The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The rumors were true

It looks like I might fly this afternoon:

I've had to postpone my annual flight review four times because of weather. Finally, today, the forecast calls for what you see above: clear skies, light winds, cold temperatures. (It's 0°C this morning.)

Airspace changes over the Hudson

Pilot and author James Fallows is thankful for the reasonable and minimal changes to New York City airspace the FAA announced last week:

When regulators and security officials address a problem through minimal rather than excessive rule-setting and interference or panicky over-reaction, that is worth our thankfulness too. Building toward a crescendo of things to be thankful for at this time of year.

By the way, it's a very fun trip for private pilots:

(From a flight I took in March 2000.)

Germany tells Emirates to raise prices

From the Economist's Gulliver blog:

The Germans said in a letter to the Dubai-based carrier that under European law it was not allowed “to engage in price leadership” on routes from Germany to non-EU locations. Emirates, which condemned the decision as “commercially nonsensical”, responded by raising prices by 20% on some routes.

Andrew Parker of Emirates told the Financial Times, "We are adamant this is selective and clearly an attempt by Lufthansa [Germany's national carrier] to pursue Emirates versus a legitimate policy."

Yes, but on the other hand, it would not surprise me to learn that Emirates had priced the seats as a loss-leader to undercut its competitors, including Lufthansa. Regardless, this seems a good example of the African proverb, "When elephants wrestle, the grass suffers."

At this writing, a 7-day advance, Saturday-to-Thursday (discount) business class ticket from Frankfurt to Dubai was €2,245 on Emirates and €2,954 on Lufthansa. I can see why Lufthansa (and the German goverment) might suspect anti-competitive behavior...but still, raising prices for everyone doesn't seem sporting.

Not as scary as today would have been

Reader EB has passed along Travel & Leisure's "World's Scariest Runways," including one of my favorites, Princess Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten:

Why It’s Harrowing: The length of the runway—just 2,180 m—is perfectly fine for small or medium-size jets, but as the second-busiest airport in the Eastern Caribbean, it regularly welcomes so-called heavies—long-haul wide-body jetliners like Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s—from Europe, which fly in improbably low over Maho Beach and skim just over the perimeter fence.

Today I had scheduled my annual flight review (required by my flight club—the FAA requires a review only every other year), but with 28 km/h direct crosswinds gusting to 48 km/h, I used the time-honored safety procedure called "staying on the ground."

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

Another day, another trip to Heathrow. I picked the late-afternoon flight back to O'Hare instead of the mid-afternoon flight, because I thought I could sleep in to speed along my re-adjustment to Chicago time. No such luck. So off I go, having woken up at 6:30 GMT, looking forward to driving home from O'Hare at 2:00 GMT tomorrow morning.

There has to be an easier way...

Catching up on photos

Now that I have a functioning monitor once again, I can post a few photos.

Despite American's mess-up with my seat assignments, a lovely British Airways flight attendant found an empty upper-deck window seat, so I did, in fact, get to have a total aviation-nerd-heaven trip:

P.O.V. shot:

A couple of things: first, the text on the screen is in Arabic, which makes sense if you're flying to Dubai. Second, the screen shows the plane has just gone over Italy's big toe. We had great views of the Alps and the Italian peninsula on the way down. (More on our route in a moment.) Third, the seat faces backwards, which may not be at all obvious from the photograph. Finally, I didn't realize that the upper deck curves too much to get really close to the window. So while I'm awfully happy to have sat up there, I'll probably not sit up there again unless it's an overnight flight.

About the route. Does this look odd to anyone else?

Compare with the great circle path that I expected:

I understand not wanting to fly over Iran, but then again, why not? British Airways flies London to Tehran, so I'm sure the overflight isn't a problem. It also looks like we skirted around Iraq as well, which, again, is not unfriendly (officially) to Britain. Anyone have an answer? If I'm able I'll get a shot of the return trip for comparison.

More later, with photographs of the world's tallest building.

All the little things

I generally love American Airlines, to the extent that I fly oneworld carriers unless there simply isn't another way to get there. But today, in an effort to be helpful, an AA ticket agent actually made an error that may have dashed a dream I've carried since I was six.

I'm on my way to Dubai for school, and to get there I'm going through London. (Faithful readers may recall I tried going through Amman, but that didn't quite work.) Going through London means British Airways, which doesn't let you choose a seat until 24 hours before flying unless you've got the equivalent of American's Platinum status. It turns out, I'll have Platinum status in two weeks, but not yet, and "almost" doesn't count.

The dream since I started flying is as nerdy as it is prosaic: to fly in the upper deck of a 747. I arranged my flight to Dubai so that I would fly one segment on a 747, in the appropriate class of service to sit on the upper deck. And because of the peculiarities, just mentioned, of British Airways' seating rules, I got up very early this morning in time to book the seat I wanted. And I succeeded. Woo hoo! Friday is Hump Day!

Flash forward to my check-in at O'Hare. British Airways and American have a deal that allows passengers to check their baggage through even if they've booked multiple reservations. Not wanting to go through baggage retrieval at Heathrow, and not wanting to schlepp my enormous (33 kg of baggage—comfortably less than when I went to the first residency) pile of crap to Heathrow's Terminal 5, I asked the O'Hare agent to check my stuff through all the way.

I don't know how, but whatever she did to check my bags through, she also erased my seat assignment—the one I woke up early to get—and there's nothing I can do about it until I get to Heathrow tomorrow morning.

I suppose I need to look at this in perspective. I'm going from Chicago to Dubai in less than a day, something imposssible even when I was a child. So, I'll just have to depend on the charity of British Airways' Heathrow agents, or wait until some other time.

Last-minute preparations

I pack in the morning, which means, five hours before my flight takes off, I have yet to dig my bags out of the closet. Everything to be packed is either on my desk or hanging in my closet; Parker's food is already in the car; and I have nothing else to do but get out of town.

One little niggle: why does British Airways not allow people to pick their seats more than 24 hours ahead unless they have the equivalent of American Airlines Platinum status? Not that I had any difficulties, as the flight doesn't seem full yet.

I got pretty much the seat I wanted. More important, it was in the cabin I wanted: the upper deck of a 747. Little kid moment coming: I've always wanted to fly in the upper deck of a 747, so, following my own oft-repeated advice, I now have the means and opportunity. I'm almost as excited about that as I am about going to Dubai.

All right. First flight leaves in 5 hours, 15 minutes...and 24 hours from right now I'll be lifting off from London on my way to Dubai.