Category Archives: World Around Me

2 days in the air with Skyteam

I usually try flying Star Alliance (*A), especially with Air India (AI) on board. But there are still quite a few sectors where *A lacks good connections – like Portland for example. I’ve been consciously avoiding Air France (AF) after reading about their mistreatment of Indians. We did try booking easterly via Japan, but with just a week’s notice, even that was sold out. I was left with no option but to fly Skyteam all through BOM-CDG-SLC-PDX-AMS-BOM with AF-DL.

The numbers

The to & fro journeys happen to be my longest 2 ever: a whopping 32 hours end-to-end to Portland, and 25 hours on the return. It also has the highest meeting-to-journey (MTJ) ratio of  28.5 hours of travel per hour of business meetings :) The previous record was 15 hours. CDG-SLC also happens to be my longest sector this year – 5072 miles.

BOM-CDG on Air France

Midnight snack on AF
Midnight snack on AF

Without airline lounge access, I used the Clipper lounge which seems inferior to the new CSIA First Class lounge. We had an on-time departure around 2am. On board the A330, the crew seemed very pleasant. They distributed headphones and a night kit with an eye mask & ear muffs. The light midnight snack was the largest served by any airline that operates flights post midnight. LH, LX, VS, DL all serve a puff roll with drinks. Apart from the hot snack, AF served fruits – really help keep you hydrated on long flights – and a granola bar to munch later in the night. They used an older In-flight entertainment (IFE) system Continue reading

A Night in Sønderborg

I’ve been to small towns before. Quite a lot of European cities, and Melbourne, can be explored on foot (maybe, some tram). But last week, I visited the smallest of them all – a town named Sønderborg in East Denmark.

Sonderborg, like many other towns in Europe, is the home of a manufacturing giant, for which it is best known. Corporate presence helps create employment opportunities and develop local infrastructure of these smaller towns that would otherwise be neglected. A local airline, Alsie Express, operates a few flights to Copenhagen everyday with their ATR aircraft in jet-black livery.

Hriday: finally comfortable
Hriday: finally comfortable

Shortly after takeoff the hostess came out of the front door to serve coffee, chocolate or nachos. We initially thought it was the pilot making good use of the auto-pilot, but later realized it was the ATRs cargo hold. The aircraft is an all business class configuration with the kind of leg-space that my friend Hriday needs, but hardly gets. Each seat stretching two window panes speaks for itself.

The approach served us a beautiful view of the area – lush green islands in the sea. The airport was a tiny little building – the size of a petrol pump (or smaller actually). The bags were loaded on a cart and then pushed into a gutter in the building. The 4 table cafeteria was empty, and there was free coffee and WiFi in the 8 seat waiting area.

There was a single, large common washroom. In the time that my friend took a smoke, people had moved out in their cars and the airport door was locked. The few taxis that were there had gone and we kept waiting. A lady realized we were new here Continue reading

10 learnings from Japan

I’ve learned some fascinating & exemplary stories about discipline & honesty in Japan through Quora. When the time came to visit Tokyo, I felt that I should familiarize myself with some Japanese etiquette. And I must say that a few minutes of reading came in very handy during the trip. Here is what I’ll keep with me forever:

1. Respect everything

Courtesy: Hobotraveler.com
Cash tray besides the register

Handle everything with both hands, especially money. Most counters will have a tray next to the ledger where you are expected to place money & pick your change. I guess the practice of receiving business cards with both hands comes from here.

2. Avoid 4 & 9 in every way

The Japanese word for “four” sounds like the word for “death” whereas ‘nine’ is sometimes pronounced ‘ku’, which can mean suffering. Its a superstitious piss-off; I don’t know how many follow, but I would avoid a 4 piece gift or a sales offer with too many nines.

3. Go with the group

Generally, the Japanese believe in group decision making that is focused on the larger good. This avoid favorism and blocks in-ways in an integral group – possibly why Japan was never colonized. This could slow down the process, but that’s how it is.

4. Genuine customer focus

Here’s my story: I went to the information counter at HND airport around 7:25 asking for a bus to my destination. The lady said the next one is at 10am. I had read about one at 7:45 and asked her to check; when she realized there was one, she apologized at least thrice for the possible misguide. She then realized that there was very little time left and I possibly couldn’t make it to the bus stop after getting my bus & train tickets. She, in her kimono and modified geta, ran to help me with tickets and brought me all the way to the bus stop around 7:38am. That was perhaps one of the happiest moments of her life Continue reading