out initially on the Frankfurt to Tokyo route.

The idea is you check in at home, then print your luggage tag too (for both outbound and inbound segments if you choose). You then take your prints to the airport, fold it in four and place it in a pouch. This is then attached to your luggage.


A fully load home-tagged luggage item – Lufthansa Rimowa case not included. Image Lufthansa AG.

The printed luggage tag contains the required information  – flight route, passenger name, baggage item number, which is also encoded as a bar code, allowing the item to be scanned. Meanwhile the Hometag holder has an RFID chip that can be encoded with the details of the baggage.

For those who like to do everything at home, this could be a nice timesaver – requiring you to do the printing and then just drop the item off.

There’s a lovely demo video at Lufthansa.com with more on the system.

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Ryanair is opening a new base at Cologne Bonn Airport with five new routes joining the Ryanair network from October 2014.

Ryanair 737-800 taxing at Birmingham Airport – Image GhettoIFE.com.

The routes that will be joining the wide and far Ryanair network include:

  • Cologne to Dublin – Once Daily, Commences 26th October 2014
  • Cologne to London Stanstead – Twice Daily, Commences 26th October 2014
  • Cologne to Riga -  Three times weekly, Commences 28th October 2014
  • Cologne – Rome Ciampino, Once Daily, Commences 28th October 2014
  • Cologne – Madrid, Four times weekly, Commences 29th October 2014

All routes will be operated by the Ryanair fleet of Boeing 737-800s.

Cologne Bonn Airport is home to Germanwings, with them operating the bulk of the services there. Ryanair operates five services currently to Cologne (mainly from Mediterranean destinations).

Whilst it’s a minor attempt to irritate Germanwings, in a minor broadside attempt to grab traffic, it could be the start of a very interesting war between the two low cost carriers….

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The Boeing 737 series is by far the one of the best-selling airplanes in the sky. Today, that number was re-enforced as Boeing delivered the 8000th series aircraft.

The Boeing 737 has been through multiple iterations, from the initial 737-100, the 737-200, to the introduction of the 737 “Classic” series featuring the 737-300, -400 and -500 (featuring differing lengths and capacities), to the current 737 Next Generation series (featuring the short -600, the -700, the -800, -900 and -900ER), as well as being used for various military platforms.

The 8000th Boeing 737 delivered is a 737-900ER, and its owner will be United Airlines.

8000th 737 Renton B1 Take off United Airlines
The 8000th 737 in United Airlines livery – Image The Boeing Company

The plane is specially marked for the occasion with a logo on the side of the plane door:

8000th 737 Renton B1 Take off United Airlines
Special logo showing the 8000th plane – Image, The Boeing Company.

United and Continental have operated variants of the Boeing 737 fleet in the past, with the airline currently operating a mixture of the Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft (the 737-700, 737-800, 737-900 and 737-900ER) – making up 264 of the airlines fleet.

These will be configured as two class aircraft, containing First Class and Coach, with an Economy Plus section aboard the plane.

For passengers, new aircraft are always welcome… and for the 737 programme – it’s another step forward as it marches on to the 737 MAX series of aircraft…

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There’s one city in the world that I have been to so rarely, but has left an indelible impression on me – and that’s Sydney.

Sydney Airport as seen from the Sydney Tower – Image GhettoIFE

Sydney Airport however is a pinch-point in some ways – the biggest one for airline operators who have to either wait for either the more curfew to lift, or to get their aircraft on the ground before the night curfew becomes active.

The curfew runs from 23:00 and 06:00 (with limited moments for one hour either way).

In addition, the airport is limited to 80 movements per hour, which when bad weather hits or at peak hours can lead to delays.

As a result, the Australian government has taken the decision rather that to expand the existing Sydney airport any further, they are to build a second airports.

The new airport will be located at Badgerys Creek, approximately 45km (28 miles) from Central Sydney, with construction to begin in 2016 at a cost of A$2.5billion.

New and upgraded road infrastructure will be put in place for the airport to operate, with a new East-West motorway to be built. No indication of public transport infrastructure (such as a Sydney Trains link) will be built as such.

Whilst Sydney Airport will have its existing three runways maintained, initially the new airport will only have one runway – however with no night-time curfew. This should appeal to the low cost carriers, point to point carriers and freight carriers (but not overly to the legacy carriers who might see this akin to the London Heathrow and London Gatwick situation – which prestigious airport do you wish to land at is the question).

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce seems happy about this, stating:

Qantas has long supported the building of a second airport at Badgerys Creek, as have a number of detailed studies. After decades of debate, we applaud today’s announcement by the Prime Minister

The role of second airports has been well-established in several of the world’s major capitals. Sydney is the key gateway for air traffic in-and-out of Australia and the benefits of having two major airports will be felt nationwide.

Airports are key pieces of infrastructure that facilitate a huge amount of economic activity, and they take a lot of time to plan and build. We look forward to being part of this process as Badgerys Creek moves closer to reality”

It’s going to be a while until we see the results of this, but the new airport could provide a reasonable relief for the existing limited infrastructure. For those carriers who do choose to fly late night and very early morning flights, this could add extra capacity.

However, that lack of public transport infrastructure is not what I would call a good sign, unless plans are afoot for a coach network to clog up the roads more…

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Posted by Kevincm | 3 Comments

In disappointing news it seems Lufthansa is introduced advanced seat reservation fees on long haul flights.

Lufthansa Long Haul Boeing 747-8i parked at Lufthansa Techik hangers at Frankfurt – Image GhettoIFE.

These fees will be applicable in the lower value fare codes from the 28th April 2014, with the following fare buckets attracting the new charge:

  • W
  • S
  • T
  • L
  • K

The charge for assigning your seat will be €25 per segment. The ticket code is the first letter of the booking as can be seen from this screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 06.01.15

As shown on a Lufthansa flight…

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 06.03.37

As shown on a United Airlines code-share.

Lufthansa already charges for advanced seat assignment on its German Domestic and European networks which runs you €10 a segment.

So, how do you avoid this wonderful fee? It’s not going to be easy by any means:

  • Buy a higher value ticket that is outside the ticket codes listed (which if we look at the examples above, this could double the cost of your fare)
  • Be a Lufthansa Senator or HON Circle Member
  • Wait until check-in opens at T-23 hours before departure and gamble on seat availability.

The upcoming Premium Economy Class will be free to assign a seat, whilst Business and First Class also remains free of charge.

It’s never a welcome sign when an airline decides to charge more fees for something that was free, and the charges are slightly higher than thought when the short haul charges were brought it.

Lufthansa’s slogan is “Non-Stop You”. More like Non-Stop to your wallet…

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