Archive for the ‘Air Travel’ Category

The Long Awaited Day

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

After quite a lengthy planning, finally the day arrived: we were ready to embark on a trip to the largest city in Europe: London. We have booked our flight already back in November last year, so we had nothing else to do, than print our boarding passes and try not to oversleep (the flight was scheduled to take off at 06:45 in the morning).

Wizz wingHaving the tickets booked so early, we managed to buy our round-trip flight for two persons with WizzAir from Cluj to Luton Airport for as low as 842RON (~€187), which included also one checked-in luggage. So far everything was great ;).

Due to the early departure time, we had woken up at 04:15 in the morning and after just about an hour and a half we have already passed the check-in process and were standing in line to embark the plane. Due to the deicing procedure, the plane took-off at around 07:10 and additionally we had a quite long flight. On top of that we could see hardly anything of the land below, so I was really glad they changed the Wizz-magazine since the last time I flew 🙂 . It was already around 08:10 (U.K. time) when we finally landed. I am saying “finally”, because the last few minutes were… well… “messy”, as the pilot also announced. We had to go through multiple layers of clouds and were approaching the runway in an angle which was far far away from straight… The whole experience, however, was actually OK, because by the time the plane really started to shake we got out of the cloud layer so everyone jumped to the windows to admire the beautiful, green, English countryside instead of worrying about the plane 😉 .

The next challenge was the long-long queue at the passport control gates. I think we stayed there about an hour, so our plans to do a quick tour of the city center just before lunch was slowly fading away… Despite of the long queue, our morale did not fall: we made a quick cash withdrawal (there are some “free” cash withdrawal machines which accept a lot of cards) and were ready to search for our bus to London.
National Express
Finding the right bus was also a piece of cake: there were some HUGE signs painted on the wall, about National Express who would take you to London Victoria station for as little as ₤10 round-trip. The buses start off from the coach station just outside the exit from bay number 10. Tickets can be purchased both inside the terminal and at the bus (there is no difference, the agent even accepts credit cards). We had a small issue here with the payment: although the sign said the trip only costs ₤10, this actually meant, that the whole round-trip costs ₤20 per person. (otherwise it costs ₤15 just one way, making the round trip cost ₤30). Luckily I have withdrawn enough money so I was able to pay without problems.

The last part of our trip was just to get on the bus, and get into London in the scheduled one hour and 15 minutes period… well, this is what we thought at least… Unfortunately there were some very heavy traffic jams in London, so by the time we actually arrived to London Victoria Coach Station, it was almost 13:00 (U.K. Time). The trip itself was full of surprises, though, we really got to know how unforgiving London traffic participants may be. The driver was funny, he took all the small challenges really well and made jokes about the other drivers double-crossing him…

By this time we were absolutely positive, that we were going to take the first city stroll soonest towards the evening, but we were actually glad that we arrived and we were ready to get in contact with the public transport system of London. But I am going to write about this whole tale in the following post…


A Hard Trip

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Although I like traveling, I was not really enthusiastic about having to go to the Netherlands for few days (after just a few days notice). Additionally it was not a simple destination: I had to go to a place which is not accessible using any public transportation means, and there aren’t too many hotel options to choose from. With the help of our client, the hotel part was very quickly solved and I was also permitted to rent a car in the Netherlands in order to get to the remote location. Things were looking good 🙂 .
Eindhoven Airport
After some searching, it also became obvious that the flight options from Cluj to the Netherlands are numerous and I chose the good old Wizzair flight from Cluj to Eindhoven. The flight itself was easy, because I left on Sunday evening (leaving most of my weekend untouched) and I was able to stay until Wednesday evening (leaving a lot of time to work with the customer). The only drawback was that it was scheduled to arrive a little late, which meant there were only limited car-rental companies to choose from (well, only one to be honest). I did not reserve a car ahead, because I wanted economy, but I had some problems reserving it online.

And now, the fun part (round 1): winter chose to switch up a few gears exactly on the weekend of my flight. This meant, that there were quite considerable flight delays to deal with. The one car rental company I based my trust upon, however, was open until 10 PM, so theoretically I had a 2 hour buffer for delays. In the end I had a 1 and a half hour delay in the flight (counting the quite slow response time at the airport baggage-belt), so I was well within the time limits.

The really funny part came next (round 2), as I rushed over to the car-rental company to get myself a car, and drive to the hotel (1 hour and 20 min drive) before 11PM (at the limit). Technically everything was well: the company was open, I could find them easily (great guidance at the airport) and an agent was there smiling and ready to help me… practically, I received some very disturbing news from the agent: “We have nothing…”. “What do you mean nothing?” “Well, we have no cars at all… maybe tomorrow morning?”. “Great.. :(“. Lesson learned: book ahead, do not trust the opening hours of the car-rental companies.

So: I have to get to my destination hotel in about one and a half hours, but there are no cars anywhere… not a chance… 🙁 .

The light into this dark situation actually came from the bright logo of the airport-hotel in Eindhoven: “Tulip Inn” (love them, we actually have a great one in Cluj also). I said to myself I will check them out. And so I did: I went to the reception and here I received some great news for a change: “We have room!” (and at a great price). I must say I was VERY pleased with the hotel services. The receptionist was very friendly, there was free WiFi (so I could reserve a car for the next day 😛 ) and a late-night lunch was possible at the hotel bar near the reception (I was served by the same friendly receptionist) at very reasonable price.
Tulip Inn Eindhoven

As bad as things have started out, I was able to sleep well that night, so no harm was made 🙂 . I was actually very delighted for the possibilities/services I received 😉 .


A Small Comparison

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I have been flying with several air-travel companies for some years now. They have been taking me from several points within Europe, and there were some long-haul flights that I have had with only two companies so far. Now, my understanding about long-haul flights is that they are much more entertaining, much smoother and offer a great deal of extras along the way than short distance flights. At least that is what I learned from previous Lufthansa flights.
Star Alliance
There are, however, some exceptions to my rule. I have found the first one while I was headed to Chicago two weeks ago. Theoretically my flight was booked, again, using Lufthansa flights, but the “to” trip was handled by United Airlines instead of Lufthansa, as they are both members of the Boeing 777, a theoretically new and modern plane, but it seemed a bit… old… In some areas the paint was gone, there were scratches all over the plane, so I got a bit worried, that this was the plane which was supposed to take care of me for the following 9 or so hours. I started to worry even more, when we were taking off: the plane was shaking like crazy and the noises were worse than the ones heard in a light, short-distance plane. This was especially funny, because it was a bright sunny day, with very little turbulence. I think they should look after their planes more frequently… I never saw this at Lufthansa, their planes always look nice and new, and never make the shaky noise. To top this, the landing was just nasty. To use the words of a friend: “I do not know if we actually landed or if someone just shot us down…”.

The service was also a bit interesting. I mean, yes, they were there for us, they did everything they had to, but I always felt that they could not wait to get rid of the “stupid job they were doing”. I never saw this at Lufthansa. They might not enjoy their job, they might have bad days, but they never make you feel it ( and in the 3 long haul flights I had with them I never saw it). This is actually the definition of professionalism.

The return flight was handled by an actual Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 plane and crew. On it everything got back to normal: an enjoyable flight, with excellent service and of course a smooth take-off and landing. I think when it comes to big companies the standards are very different. I might have had my standards set too high… I am not sure. Are they really that bad? Was I simply just at the wrong place at the wrong time?