New York – part two…

This was intended to be a bit of a preview of my second trip to New York in three weeks. I’m in the Big Apple on a study tour – essentially looking at a number of regeneration projects.

Yesterday was the first part – an introduction.

But sadly I missed the start! This was courtesy of British Airways. All seemed to go OK as we boarded the plane for a 9.55am take off slot – getting us into JFK at 12 midday.

But things quickly went wrong – a part was needed. 15 minutes was the delay. This became 45 minutes then an hour. And then two. The part hadn’t worked and the hydraulic line to the brakes was spilling its juice out. There wasn’t a bucket big enough, nor duct tape strong enough.

We were de-planed. We needed a new one which had just landed from Boston (the good news) The new departure was 2.45pm. As that time approached there was a bit of a problem. The crew were in danger of being out of hours (the bad news). A new crew was needed. And they were not actually in the airport.

Vouchers were offered – to allow croissants and coffee.

The time shifted to 5.15pm. Then 7.15. We took off at 7.55pm – 10 hours after our departure time.

I try not to make this a moaning blog – but the way in which passengers are treated by airlines is astonishing. The planning that goes into a pre-flight check is second to none (I know I still have a pilots Licence!). But the planning of passenger treatment is at the opposite end of the scale.

I do know that shouting at the ground staff doesn’t work – nor does complaining to the steward about the turbulence when we were in the air. Some things are out of their control; but some are not.

You couldn’t make it up….

There were some omens in place before this trip to New York. Like I couldn’t book the seats on-line or do an on-line check in. I should have known really.

The M1 was shut at Milton Keynes so we skipped around the M40. We were still on-time. Parking at Purple Parking was easy and friendly. Check-in was remarkably smooth.

The trouble struck. Apparently Heathrow was ‘busy’ and they swapped the runways round – this cost us an hour on the tarmac.

But the real fun started when we picked our bag up. Or rather didn’t pick our bag up – because it wasn’t there. After a bit of detective work we established that someone had left a similar bag spinning on the carousel and wandered off with ours. To make matters worse the person is ‘visually impaired’ and so had some help. Presumably she just pointed at a blue bag and that was that – my bag with someone else.

I would have thought the ‘helper’ might have just checked the name tag?

Alas not. So the first night in New York is without any toiletries or clothes. I do have a laptop and kindle, but have found these to be poor substitutes for the likes of toothbrushes and deodorant?

I shall blog ‘properly’ soon…

New York – 6 months on, the prices are still fixed!

I blogged last September about my observations about Messrs Walsh and Branson having coincidental prices for flights to New Yoork. You ca read that rant here.

I was having a look at the weekend for flights again. It’s time I was back in New York – it has been nearly four months! That is far too long to be away from the worlds greatest City!

Guess what though? The prices have gone through the roof. Last September it was around £675 return on Premium Economy. At the weekend that had risen to £1,105 -for the same flight. An increase of around 65%. This is just outrageous and cannot be justified – can it? I know that fuel has gone up, but not by this amount. Most other costs are being held.

But what is really amazing is that the prices I managed to obtain on-line (flying from London Heathrow to JFK) for the same days and approximately the same times (within an hour) were:

Virgin – £1,105.16
BA – £1105.16

Clearly this is the second coincidence on price fixing. That is an amazing coincidence too. The prices match to the penny (again). At least they don’t try to pretend that they are calculating the prices I suppose. If it would have been 5p difference then they might have a defence?

I wonder who investigates this sort of thing? It surely warrants an investigation? Price matching (like the John Lewis system) is one thing – as this means that there is a lower common dominator. But this looks to me like there is a clear price fix – and the consumer doesn’t benefit. The prices have just climbed up…

Looks like Skegness beckons? And premium economy seats too?

Virgin -v- Willie (Walsh)

Welcome to my blog – brought to you this morning from New York City…As this goes to ‘print’ I am hoping to be sound asleep – being 5 hours behind the UK!

It seems like an age since we were here – actually it was January this year – one of the longest gaps ever. This is my favourite City on the planet (even over Nottingham!).

We arrived a few hours ago courtesy of Mr Willie Walsh and British Airways. This was a big change for us as we are pretty much died in the wool “virgins”. Virgin Atlantic Airways have carried us across the pond numerous times – I have a fair few air miles. But they were no good this time as the flight times out of Heathrow were early morning – which carries too much of a risk in getting to the airport from Nottingham! And coming back they could only fly us from Newark Airport – which is a potentially expensive transfer.

I blogged about the amazing price difference here, so it was not a difficult choice really – in and out of JFK at times which suited us. So the switch to BA was done.

The upside to BA is that you fly from T5 – which is an amazing building – more like a shopping centre than airport terminal. In fact, it is a shopping centre.

The downside is that World Traveller Plus is not the same as Premium Economy. I thought the seat was smaller, there were less seats and we only had a choice of one place to sit (you can only book 24 hours before unless you pay!) The TV screen seemed tiny.

The food was ok, but cold red wine doesn’t please me! And just three drinks on a near 8 hour flight isn’t enough.

Next time, I think we’ll head back to Virgin….

But for the next few days, it’s the Big Apple – I’ll try to find some interesting things to blog about!

Life on Mars?

A year before I was born, John F Kennedy made his famous “Man on the Moon address”, he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Impressive stuff, a massive challenge, a goal and one that stretched humankind like nothing had done before.

The Mars Wendy House at Toys R Us

Of course NASA did it (despite the doubting nay-sayers) and it was a time defining moment. I saw bit of the moon when I was at Downing Street earlier this year.

I was intrigued by the news story that hit the papers on Friday last. That man had been to Mars and back – and walked on the red planet too. Amazing – especially as I must have missed the Press Release? The whole mission went without a hitch – no dramas, no tricky bits despite the whole thing lasting 520 days.

Except that this wasn’t the whole story. Basically some blokes had been locked up in a big garden shed in a Russian car park on the outskirts of Moscow. One of the Carparkonauts said afterwards, “We have achieved on Earth the longest space voyage ever, so that humankind can one day greet a new dawn on the surface of a distant but reachable planet.”

Well that is brilliant – I’ll bet is JFK is watching up there somewhere (space I mean) he’ll be rolling around. “Impressed” will not be on the tip of his tongue?

The idea was to see if the blokes could manage to live together in the shed without light for 18 months. They did. They didn’t die of boredom. They didn’t suffer any radiation sickness either, nor illness from weightlessness…

I could have helped the boredom thing – I could have lined up a 5 day Cricket Test Match followed by a weekend omnibus of Coronations Street interspersed with EastEnders. Then a whole series of Question of Sport followed by wall to (garden) wall Gardeners Question Time. The whole lot should take a week – and the boredom level should be pushed to the limits?

This has to be the non-story of the years / decade?

No more men on the moon?

It seems that President Obama has come to his senses!

The moon - quite a long way away? Courtesy NASA

Bush started a programme in 2004 known as Constellation – it was costed at $104bn!

Whilst the original moonshot in the 1960’s when Kennedy galvanised the western world I cannot see why mankind would want to spend £65 billion on proving we can go to the moon – again? Or have I missed the point? As a kid I was fascinated by space and the Apollo missions – Buzz Aldrin sounded just great! But that was then… the world has moved on. We have other priorities.

We may have learned a lot as a result of the work NASA did but there are myths about how they ‘invented’ new products – velcro for example. That was invented by George de Mestral

But that diverts the argument. Imagine what we could do with £65bn. We could probably wipe out ‘homelessness‘. We could train doctors to eradicate many of the worlds diseases – especially in the third world.

I know the money won’t go to such causes. Perhaps Obama will use it to sort his health reforms?