Thursday, 30 July 2009

Summer Airports

Ok so I travel with work a lot - and have travelled a hell of a lot over the last 15 years, far too many days, nights, weeks & months away from my family and home. It's good to travel and see the world, meet people and experience cultures etc - but all too often it's just a taxi, and office and a Holiday Inn hotel that I get to see :(

So what has wound me up about the last 2 week's travel within Europe then?

Well mainly :-

  • Bloomin Awful (airline) - for removing their self check-in computer terminals @ Düsseldorf airport and now forcing either on-line check-in (not easy to get the print out when travelling) or a vast queue
  • Bloomin Awful (airline) - for not using mobile phone bar-codes for check-in unlike certain other airlines that are actually in the 21st centuary
  • Alitalia (airline) - for their self check-in computers not accepting 95% of UK etickets or London as a destination, thus forcing to queue to check-in
  • Tourists & holidaymakers - moving like they've never seen an airport or plane before. People that regard air-travel as a pleasure voyage rather than the chore that it is are in the same group here...
  • Gatwick airport - it's full of glowing orange UK holiday makers, showing the very worse of the nation in the harshest light. Put a fence around the place, padlock the gate and switch the lights off. Please. Next time I'll walk or swim rather than fly through there...
  • Heathrow airport Terminal 2 - for only having 1 x-ray scanner machine working at 0530 in the morning, it's not like there's a queue of 1000 people and a horde of travellers waiting now is it? You take your tea breaks and chill whilst the 'customers' get delayed...
  • Heathrow airport Terminal 5 - security x-ray scanner policy is "all bags in the trays regardless", Terminal-2 policy is "no bags in trays regardless" - nothing like standards & consistency eh?
  • Teenage tourists - for trying to carry their entire home hi-fi system & cabling in their carry-on baggage & trouser pockets - delaying the single queue by 10 mins
  • Oh and Alitalia - any seat with a credit card slot in it should have an 18 cert, and be in a club with bar, and not be for in-flight TV! #EconomyFlightCutBacks
  • Passengers taking 45mins to board a short-haul plane - so many bags and such slow attitude to travel & schedules
  • People that walk up & down the plane for exercise, but really being nosey and bashing into you as they go (including pulling / supporting themselves on the back of the chair)
  • People that recline their plane chairs - it's simple you recline your chair then please accept that my knees are going to be in your back and they're likely to move a fair bit
  • Alitalia for not have apple juice - not everybody wants orange to drink, oh and cranberry would be nice as well?
  • Alitalia for operating the hottest temperature flight I've ever been on - the AC seemed to be set to 'warm', mobile sauna would have been colder... People were getting seriously dehydrated during the flight and asking for many cups of water :(

I'm not as bad a traveller as the above makes me look - but given the costs and time I spend travelling it all matters. All I can say if thank goodness for my HTC Magic and 'The Levelers' 'levelling the land' at near full blast on repeat to get me through it all :)

Nice to be home after all of that...


Blog from the past - Heathrow T5 opening

So here's a blog I wrote for somebody else re my experience of Heathrow T5 in April 2008 just after it opened :-

"So I'm typing this whilst we sit on the plane delayed (as usual)...

Didn't start well :-

• Yesterday one of our team was due to fly at 17:00. His flight was cancelled and he was put on the 21:00, which in turn took off at 23:00. Upon arrival he was told BA hadn't loaded any baggage and they didn't know when his bag would be forwarded to him. Indeed this morning he still has had no update at all.

My experience :-

• Arrived at T5 at 04:30 for 07:30 flight (wary of delays thought better allow a lot more time than normal)

• Nice shiny, quiet & well lit terminal (must however have been tricky for the 100 or so blanket & sleeping bag ocupiers to get any sleep - either BAA are looking after the homeless or this is now part of the 'T5 experience')

• Nothing operating for check-in at all!

• 11 flights already cancelled in next 2hrs

• 100s of self check-in machines, but they don't boot-up until 04:45 - goodness only knows why as internet check-in is 24hrs!

• 100s of check-in desks & 'fast bag drops' but not one open, and no indication of when they will open

• No BA staff anywhere to be found

• A few BAA staff in 'can I help?' sweatshirts, but they roam in packs in order to avoid customers

• Eventually at 05:10 some unionised BA trolly dollys saunter up to 6 of the 100+ counters and start doing their nails & make-up.

• After a further 5 mins they decide to start doing their jobs and open the desks

• Progress is slowed by the 'can I help?' mupwhits constantly interrupting the check-in dollys with questions (in broken English as it would appear no employees are actually from the UK)

• Eventually through to security... Where progress is now delayed by the 'requirement' to take pictures of everybody on internal UK flights - hence creating another queue as only 2 of the 8 counters are open and photography is not a strong point of the nightclub bouncers hired to grunt their way through this task

• Never one to miss an opportunity to create a queue BAA have decided only to open one of their 20 new x-ray scanners. But this does give time to note the rather unfinished nature of the terminal interior - black gaffer tape appearing to be a critical structural construction item, and lots of odd holes and bits of wooden things that messers Heath & Robinson would have been rather proud about....

• So eventually on to the new x-ray scanning system - now with a double deck tray cart system, lower for empty carts to use, upper for your carts full of stuff. With 3 'stations' per conveyor - meaning people carts now get interleaved with each others. Another great QCS (queue creation scheme) courtesy of BAA at the other side of the machine.

• But BAA have now decided to automate the conveyor of carts on the far side, meaning that nobody understands when to collect their stuff and when not to. And God forbid those who try and lift their cart of the conveyor!!!

• In a great cost saving measure (no doubt to pay for all the 'abstract' (ie poncy & f'ing expensive) artwork 'installations' around the terminal) BAA have chosen to have no chairs for people to sit on whilst putting their shoes back on. Still at least the people having to sit on the floor saves on floor cleaning costs...

• The one area that BAA appear to have focused all of their efforts on however is the 'retail experience' with lots of shops selling all the stuff you never needed...

• Food (ie money extraction) 'appears' to be ok, but, and its a big but, try finding a bin! They make BA staff look positively available and easy to find.

• Oh and the general signage is terrible, hunt the toilet is a whole new game certainly requiring gps & satnav... And if/when you get there expect much fewer / smaller than at the old terminal (an impressive reduction on something that was already under-resourced) - but at least the taps are 'modern' ((

• Sadly BA chose to locate our plane on the core 'A' of T5 so we didn't get to experience either the lifts & train to B or C terminals (note no ability to 'run for it' anymore) or the busses to the plane.

• Our 07:30 flight eventually took off at 08:10, not too bad for BA and they blamed the Dutch (too many planes in air over the Netherlands - as if these flights just appear as random surprises....)

• Goodness only knows what the electricity bill for the place is - everything is electronic screens and gizmos, wonder what happens with a power cut?

• Good news is that my bag was waiting for me at my destination!
• An ok-ish building but NO staff, NO processes, NO effort being made

• Might be ok in a couple of months if they sort out the people bit AND work on the process side

• Despite the architecture glitz & glamour, it's actually quite shabby & well worn upon closer ispection in many areas.

• Glass, stainless steel & flat screens certainly alone don't make for customer service & satisfaction

• Gormless unionised staff with no eye contact or sense of drive, motivation or energy

• A lot less (ie none) 'customer survey' people around than normal - suspect they are in hiding or off ill...

• If I worked at BA or BAA in people or process mngt I'd be worried about my job - as its clear nothing has improved on this side at all, and the new building merely highlights it further

Can't wait for Thursday night's return experience"

Thankfully T5 has got a little better since then...

Hello World

So finally after commenting & replying on other people's blogs, and ranting regularly on twitter I have succumbed to a little blog of my own.

Well it's all a little sparse and empty right now in this new home - but I'm sure that'll change over time :)

I suspect a fair bit of the content will go like :-
10 have issue or opportunity
20 meet vendor or read research
30 get given FUD or hype
40 challenge
50 work out better method
60 goto 10
Similarly content is likely to be batched given my workload and travel schedules - don't expect daily updates...

So are there any topics that people would specifically want me to noodle over?

So for now I'll leave it at "Hello World" and see where we go...