Friday, September 29, 2006

Stupid, just stupid

If you've seen the Daily Show video below, I believe that a lot of fear mongering related to travel happens. This CNN article is just another case of rampant stupidity gone wrong. I don't begrudge the TSA for having the job it has to do; however, your job is to make sure that the people getting onto airplanes are not threats to fly. I'm also not going to get outraged over some idiot that thinks that 1st ammendment rights only apply in certain areas, but WTF? I grew up in Wisconsin and was schooled there, but this is quite an embarrassment for the educational system.

A couple years ago, I was flying to see my parents over the holidays and was waiting in line for an early morning flight domestically. I was told after a short wait that I was on the 'no fly list'. About a week before that I was in Southeast Asia for a three wek vacation. I stated this fact to the person at the airline counter, but was just mildly amused at how truly laughable airport security can be. After a quick phone call to who knows where, I was given my boarding pass and allowed on my way.

On a Thailand related note, Suvarnabhumi (����รณ���, pronounced "soo-wanna-poom") airport began fulltime operations yesterday (September 27th) replacing Don Muang airport which had been in operation for 92 years. I'll be arriving there on November 19th and I'm a little excited to see it. The airport is about 19 miles east of Bangkok and still is waiting to have the skytrain linked to it (best reports are that this is still 2 years away), but Bangkok has needed this airport for quite some time and being the hub for Southeast Asia travelers a new modern airport will only help travelers to the area.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Coup in Thailand

This evening in Thailand there has been an attempted coup by the army. Details are sketchy at this time as Thai television stations are not broadcasting live news or programming and live news is speculative at best.

BBC News' story on the events.

As some of you may or may not know, my fiance is Thai and lives in Bangkok. She's safe and at home, but as she said this is not good for Thailand.

I had been reading about coup rumors for the past couple days and with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra out of the country the rumors had intensified. There currently in Bangkok is a state of emergency declared (by the Prime Minister) and businesses have been closed.

At this point its wait and see. I'm off to check the Thai ex-pat boards for any news. I'll update if I find anything pertinent.


On one of the expat boards one of the posters said that on local television, an announcement was made that

"that the army and the police have taken control of things in view of all the uncertainty and arguments going on in the country with the temporary government in place. They will not form a government and they will look after things until the election. (Scheduled for October 15th)and have requested peacefulness and co operation from the population." - from a Thai-visa poster

Update 2:

This Yahoo news story has the most up to date information so far on the coup.

Update 3:

This site has updated information from the start of events today.

Friday, September 15, 2006

High Praise - United Airlines

A rare case of me giving praise to of all industries in the world, the airline industry. I'd like to praise Chicago's hometown airline, United for once again a pleasant customer service experience.

I've flown several airlines over the time I've been traveling. United, American, Continental, Northwest, Midwest Express, America West, Spirit, Southwest, and Delta domestically in the U.S.; United, Iberia and Aer Lingus to Europe; and United, Bangkok Airlines, Thai Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines in Southeast Asia.

It's really easy to say which airlines I liked the best and which ones will never see another dollar of my money. Domestically, I'd choose either United or American and would probably give a nod to Northwest in an absolute pinch, but the rest not a chance. To Europe, I definitely preferred United or Aer Lingus. I actually had a flight attendant wake me out of a dead sleep on an Iberia flight to ask if I wanted to eat.

In Southeast Asia, I really enjoyed flying Bangkok Air and Vietnam Airlines. Bangkok Air is a boutique airline that services a huge number of cities in Thailand, China, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. The majority of the cities served are in Thailand and China, but the planes are on time and the service was stellar. I've only flown them twice, to Siem Reap, Cambodia and from Koh Samui to Bangkok, but I would highly recommend them.

Back to my customer service experience with United Airlines. When I'm about two to three months out from my estimated departure date, I usually start checking airfares. I go direct to the airlines and look at cheap fare consolidators to try and find a deal. I had a couple real compelling deals from a few Asia based air carriers and still decided on United. I decided to go with a known commodity where I've had very few issues. The only issue is people putting their seatback into my lap.

Well, in searching diligently, I noticed a United fare from the consolidators cheaper than the web fare. I decided to give a call to see if I could talk them into giving me the lower fare. I really didn't even get to that as the rep had the lower fare already and explained that sometimes the web fares were higher. Kind of sad since I was well prepared to pay the higher fare. Yes, brand loyalty is foolish and companies like United do get to take advantage of that from customers like myself.

The other pleasant experience was when I called back today. Because I've actually flown a lot on United, I've achieved their "Premier" status with my frequent flier miles and have access to the Economy Plus section that has more leg room.

I wanted to make sure that I had my seats there and gave a call. No problems, they already had my seats set up and knew my preference for the window seat. I know the airlines do take a beating from customers and in the media and some of it is truly justified, but it is nice when things from them in the booking process go off hassle free.

The cluster map on the sidebar is really filling up and I'm really surprised in the number of hits that are coming in from out of the U.S. If you do come back, and I promise to get some more photos up this weekend before the Sunday night Washington Redskins football game, drop a note in the comments section and let me know where exactly you're looking at this infrequently updated blog from. Thanks.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Watch Out

A little fear-mongering from the Daily Show. I know its a couple weeks old, but I was checking out You Tube and just figured out to post a video clip on the blog. Kind of cool. This is moderately travel related, but I do enjoy the examples of fear mongering from CNN. I always get the impression from them that the world is about to end. Not that the bufoonery that attempts to pass for news on Fox News is any better. Honestly, I don't really watch cable tv news. All programs cater to the lowest common denominator for viewers and slog through the muck to present the stories with their spin and agenda. For a non-news program, the Daily show makes a lot more sense.