Sunday, February 1, 2009


This week I'm in the UK again. I'm re-visiting a customer at Felixstowe, at the north-east coast of England.

I booked a direct SFO-LHR ticket with Continental, operated by Virgin. In itself, Virgin is a nice airline, but when you book through a code share - kiss your status and perks goodbye. They had me check my hand luggage (first time in over 2 years) because statusless people are only allowed 6Kg (12 pounds) on board, never mind the fact that my bag weighs 6Kg empty. Couple that with the fact the flight was half empty, and you get stupid people enforcing stupid principles (the same woman who fought me about my bag for 10 minutes, told me a minute later that the flight is half-empty, therefore I shall have no poroblem finding a better seat once we're in the air - and she couldn't draw the connection between those 2 statements).

Of note is one other stupid policy Virgin has: they sell the right to sit at an exit row.
This has 2 interesting results that I've noticed: either the row is full of people who were willing to pay extra $$$, but are completely unfit to operate the door in case of an emergency, or, as happened on my flight, the row is left completely empty. And then, an attendant came and asked me to sit by the door for take off and landing only, so someone will be able to assist in case of an emergency.
I realize airlines are trying to make a buck however they can, but betting on lives of passengers for $50 sounds extremely stupid to me.

So, to sum it up: no online check-in, worst seat assignment (I was assigned a seat all the way in the back of a 747), checking in your hand luggage and no chance of an upgrade. But on the upside, it's a direct flight, taking 7 hours less than a transfer at Houston would take with Continental. And the ticket was rock-bottom cheap ($560).
What do you think I should do next time: take the direct, or take the longer route but get some r.e.s.p.e.c.t.?

Last time I visited these parts, I stayed at a hotel in Felixstowe recommended by the customer. The hotel describes itself as "a Victorian hotel dating back to 1898" - and indeed it was. 1898 was the last time someone actually renovated the rooms. It was a crumbling, cold, dreary place. One of the worst hotels I stayed in during my career. The room's furniture wouldn't be picked up from the street by a homeless person. The water in the shower was cold, the pressure low, and internet connection? bah! If you sit in the lobby by their office, you could latch onto their ancient 802.11a Linksys router, and get intermittant connection. Never again.

This time, I'm staying at Ipswich, the nearest town to Felixstowe. It means I'll have to drive 12 miles back and forth, but it's worth it. I'm staying at a great place called the Salthouse Harbour hotel and I highly recommend it. It literally is in the harbour. My window is at the boats' level.

It started snowing about 30 minutes after I got here, and I've been sitting on a bench by the window, seeping Earl Grey and watching snow fall on the boats and pelicans (they don't seem to mind). The room itself is nice and big and the wirless network affords this post. Here are 3 photos taken from my window before the storm hit, at the beginning of the storm (you can see the cloud coming in) and at its midst (I never realized how hard it is to shoot falling snow).

Guess I have some car-scraping to do tomorrow morning...

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