Travel Summary 2017

Travel Summary 2017

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Actual miles flown: 81,695
# of segments / flights: 100
# of trips: 28
# of airports / (new): 33 / (11: MAD, MMX, HAM, NCL, BFI, SGD, VAA, PMI, PRG, BIO, LIS)
# of airlines / (new): 14 / (4: 6I, SN, TP, D8)
# of countries / (new): 19 / (5: FL, SK, CZ, ES, PT)
# of continents: 3
Longest: LGW-OAK, 5364 mi
Shortest (Tie) UME-VAA, 68 mi
Most popular route: UME-ARN (21)
Most popular airport: ARN (42)
Total time spent on planes: 9d, 5h, 47m.

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StarMegaDO 8, Day 1: Vienna Airport tour

For the 2nd year in a row I'm attending MegaDO, the almost annual tour with 150+ frequent flyer who charters a plane and partners with various airlines and / or hotel partners for some behind the scene events. This year, for StarMegaDO 8, the schedule involves tour of Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and Hyatt Hotels

We spent the first day in Vienna Airport, where I chose to do the Vienna AIrport operations tour, followed by a small presentation from Austrian Airlines.

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Zeppelin NT Hanger tour

Since I'm in Southern Germany right now, I booked a flight on the Zeppelin NT. Unfortunately, due to high wind my flight was cancelled twice. The first time they notified me the day before, but the second I didn't get the notification until I showed up in the morning of the flight. Since they never notified me before I drove the 1.5 hours to their facility to find my cancelled flight, they were kind enough to have their head pilot to give me a tour of the hanger and the airships.

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Alsie Express's black ATR 72-500 SGD-CPH

Alsie Express is a tiny Danish airline based out of Sønderborg in southern Denmark. They have this beautiful matte black ATR 72. I've flown ATR 72s before but never out of Sønderborg Airport before. Since I had a friend that was driving from Copenhagen down to Germany and will pass by Sønderborg, I decided to catch a ride down so I can fly back on this plane, and cross another airport (SGD) off of my list.

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Norwegian 737 MAX 8 Delivery Flight BFI-OSL

Norwegian is the 2nd airline to take delivery of Boeing's new 737 MAX aircraft. Normally when an airline receives the first aircraft of a new type, they have a small ceremony with the airline's execs, along with the manufacture's execs, before flying back to the home base, sometimes with journalists in tow.

Norwegian has been partnering with UNICEF for a while, and this time Norwegian decided to auction off 12 seats on the delivery flight of their 737 MAX 8 to the general public. I was lucky enough to snag one of the seats on the flight and got to experience the delivery flight first hand.

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 CEO of Norwegian, Bjørn Kjos

CEO of Norwegian, Bjørn Kjos

 Pre-flight meal

Pre-flight meal

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 Water cannon salute upon arriving in Oslo

Water cannon salute upon arriving in Oslo

AIX 17

Dropped by the Aircraft Interior Expo this year in Hamburg.

Travel Summary 2016

Travel Summary 2016

Actual miles flown: 96,544
Airline programs: AA EXP, UA/*G, SK/*S, A3/*G
# of segments / flights: 113
# of trips: 19
# of airports / (new): 49 / (30: OSD, TXL, AUH, CLT, PIT, LCY, DOH, BKK, ATH, AOK, KSJ, JSH, RHO, CHQ, AXD, SMI, JMK, JIK, SKG, HER, JTR, XFW, ACH, FDH, RIX, RTM, SXF, VNO, WAW, GDN)
# of airlines (new): 26 / (11: A3, AB, BT, CA, ET, EY, HV, LO, OA, PE, IS)
# of int'l premium cabins: 4 (AB-B, EY-F, SQ-F, BR-J, CX-J, UA-J)
# of states / (new): 4 / (0)
# of countries / (new): 21 / (7: GR, LT, LV, PL, QA, TH, AE)
# of continents: 3
Longest: AUH↔IAD, 7075 mi
Shortest (Tie) AOK↔KSJ / ACH-FDH: 13 mi
Most popular route: UME-ARN (11)
Most popular airport: ARN (24)
Total time spent on planes: 11d, 4h, 6m.

airBaltic Bombardier CS300 inaugural flight RIX - AMS, 2016-12-14

airBaltic is the launch customer of the new CS300 from Bombardier. I was able to one again book myself on the inaugural flight between Riga and Amsterdam.

 First view of the plane as I made my way to the gate

First view of the plane as I made my way to the gate

 Getting ready for the festivities

Getting ready for the festivities

 airBaltic execs and the Latvian ambassador to the Netherlands giving a speech

airBaltic execs and the Latvian ambassador to the Netherlands giving a speech

 Time for cake

Time for cake

 Time to fly...red carpet to the plane

Time to fly...red carpet to the plane

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 Green interior

Green interior

 Small overhead display

Small overhead display

 Full flight, crew, plus media

Full flight, crew, plus media

 Even hired a magician onboard for entertainment

Even hired a magician onboard for entertainment

 Got the water cannon salute after landing in Amsterdam

Got the water cannon salute after landing in Amsterdam

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The Greek Summer Airport Run

I came across an opportunity to do a contest which basically involves hitting as many Greek airports served by Aegean / Olympic Air as possible. First prize is 5 years of StarAlliance Gold. How can I say no? So I spent 3 days flying around Greece.

So for about 3 days, I flew around Greece to different airports / islands. Unfortunately Aegean / Olympic has a hub and spoke system of their network, which means I have to start and end in Athens. I would start from Athens, fly to one airport, get off, and get right back on the same plane back to Athens. Rinse, repeat. I was able to do 4 RT each day (Could've done 5 but I didn't want to push it since one delay or misconnect would ruin my whole day.

ATH Athens

AOK Karpathos

KSJ Kasos Island

JSH Sitia, Crete

RHO Rhodos

CHQ Chania

AXD Alexandroupolis

SMI Samos

JMK Mykonos Island

JIK Ikaria

SKG Thessaloniki

HER Heraklion

JTR Santorini

It was completely crazy, but also pretty fun. This was my first trip to Greece and I managed to skip all sightseeing (aside from airports) :-D. 

Unfortunately, I still haven't found out if I won the contest, but contest or not, it was quite interesting to see so many airports in such a short amount of time.

State of the IFE

Since I go to school for design and I started to document my travels, and I'm in the middle of working on my portfolio, this is an appropriate time to bring up something that's been on my mind for a long time:

99% In-flight entertainment systems out there are BAD.

How are they bad?

Depending on the airline / system, one or more of these applies:

- MASSIVE lag (between input and command)

- Poor control (resistive touchscreen, jack-of-all-trades controller)

- Obsolete hardware (read: slow)

One of the problem is that creating electronic equipment for aviation has more stringent requirements than your average consumer gear. You can't just take the latest Qualcomm chipset, drop it in, and call it a day. Aircraft equipment makers have a lot less freedom in what they can install and avoid interference. The other problem is that for the most part, IFE systems just aren't that important to airlines. The airline execs making the purchase decision on what IFE system installed aren't the one that'll use it to watch movies everyday, so as long as they have something that works it's fine. If you ask the flying public, They might say they care, but they only care about how many different movies they can choose from, if they care at all. Vast majority of the flying public base their purchase decision based on ticket cost alone. This is the same reason why airline seats horribly uncomfortable. AA and UA have both tried more spacious seat configurations before to very little success. Airlines don't see any benefit to investing in better seat or better IFE. In fact. United installed these wifi media servers on board that lets you watch movies from your personal mobile decide by connecting to the plane's wifi.

Since the hardware is limited, the software that runs on these IFEs are equally poor. Irrelevant and outdated content, non-intuitive, and unattractive. 

When I was reorganizing some photos I suddenly remembered something impressive from the Finnair A350 inaugural I did back in October:

This screen showed the time zone and local time for both the departure and arrival city, on two separate lines. You can clearly tell, at any given point in the flight, what time is it in each city. In this case the time difference is only and hour so no big deal, but on a long haul flight where you cross multiple timezone this will be very convenient and useful.

Granted, this IFE is brand new since it is attached to the brand new A350 so everything is fast and the screen is large, but it is nice to see people starting to put some thought into making the information useful and easy to use. Airlines can't be on the cutting edge like the consumer electronics, but it is nice to see they put in the effort.

EVA Air Royal Laurel Class "Hello Kitty Jet" CDG-TPE

The EvaAir Hello Kitty Jet had been on my list for years. It is a jet with custom HK livery on the outside and also custom service items on the inside. I've booked LAX-TPE in the past but a month before the flight EVA decide to put the plane on CDG-TPE instead, swapping in a standard 777 on the LAX route. No HK Jet for me.

Finally, this time I was able to book the HK jet on the CDG-TPE route. Finally I'll be able to fly on the Hello Kitty Jet, I thought.

Then I showed up to CDG T1 the day of my flight, and looked out the window. WTF

No Hello Kitty Jet.

WTF.

I checked online and turns out a few weeks back EVA did another equipment swap, and one flight on this route wouldn't have the jet. That was my flight.

God damn it.

I went to the service desk asking for a seat chance. As it turns out they've been calling for me for some reason. I got my new seat, and my boarding pass on the Hello Kitty cardstock. Insult to injury, I thought.

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Then I boarded the plane, and noticed that in fact, the plane do have Hello Kitty service items on board. For some reason EVA swapped in a plane without the exterior livery, but had all the service item on board. Oh well, better than nothing, I guess.

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