Cathay Pacific are holocaust-denying heretics?

annefrankThis month’s “Discover” magazine (CX’s in-flight “why not visit Hokkaido?”-rag), contains a delightful lapse of concentration. An admission, no less, that they are Godless heretics (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and holocaust-deniers, who would probably give David Irving a free Marco Polo membership.

This admission was subtly tucked away in a film review for one of their in-flight movies. I have scanned and uploaded it here because, not only is it in the public interest, it’s also damn funny.

Of course, I’m not disagreeing for a minute with their claim that the bible is fiction. And as for the Diary of a Young Girl, well there are rumours that it’s something of an Otto-biography.

Branson pickle

This letter of complaint to Virgin Atlantic from a disgruntled but awfully articulate passenger is currently doing the rounds. I thought I’d share it here because it’s so typical of Virgin: they generally provide a good service for long-haul, but often (too often) manage to slip in something that spoils it. Either a foul meal like the one documented here, or a stroppy jobsworth at check-in (exclusive to Heathrow, I find), or the regular breakdowns of their V:Port entertainment system (which takes at least 30 minutes to reset) or the nasty little security stickers that they insist on affixing to my passport which won’t come off without hours of scraping and which leave a black, gungy, sticky mess behind. (No other airline does that; I wish VS would knock it off as my passport is starting to look gangrenous.)

My current beef with Virgin concerns a refund. I bought a ticket on my Amex card, and cancelled it a week later. According to their Customer Charter I should have seen that money back on my credit card in seven days. Well, it’s 48 days now and there’s no sign of it.

Incidentally, isn’t Virgin’s response to the above e-mail snide? The food is “award winning”, they say, and “very popular”. It’s the passenger’s fault for not liking the meal, they imply, rather than Virgin’s fault for supplying appalling swill. Apart from anything else, it doesn’t pass the laughter test: since when has any economy class food been “very popular”? What a peculiar concept!

Edit: Less than 3 hours after I published this, Virgin Atlantic’s IP range turned up in my log file, browsing not to the front page of the blog but straight to this posting! That’s very impressive, VS. If only you were just as quick with my refund.

Journalists: are they higher than this?

So much for fact checking and accuracy. The Daily Fail reports on a comparatively minor incident that occurred aboard a Boeing 767 (although that’s a 757 in their picture) which, it claims, was flying at “50,000 feet” over the Atlantic.

Opening plug-type doors on board while pressurised is impossible; the drunk passenger was a nuisance but not a threat.

However, if the aircraft (with it’s altitude ceiling of just over 43,000 feet) was actually at 50,000, then everyone on board would have had much more to worry about. The poor bird popping like a balloon, for example.

Metis: Truly a miraculous airline

Take a look at the web site for Metis TransPacific – the new budget airline that claims to fly between Macau and Vancouver.

Now take a close look… because it smells fishier than a Wellcome wet-market on a hot day.

They seem to have a 757-200 with a fuel capacity of 43,490 usg. That’s a tad more than Boeing’s claimed capacity (11,489 usg). In other words, their 757 is a fuel tanker, with no room for passengers or cargo. Or perhaps it’s made up.

They’re not mentioned on either MFM or YVR’s web sites.

The picture of “their” 747 on their web site is a photoshop of this picture from Airliners.net. (Oh, and it’s a 747-300, not a 747-400 as the Metis caption states.)

Their logo (see the 747 picture) is a photoshop of Bali Air’s logo.

And according to SkyTrax, if you try to book tickets they e-mail you asking you to wire money to their HK bank account.

Interestingly, if you attempt to add any of this information to their Wikipedia entry, a user called “metis1” reverts it.

It’s just possible… just possible… that Metis may not exist and may be taking money for bookings that will never lead to any actual flights. And even if they do exist, I am not going to fly with an airline that thinks it can get nearly 44,000 gallons into a 757.

Caveat emptor, in spades.

(Edit: If you actually manage to make a reservation, it takes you to a PayPal payment gateway where the 1,500 MOP has magically become US$1,500 … and the itinerary actually does claim the MFM to YVR flight will take place non-stop on a 757-200…)

Departures

I’m currently sitting in Wildfire in the HK airport departure area, attempting to keep my wireless connection up and running. There’s a plethora of wireless networks here, some access points, some ad hoc, and all equally flaky. Even the ludicrously expensive PCCW Netvigator Hotspot has a crappy signal, but I wouldn’t pay to use that anyway. The ZyXel access point is just about good enough to use, and doesn’t insult the user by requesting any kind of payment.

My attempt to use air miles to buy an upgrade to business class on my Cathay Pacific flight to London was knocked back. Apparently the ticket I bought is not eligible. Another good reason to avoid special fares. So I’m going to be wedged back in 33C, with my legs in the aisle.

Just as I was walking away from check-in, I was flagged down by a French girl. She explained that she’d got more luggage than she was allowed, and asked if I would mind carrying one of her cases through security for her. “Vous etes completement folle?”, I asked, only with diacritical marks. She looked highly put-out. I couldn’t even be bothered to explain to her why her request was so ludicrous.

Still a few hours before the flight. I’m killing time with some Chilean red.

Updates will continue from Europe; who knows – I might actually have some stuff to write about.

Flying visit

We’ve had a visitor in Hong Kong today. F-WXXL, one of the Airbus A380 double-deckers, popped by to help Hong Kong airport test its ability to handle the big aircraft. I missed it, accursed luck, due to client meetings.

a380.jpg

Luckily, there are some good pictures and videos right here, and more here.

Also on the subject of flying, I found some very cute cartoons interpreting the pre-flight briefing as a dance.

crewdance.jpg

The full set can be found here.

Incompetence Day II: American Airlines

If a simple task like booking a one-way air ticket leaves you frothing with fury and biting chunks out of your coffee mug, you’re probably trying to arrange a USA domestic flight from outside the USA.

I need to send an engineer from Washington DC to Miami around Thanksgiving. The only direct flights are available from American Airlines, and the obvious thing to do is to book via their web site.

Funny thing is, for an airline that flies internationally, AA doesn’t seem to realise that the vast majority of the world exists. When you enter your details into their web site, there is a pull-down list of countries from which it is acceptable for you to originate. In summary: North America, Central America, South America and the UK. Nothing else. So you can book if you’re from Haiti, Equador, Toronto, Croydon or Honduras, but not if you’re from Paris, Sydney, or – critically – Hong Kong.

So use an American or British credit card, say the optimists. Can’t. The credit card needs to be presented at check-in. The engineer who will be there doesn’t have an US or UK credit card.

(This makes the AA web site officially more stupid than the Kowloon-Canton railway web site, which allows you to book a one-way ticket from Guangzhou to Hong Kong but doesn’t tell you until after you’ve concluded the transaction that you cannot collect the ticket from anywhere in Guangzhou, or indeed anywhere outside Hong Kong.)

We went to a local travel agency. They quoted us US$440 for a flight that was being sold on the web site for US$140. We told them where to put their flight.

Then we tried AA’s official HK booking office – they have no local web site that we could use. The AA booking office clerk was quite amazingly rude. Yes, we could get the flight at the same price as that shown on the web site. No, they can’t invoice us, we have to pay up front. Cash or credit card. No, they won’t take credit cards over the phone, the signer has to be present. No, they can only hold the reservation for 24 hours. No, you can’t get the tickets today. No you can’t ask us any more questions. Go away. We’re busy.

Expedia was doing a nice trick. On the index of flights, it was showing our desired flight for US$125 ex-taxes. When you clicked on it, the site proudly reported, “The price for this flight has *just* changed: it now costs US$185”. I ran the search again. US$125. I ran the search again this morning. Still US$125, until you try to buy it.

And the American legacy carriers wonder why they’re losing money.

A wing and a prayer

HK’s newest airline made its maiden flight today, 24 hours later than planned. Oasis Hong Kong airways is worth watching. It’s the first modern budget longhaul carrier, trying to use all the hard lessons learnt by EasyJet, RyanAir etc to pick up where Freddie Laker left off, and make a success of it. They’re in with a fighting chance; the mastermind behind Oasis is Steve Miller the creator of DragonAir – and they have been a significant success story. Oasis is also of personal interest to me, because it could halve the cost of my trips back to the UK, providing I don’t mind the comparatively tiny inconvenience of landing at Gatwick rather than Heathrow.

I’m still curious about Oasis’ claim that it is run on “biblical principles” – the President is a Reverend, and so’s his wife, although they seem to have deserted the ministry in favour of making pots of money developing property. What biblical principles could possibly apply to running an airline? On Saudi Arabian flights, as the captain does his pre-flight introductions, practically every sentence is terminated by “inshallah” – “God willing”. That kind of thing doesn’t inspire confidence: “After takeoff, we will turn right, God willing, and climb to 35,000 feet, God willing. We will arrive in Damascus at five-thirty, God willing.” I’m hoping that Oasis are taking a more proactive approach to the successful completion of their flights.

The delay itself was very interesting. They got the plane all loaded up and ready to depart yesterday – lots of tearful farewells, champagne, interviews and journalists, and then at the very last minute, the Russians revoked Oasis’ fly-through permissions for their air space. The passengers sat on the plane for over five hours while negotiations went ahead, but in the end the flight had to be cancelled. No official reason for the retraction (and subsequent re-granting late last night) of these permissions has been given, but I suspect someone didn’t get bribed enough (or at all). This is Russia we’re talking about, after all. Conspiracy theorists are suggesting that British Airways or Cathay Pacific persuaded their respective governments to request that the Russian government sabotage Oasis’ flight, but that seems unlikely. The Hong Kong government doesn’t have that kind of clout, and the UK’s paltry influence in Moscow would hardly be wasted on something so private-sector as this.

In any case, the problem seems to have gone away. I went airside and watched today’s departure, which took place smoothly and bang on time.

Having recently received the prices for my Christmas flights to the UK on Cathay, BA, Virgin, Qantas, and even one-stopping on Singapore Airlines, I suspect that a round-trip on Oasis may be looming in my immediate future. After today, I’m quite looking forward to it.