Friday, May 23, 2008

Yes, we pay for that too...

It looks like travelers in the US are getting their panties all up in a wad, because American Airlines decided to charge monies for ALL checked bags.


So what’s the big deal here anyway? Have you been to Europe recently? We’ve been paying for the privilege of flying with checked luggage for quite some time now. For that very reason, I always avoided Ryanair like the plague…


Unfortunately, when FlyNordic merged with Norwegian, and became one of the two airlines that fly to my Arctic village (the third one doesn’t really count), they instituted the same policy.


Three days ago, on May 19, Germanwings began charging 5 euro per bag. WizzAir also wants money for checking in your luggage.


AirBaltic has this to say: Economy Class – there is fee of EUR 9 (if paying for baggage and ticket together) or EUR 15 (if paying for baggage separately) on each flight segment for each piece of baggage with total weight up to 20 kg.


And these are just the ones I flew on recently. The big national carriers are still trying to hold on to the “1 bag of up to 20kgs free” policy, though rumors abound it’ll change soon. It’s only a matter of time before the likes of SAS and Lufthansa start charging for all bags, as well.


I guess it will be a rude awakening for Americans traveling in Europe this summer. You see? Your airlines are just getting on with the program. Too bad it was the dismal American Airlines that decided to go first. And yes, I totally agree they suck. I’d rather walk than fly AA.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Shopping and sleeping part 2

When living in more or less civilized countries, I never had to think about the lowly concept of sleeping in airports. There were always hotels around, some with airport pick-up, some without, some expensive, and some cheap. And with a bit of searching, I always managed to find a place for the night.


Even in one of the most expensive (supposedly) countries in the world - Japan, at the Narita Airport Washington Hotel a double room for one night set me back all of US$80. With a pick up at the JR station in Narita and a drop off at my terminal the next morning. And complimentary drinks, alcoholic even! Ha! 80 bucks at last year’s exchange rates, is what? SEK 560, and I’m being really generous here.


CDG, Paris? A slew of cheap options nearby. Heathrow, London? There’s a Travelodge right there under your nose, I mean the ill-fated Terminal 5. And if you’re willing to go a bit further inland, there’s no shortage of affordable places.


Arlanda






Enter Arlanda, Stockholm. Where affordable means a coffin-like room at Rest&Fly and communal showers at the end of the hall. And not just any old room, it’s a “night room” where your stay is calculated by the hour, and where 10 hours will cost you SEK 540. And dude! They have bunk beds!


Rest&Fly proudly proclaims on their webpage that 70,000 happy guests can’t be wrong, R&F is fab. Well, sure it is! It’s the ONLY budget option available.


Every time I attempted to book a coffin at R&F, the place was full. And just as well. Sleeping in the airport itself is not a problem at Arlanda, it’s a silent airport (the announcements are limited to the absolute minimum), most seats are padded and don’t have arm rests, and the security lets you be… And you save SEK540 in the process.


It’s a no-brainer to me. I’d rather sleep in the terminal. My favorite spots are:


  • in Sky City by the hairdresser's (comfortable and close to the bathroom)

  • downstairs in Terminal 5 in the left/lost luggage area (quiet).

Because seemingly, everyone else overnighting at Arlanda has the same brilliant idea, be sure to claim your spot early. Come 2AM Sky City will look like a refugee camp, or a homeless shelter. People on the floor everywhere, people under the tables everywhere. People on the tables, if all other space is taken.


And if you don’t feel like sleeping? There’s Sidewalk Café internet for your pleasure. Nothing like playing mahjong on-line all night long.


So, while Arlanda gets a big fat zero for its shopping options, it feels like a freaking Club Med when it comes to airport sleeping. I consider it my puny contribution towards reducing my carbon footprint. It’s economical and environmentally friendly, because hey, the bloody airport is always open, anyway…





Thursday, May 15, 2008

100 really cool travel blogs

So… The good folks over at Travel Hacker made a massive list of one hundred “required reading” travel blogs. And they even included yours truly. Thanks guys!


Their list saved me a lot of searching and googling (I love when someone else does the manual labor!), because now, I no longer have to worry about updating my links. And as y’all know, I suck at updating my links.


I’m already familiar with some of the blogs listed there, I even have quite a few of them bookmarked. But there’s also plenty I haven’t read before. And I can tell you already, I have a new obsession. And her name is Girl Solo in Arabia.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The idiocy of it all...

I admit it, I never understood the hoopla over airfare aggregator sites. You know, the ones like kayak, or kelkoo.


Kelkoo gets my vote every time, as it doesn’t limit itself to travel and aggregates just about anything you can think of, but in Swedish. Kayak, on the other hand, always rubbed me the wrong way. So what’s my problem? While these sites are indeed designed for lazy people, they are not for those of us who are both lazy AND cheap. Like me.


For people who don’t mind flying the likes of Frankie’s Western Sky Pacific Airservice (and who cares that there are goats on the plane, it’s CHEAP!), and who pride themselves on making it from Stockholm to Mumbai for less than 350 euro return (yes, it involved changes in Istanbul, Dubai, and Yerevan, but damn, it was CHEAP!), the aggregator sites offer little help. Because we give a whole new meaning to the word "budget".
And sorry, but I'd rather spend my money on designer purses (for me) or coloring books (for slum kids in India) than on airfares.


Today, just for gits and shiggles I gave kayak another run. And then went directly to the airlines’ websites. Just because, you know? And guess what? Nine out of ten, what kayak showed as the best deal, wasn’t.


And speaking of deals…


Why is it that a round-trip ticket Stockholm-Helsinki-Seoul costs almost SEK10,000 (well, 9 thousand and change), Helsinki-Seoul about SEK8,000 but London-Helsinki-Seoul less than SEK6,000? And Paris-Helsinki-Seoul around SEK7,000? (No, I’m not gonna give you the exchange rate! What am I? A bloody calculator?)


The Helsinki-Seoul leg of the trip is the same in all cases.


Finnair has me stumped. Or is Sweden really that much more expensive than the rest of the continent? I shudder at the thought…


Well, it’s a no-brainer to me. My frequent flyer miles will get me to London, I’ll go shopping, spend the night in some Travelodge, and still pay less than when flying from Stockholm to Helsinki directly…


But at least in London I’ll be able to shop at decent stores and hopefully pick gifts that won’t be cringe inducing… Sorry, I love the North and all that, but reindeer skins, Viking hats and bone-handle cheese slicers just don’t do it for me. And Swedish design is highly over-rated...


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shopping and sleeping part 1

My last post made me think about airports in general. There are some that I love, there are some that I hate, and finally, there are some that I’d rather chew my leg off and bleed to death than visit ever again. In other words, I’m just like most travelers.


But unlike most travelers, I rate my airports according to a super-sophisticated, scientific methodology. It’s extensive and complex, and took years to perfect, but fortunately, it neatly comes down to two easy to grasp points: shopping and sleeping.


(Eating is not all that important to me, as long as there’s a soda vending machine nearby and a place to buy a bag of chips, I’m all set.)


Shopping is self-explanatory. I love to shop. It’s hands-down my most favorite activity. And because I’m lazy by nature, I don’t want to go far to indulge my need for designer sunglasses and skin creams.


Some airports, simply based on their proximity to shopping nirvanas of New York or Paris, you’d think would be magnificent places to buy, buy and then buy some more. Sadly, you’d think wrong.


Paris CDG is a vile pit of dirt with pedestrian selection of big-name brands. The airport shopping options seem to cater almost exclusively to Russians and Chinese, who push and shove and scoop up make-up on sale like it’s going out of style.


New York airports are shopping disasters not even worth mentioning here.


And then, there are the likes of Dubai and Narita. As far as I’m concerned, Dubai is as close to paradise as one can get. What am I saying? Dubai IS paradise. A 24-hours a day, 7-days a week shopping paradise, all within the comforts of your departure gate. And there’s even a Baskin Robbins there. Yes, I’m sure the rest of Dubai is also lovely, but why bother? I can satisfy all my needs without ever visiting the city.


Baskin_robbins_in_dubai

After several years of living in a third-world country without a donut in sight, this proved to be an orgasmic experience.





Narita, on the other hand, is Narita, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from the Japanese, right?


Unfortunately, when traveling to Seoul this summer, I won’t be transiting through either Dubai or Tokyo. Not even Paris. I’ll have to make do with Helsinki. Which leaves me with a serious problem, and anyone who’s seen the airport shopping options in Helsinki will understand my pain…


Dubai_shopping

Dubai, oh how I miss thee, let me count the ways... Chanel, Dior, Michael Kors, Prada...


Next time, we’ll discuss sleeping in airports.