Because travel sucks ... now more than ever.
Mon, 2009/07/13 - 22:02 by aargh

(Enjoy some light summer reading instead of my usual pander.)

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are 1,000 of someone else's words:

chart: compare cheap vs regular airline costs

(There's a full-sized, 1754x2991 version available via the link.)

It's a comparison chart of low-cost carriers versus their larger, lardier counterparts based on cost breakdowns. (I first saw it on Chart Porn, which is a great site for those of you into visualization of numeric data. Before you ask, no, there aren't many flesh tones. But it's still an interesting site.)

For one, I am quite surprised to see just how much the difference in seat density impacts the bottom line.

Two, I wonder how well the traditional airlines will fare as they try to play catch up by cutting frills. Can they narrow the gap? Would they even want to?

Sat, 2009/07/04 - 20:42 by aargh

To celebrate the USA's Independence Day I've done away with one liberty: TravelHell isn't accepting any new accounts at the moment.

Nothing personal against you fine readers. Just that there's too much spam.

When we've locked up the spammers (or found a way to simply tax them out of business) TH will permit new signups again.

Mon, 2009/06/29 - 10:55 by aargh

As I mentioned before, I had decided to postpone my rant on airline safety in light of the Air France 447 crash a few weeks ago. (I had, quite eerily, completed the draft the day before the incident.)

Everyone's favourite mock newspaper The Onion recently released an article on the event -- "Investigators Determine Air France Disaster Caused By Plane Crash" -- so I reason it's safe for me to pull my post out of the bin. Here you go.

You may think that anyone who uses The Onion as a gauge of sensitivity and acceptable social behaviour shouldn't be writing at all. And you'd be right. And you'll also understand that only evil people and bedbugs dislike TravelHell.

And now, on with the show ...

(Originally prepared for release 2009/05/29)

If you fly often enough you will eventually develop your own routines and safety procedures are no exception. A friend taught me to count the number of seats between mine and the exit door, in case my vision is obstructed or I have pulled on a blindfold so as to miss the melee. (This also gives me a strong case of plausible deniability in the event I step on some elderlies on my way out, or use a fellow passenger as a battering ram.)

Statistics taught me not to sweat it, because I'm more than likely a goner in the event of any air mishap.

Whatever the case, veteran travellers tend to ignore the pre-flight safety speeches. We realize they happen a few minutes after the doors close, and anywhere from five minutes to five hours before takeoff.

Nonetheless, I occasionally find myself with nothing better to do and I keep half an eye open. Just in case they've changed everything around, like the Eddie Izzard routine claims.

(Let the record show, I have resisted all temptation to stare quizzically at the flight attendants during the life safety training as though to say, "really? now what the devil are you talking about? what do you mean there's a chance something will go wrong??")

I recently caught myself wondering, as I watched the safety video:

When the air masks drop from the ceilings, why is everyone so bloody calm?

Really. They've just received notice that they're T-minus ten minutes to impact but they're cool as cucumbers. Not even a sign of Winnie The Pooh's "oh, bother." They have the same demeanour as someone asking, "would you like a bag of peanuts?"

It would be one thing if airplane crashes had such a high survival rate. Then you could claim the people in the video were swapping stories about their last crash, and the funny face the flight attendant made as she spilled chicken into his lap.

I demand more realism in airplane safety videos: screaming. Crying. Prayers. Maybe one unlikely couple shrugging and walking off to the loo to join the mile-high club.

I also want to see some fancy charts that show me the odds. Not just the odds that there will be an incident, but also the odds of actually surviving the impact. (In this day and age of cheap technology and glitzy animations, maybe the chart can adjust the numbers based on the phase of flight: high during takeoffs and landings, low at cruising altitude, and peaked when we've been sitting on the tarmac for four hours and we're about to riot.) Because while I believe most pilots have the steely nerves of Sully Sullenberger, I also understand that there are events beyond the control of diety pilots and that when my number's up it's up.

Finally, as a paying passenger, I demand the FAA expand the black box flight recorders. So that every person can leave a ten-second farewell message to the world. It'd be great for socializing with your seatmates. You could swap ideas on what to say if and when it happens.

I already know what mine will be:

See? I told you: first class crashes just as often as coach.

Mon, 2009/06/15 - 13:53 by aargh

It takes a brave traveller to just waltz into their hotel room and setup shop. Even if you've stayed in the hotel before, even if you've had that room before, standard travel procedure dictates you do a quick survey of your surroundings when you first arrive. My punch-list is as follows:

Room appears clean? Check. Closet free of corpses? Check. Sprinkler system? Over the bed.


That's right: in every modern hotel I can remember, there is source of water right over the sleeping area. Like some Nozzle of Damocles, ready to unleash itself in the event of a bed fire. (Chances are it has better water pressure than the shower.)

This makes sense, mind you, except that it doesn't make sense.

I agree that hotel guests goofing around with flammables could be a risk for starting a fire. But are smokers really that much more likely to light up right as they slip into bed, versus anywhere else in the room? What moron reaches for a lighter when he's drowsy? And why can't we spot them at check-in, and simply refuse them entry? "Sir, if you could please answer the following questions I could assign you a room. Do you often dream of fires? Mmm-hmm. Do you think smoking tobacco mixes well with duvet covers? Do go on ..."

If this is such a worry, let's just cut to the chase and put the bed in the bathtub. The housekeeping staff wins double on that one.

Even if that last bit were possible, it still wouldn't make sense. Because I see this even in non-smoking rooms. Which, these days, is all of them. The only thing people burn in hotels is money, and that's just in the metaphorical sense.

A hunt for safety stats isn't any more reassuring. Like the one that expects federal employees, when travelling on official business, to stay in "fire-safe accommodations" at least 90% of the time. Only 90%? And do we really need to make this a rule? Who the hell decides to get naughty and stay in a dry-timber shack the other 10% of the time, just to show off?

Enough, already. There's clearly no point in having the sprinklers over the bed but, since they're there, we may as well put them to good use.

Here's my take:

Can I call the front desk and request a spray for the amorous couple (or triple, or other multiple) in the room next door? I'm trying to sleep.

Mon, 2009/06/01 - 22:41 by aargh

One can hardly describe TravelHell as hot-off-the-presses journalism. We don't crank out content inspired by some long-sought muse who shows up just moments before deadline. We're closer to the Hone An Idea Over The Course Of Several Days crowd.

Sorry to disappoint. But I thought I'd start with that to explain why you don't see any of the usual type of material here today. I had prepared a snarky little run on why I ignore the pre-flight safety speeches. Yesterday it was sitting in draft mode awaiting tonight's release. Today I awoke to hear the news that Air France flight 447 from Rio to Paris had disappeared and there was a slim chance anyone aboard had survived.

Bloody hell.

For one, this is a tragedy. I don't use that word often, and when I do it's usually a sarcastic jab, but this is terrible news indeed. I hope the friends and families of those aboard find peace, and soon.

Two, this story understandably received quite a bit of press coverage. This was just about the only topic on tonight's TF1 newscast. What caught me, however, wasn't just the amount of time spent on the story but that most of the time involved interviews with various aviation and weather experts. And they all had the same quizzical look the rest of us did.

Because airplane accidents are so rare.

Rare and improbable.

Which is why we can honestly look at every such incident mouth agape and mutter, "well, that's not supposed to happen."

Barring my cynical remarks on air travel statistics, it truly is a safe form of travel. Quite a bit of science goes into the metal birds, and the people in the cockpit have their act together. The greatest opportunities for danger occur at takeoff and landing, yes, but given all that's involved pushing those beasts into the air and bringing them back down in one piece it truly is a wonder so many of them go off without a hitch.

Which, believe it or not, brings me back to what would have been today's post.

The whole reason I can make jokes about the pre-flight safety routines is that they're so rarely needed. I step into the tin cigar, that wonder of travel, knowing that more than likely I'll step off some hours later and my only real complaint will be that my fellow passengers were jerks. (Sadly, no amount of Boeing or Airbus engineering will change that.)

I'll share the original post at a later date.

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