Rare German inefficiency

Rare German inefficiency

I have just spent a few days in Berlin. I flew in and out of Tegel Airport.

 

Getting to and from the Airport

Berlin and the surroundings are covered by a network of trains; the U-Bahn. S Bahn, Trams and other rail services. The airport is not. You have to get a bus to and from Tegel.

When I arrived and found this out I purchased a cheap ticket that covered my journey and once validated was valid for 120 minutes (very efficient). The guy selling me the ticket told me where to go and change to the U-Bahn. I got it wrong and got off at the wrong stop but again was guided by helpful railway staff to the correct place. Despite getting on and off a bus and a train my single journey ticket remained valid.

 

When looking to return I found there was a bus to the airport from the center of the city fairly near my hotel so I would not have to change buses and trains. Great, I thought, and as I was travelling light it was not a problem to walk for a few minutes to the bus stop.

 

The Frustration

This is where the rather frustrating inefficiency arose. This is a bus to an airport. People using it have cases.

 

There was no where to put cases!!!

 

The bus was full and with cases and bags in the aisles being the only place to put them it was difficult to clamber over them to get down the bus.

 

Generally the transport system is efficient, and straightforward to use but why not install something so simple as a luggage rack? You would lose a few seats but so what. Perhaps this inefficiency can be corrected by the powers that be.

 

Otherwise a good time was had and Berlin is a very interesting and developing city.

Hilton – Gatwick South Terminal

Hilton – Gatwick South Terminal

I have a week off and am starting a brief trip of 3 European capitals. Namely Paris, Berlin and London. Currently London still is in Europe!!!

To start my trip I took a train to Gatwick and I am staying overnight at the Hilton Hotel – Gatwick South Terminal. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning to Paris.

 

Getting to the Hotel

The hotel state it is close to the Terminal. Indeed it is. I got off my train and walked into the South Terminal. I turned right and then right again and ended up on a travelator towards the car park. I then caught a lift down a floor and then along a covered walkway – effectively across the multi-storey car park and arrived at the reception of the hotel. All in all a 10 minute walk. All covered and quite well signposted.

 

First Impressions

As I entered the lobby it was, unsurprisingly, busy. There were restaurants and a Costa as I entered and on reaching the reception this was long and well staffed so I was dealt with very quickly.

 

 

Check in

I hold gold status through my Amex platinum card and this was recognised immediately. I was able to check in online. I thought I would try this. Perhaps my only “issue”. I had requested a high floor away from lifts. Through the online system I was allotted a room on the first floor. The Hilton system allows me to see hotel floor plans and choose my room> I was thus able to see that this room was just behind reception. Not the place I wanted. So I changed this for a 4th floor room.

 

Again this was recognised at check in and that this had 2 beds. The receptionist offered to change this to a double bed room and also said she would upgrade me. I had booked a basic room so was expecting as a gold elite member a one category upgrade. However to my delight I was offered an executive room. This was in the new wing and I see from other comments this is the recommended area of the hotel to be in. I was very pleased.

 

The Room

My new room was on the third floor so I caught the lift up and then walked though the older part of the hotel and across the glass bridge to the new wing.

I easily found my room and on entering it was very pleasant and bright.

The room had a double bed, single armchair and ottoman and a work desk.

It was clean and functional. Some of the edges around the desk, for instance, were a little worn but I suppose this is a sign of being well used.

The bed was firm and comfortable and I slept very well.

 

The Bathroom

This was bright and clean, It had a separate bath and shower. There were Tim Roth toiletries. All in all nothing overwhelming but good and functional.

 

For an airport hotel I was very impressed.

 

The Executive Lounge

As part of my upgrade, impressing me even more, was access to the executive lounge. This was offering drinks and aperitifs from 1830 to 2030. Wine, and spirits and some snacks. Perfectly fine. Beefeater gin, and mediocre wine, but certainly drinkable.

 

The loung had a mixture of sofas and tables and chairs. Perhaps a few more comfy chairs in smaller groupings would have been better.

i find it interesting people watching in lounges. Even for middle aged and older patrons the art of conversation seems dead – long live the ipad. Perhaps a subject of another post!

 

Final Impressions

Overall my initial impressions are favourable. Reading other reviews opinions are mixed and I accept they will be influenced by the type of room etc and I think I have been lucky. However the first impression is always generated by check in and the staff and I was impressed.

 

I would certainly consider staying again.

 

Sorry there are not more photos but I do feel inhibited in taking photos that show many other people.

 

 

The pettiness/snobbishness of elites

The pettiness/snobbishness of elites

As I sit in the executive lounge (a lucky upgrade) of the Hilton in Gatwick I have listened to the Guests around me.

 

It makes me wonder about then expectations of said “customer” and how they live in their day to day reality.

 

When reading reviews of airlines, hotels and lounges it makes me wonder how we reference or compare our experience and so opinions.

 

Relaxing in the lounge I watched a rather overweight older guy in  vest and shorts come into the lounge.

 

“Is that the type of person or dress we should expect” ?

My interpretation is that he did not fulfil the “dress code” but that is my impression.

 

I watched another guy with rather ill fitting T-shirt and trousers enter the lounge. He seemed incapable of sitting down without straddling the chair. Again a slightly odd behaviour. His female partner was able to  take a seat without throwing her leg over the chair. Who am I to judge behaviour? Odd to me but probably acceptable from the part of the world he comes from.

 

This post is generated my overhearing my lounge seat “mates” who comment on the snacks.

“They only provided tongs to serve crisps (chips for those in the USA). How can we serve these without crushing them?”

Mmmmm, Yes you can crush them but what other implement can you provide to help serve them? A spoon, ladle or some other scooping implement could be considered but remains unwiedy in a limited space. It may not be perfect but for most customers it seems ok.

 

My Point

My point is that opinion is usually informed by past experience and expectation. Perhaps influenced by class or assumed snobbishness without an acceptance of the environment.

 

Serving crisps with tongs would be anathema in a Michelin starred restaurant but is it really so wrong in a busy business airport hotel with self service?

 

I would love to see some of these customers providing similar canapés to an uncertain but large number of clients if they were the hotel manager

i really feel we are too quick to judge and too slow to contextualise.

 

I hope i will remember these comments in further posts

Blog dedication

Blog dedication

It has been a while since I posted to my blog.

My dedication has been poor but I do have another very full time job. Yes, it is an excuse and I am sure I could have found time to write something.

I note many of the “professional” and full time bloggers have a group of writers which certainly spreads the load.

Also as a full time blogger there is nothing else to distract you and your sole focus is on the news pertaining to the blog. I am not sure I really want to post on the latest headlines or who got dragged off which plane and which airline was rude and unhelpful to its customers. Many are reporting such things and it is saddening that these events occur. It certainly leaves a poor taste in one’s mouth when considering “customer service”. I will leave that to others.

Nor do I really want to comment on other headlines about the falling profits of airlines or the design factors for a business or fist class product.

I comment on my impression of the service and experience I personally receive as a 50 year old user.

It really is a challenge and I admire those singletons who can post very regularly. I can only but try.

 

So what now?

Well, I will continue and do my best to post more on the things that interest me. This will be my experiences of travel – airlines, airports and destinations.

Having had a hard couple of months in my day job I now have a week off. I am travelling to Europe, slightly different to my usual “adventures” but equally as exciting.

I will be posting some opinions as I go…..

 

Lounge Access – Take care who you book with

Lounge Access – Take care who you book with

The more I travel the more I learn. I realise a lot of my comments are obvious to seasoned travellers but I hope newbies gain some nuggets of useful information at times.

 

Recently I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. I booked with SilkAir. This is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. I booked the SilkAir flight rather than a Singapore Airlines flights as the timing was convenient. The flight was codeshared with both a SilkAir MI and a Singapore Airline SQ code.

Lounge Access – Denied

As I am a Star Alliance Gold Card holder I thought I would go to the Singapore Airlines lounge. Sadly this was not to be as I was not able to enter on an MI coded ticket. HAd I been on the same flight but with an SQ coded ticket then I could have had access. The same was true of the Thai Airways lounge.

Thankfully I also have a Priority Pass and so made use of the Plaza Premium Lounge.

 

But Why was I denied access?

So this is the obvious bit for the experienced. Even though SilkAir is completely owned by Singapore Airlines and is oft quoted as “the regional wing of Singapore Airlines” it is not a member of Star Alliance. It even says this on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=SilkAir&oldid=774389803). Hence there is no rights or privileges for Star Alliance status holders. Clever that and I suppose it saves Singapore Airlines some money.

 

Anyway I live and learn. The flight was good, quick and empty!

 

 

 

Keeping Up Appearances – regularly

Keeping Up Appearances – regularly

I admire those that publish daily. The work involved in creating any form of blog is a lot, to do it daily is monumental. The dedication to writing daily is hard. Even publishing a couple of times a week requires a perseverance that I have found challenging.

 

Firstly keeping up with different ideas on a regular basis and avoiding repeats is difficult. Then fitting in writing with the day job or even writing when away on holiday has been harder than I thought, hence my silence for a few weeks.

 

I note some sites have contributions from a number of people. Clearly this eases the individual’s pressure to produce prose but still can be problematic in editing and maintaining consistency and blog format.

 

I will try harder – soon!

Emirates Lounge – Dubai. Is it really a lounge?

Emirates Lounge – Dubai. Is it really a lounge?

To save you reading further the answer, in my opinion, is NO.

 

It is a massive place that spans the entire terminal a couple of floors above the main concourse.

It is pleasant enough but parts are as busy as the main gates. You can board from the lounge so you do not have to mix with coach. However, it essentially mirrors the gate set up 2 floors below.

It is busy at the gates and resemble a slightly posher gate waiting area with slightly more comfortable chairs.

 

There are quieter areas

 

Yes it has free food and drink.

 

It is certainly better than the main concourse but has absolutely no atmosphere above that of a waiting area.

Lounges in other airports at least have some character. This has none.

I will of course use it over waiting in the main concourse gate are and partake of the amenities. However, I will look forward to boarding my plane as soon as I can.

 

 

Planning what to do in a new city – Thorough Research or Ad Lib

Planning what to do in a new city – Thorough Research or Ad Lib

I am off to Kuala Lumpur soon. should I plan what I will  do or not?

Usually when I go somewhere I do some research and plan what I want to visit. Typically this is not too structured or deep. Generally a few notes from the Lonely Planet guides and a skim of the internet.

When I arrive with guide book in hand I start to wonder around and every so often follow a recommended route in the guide book.

Various blogs seem to advise thorough and expansive research whilst others suggest none. As in many aspects of travel what suits one is terrible for another person. I usually like some idea of a plan. I hate to think I might have missed some spectacular sight.

 

My plans for Kuala Lumpur

https://moodyncheeky.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/kuala-lumpur-skyline.jpg?resize=640%2C376

So far they have been a zero.

I have been pretty busy recently and have had little time to delve into the guides or internet. I did buy a guide book, but have yet to open it.

 

I am only there for a few days so I think I will play it by ear.

I will ask around at the hotel, take their advice and go with the flow.

 

And the reality will be….

I make it sound so so laid back. But I am sure I will have a sneaky peek at the guide book on the way so at least I have the bare bones of an idea of where to go.

 

Watch out KL. Here I come.

 

Amercian Express Fine Hotels and Resorts – Is it worth it

Amercian Express Fine Hotels and Resorts – Is it worth it

Amercian Express Fine Hotels and Resorts  is part of the American Express Platinum service. It seems great; a room upgrade, late checkout and an offer such as a $100 credit for food or other services.

Room Upgrade

I have Boked through Fine Hotels and Resorts twice and on both occasions I did not receive an upgrade. The small print does state “if available”. I suppose I have been unlucky.

Also I have tended to reserve a higher than basic room category so I assume there are less better rooms to upgrade me to.

 

Room Credit

The room credit means I have been able to have a nice meal in a hotel restaurant. This is something I might not have otherwise done.  I suppose you could offset the cost of the deal against this.

 

Late Check out

This is obviously useful if you have a late flight and useless if the flight is during the working day.

 

The Cost

Booking a room through fine hotels and resorts is more expensive than booking a room on the hotel website or even lower down in the American Express travel website list. You can offset the room credit against this cost which does bring it down but I feel it is not of value unless you get a room upgrade.

This also needs to be offset against benefits you might get if you are a hotel elite holder which might entitle you to a room upgrade anyway and breakfast as well as access to the Club Lounge.

 

Conclusion

Other commentators have enthused about the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts service. I am, so far, less  excited and less convinced it is worth it.

I have booked the St Regis in Singapore through it and I am staying there soon. So let’s see what benefits I get.

I suppose I should only book the cheapest room to allow more opportunity for an upgrade and ensure I do not go when there is a national celebration in full swing.

Third time lucky.

Watch this space…..

British Airways – Club Europe

British Airways – Club Europe

I recently flew to Barcelona with British Airways.

I was booked into economy class and out of interest i looked at the cost of upgrading. It was over £400 ONE WAY. I decided it wasn’t worth it.

I checked the website every so often and about 24 hours before check in there was an offer to me to upgrade to club for only £120. I went for this.

How much does it really cost the airline?

I suppose what I was confused about was if the ticket cost over £400 why offer me a cheap upgrade. Yes, i have already paid the economy class ticket so the £120 was in addition to this, Still it was cheaper than a business class ticket, Did I get this offer to make a space for another paying customer in economy? Had they overbooked economy and this was a way of encouraging some idiot to pay to be upgraded. I really do not follow the business cost model!!!

 

Was it worth it?

In a word, no. I should have know this as I have read many reviews from others.

I had the front seat – 1F. The seats are identical to economy with no extra legroom. The middle seat is blocked off so there feels to be a little extra sideways space.

 

I find the seats comfortable anyway but the service and sideways space was probably not worth it.

 

Food and drink

The champagne in a small bottle was not very nice. The wine was better but not spectacular.

The food was simply dreadful. A few small finger sandwiches dry around the edges, a very sweet cake and a warm scone with cream and jam,

 

Other benefits

I got fast track through security which was useful.

I had Lounge access but already had this to the No 1 Traveler lounge with Priority pass and I preferred this lounge to the BA Galleries Lounge.

 

Conclusion

I should have learnt from other reviewers that Short Haul Club Europe really is not worth it, no matter how cheap the deal.

I returned economy and ensured I took some water on board so as not to pay for expensive Marks and Spencer’s food and had a perfectly acceptable 2 ours 25 minutes journey.

 

I must remember next time not to pay for an upgrade!