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May 21, 2005

Traveling is fun

If the journey over here is any indication, this trip will be a nightmare. For one, the trains were not running in Tokyo (this never happens!) and there were only vague hints from the st station manager on what to do. To be fair, it does happen so rarely they were probably shocked as well. In any case, I ditched the train option and took a taxi instead.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I didn’t do this in the first place. If that’s so, you have never been to Tokyo. The airport is about 100km outside the city and the taxi fare from Tokyo is ¥20,000, or about $200. In fact, after five years in Tokyo, this was my first taxi ride to the airport. Compared to standing on a crowded train platform wondering if I would catch my flight, I can’t complain, but other than that it was a bit of a letdown. And I think it was the first time for the driver as well, who seemed better-suited to city driving and did not ever exceed 100km/hr despite the steady stream of cars, trucks, buses (and horse-drawn carts and pedestrians) passing to our left. But I reached the airport with time to spare, so that was OK.

I mostly fly British Airways. They go a lot of the places I need to go and the service is generally good. In the big scheme of things, European airlines are average. Asian-based airlines are much (much) better, while US airlines are often the worst (except Continental! I like them!). In the case of BA, the staff is polite and usually helpful. The lounges are good (depends where you are, to be honest), and their schedules are accommodating. The only real problem is the flights themselves.

So, here come my complaints: the plane was full…of muppets. It seems like everyone on the plane was flying for the first time. There is one guy who has left his overhead light on so it shines directly into my face when I try to lie down. He is sleeping, and even if he wasn’t, there is another light one row up that is also strangely aimed right at me. Meanwhile, the guy next to me keeps opening the shutters on the window and looking out (does he think everything outside has ‘gone away’? or is he making sure we are not lost?). I tried to sleep, but that wasn’t working out.

Not sleeping on a 13-hour flight can be a crisis…there is not much to do. You can read or you can watch movies. According to the BA Magazine, the lineup of the latter is excellent…if you are flying the other way. And I had only one book, so I had to ‘ration’ it to make sure it lasted the whole trip. Of course, there is one other thing you can do…complain about all of it and post it to your website.

I have saved the best for last. Inevitably, the pilot will come on the PA and let everyone know we are “making good time” and that we should “arrive early”. This, of course, is good news because it is a 13-hour flight. And it happens EVERY flight. Usually, the next time we hear from him is when we have been put into a holding pattern (those English sure love to queue), delaying our “early” arrival. Sometimes, we skip that only to find our gate is still being used. Or that we need to park off-stand and take a bus in. I have flown BA from Tokyo to London maybe twenty or thirty times and I have been early once. We were one hour late this time.

Posted by Kirk on May 21, 2005 01:31 AM


Glad you qualified your comments about american airlines. My fragile ego might have been hurt.

By the way, you have to go to lots of special schools to learn how to keep the PAXs happy (tell em we're arriving early), and when you don't, it's always weather (or Air Traffic Control).

Posted by: Rog at May 21, 2005 03:30 AM