Tag Archives: ba

Welcome to Bangladesh

It’s been a long weekend. I travelled from São Paulo to London on Friday, landing on Saturday. Then I went straight up to Leicester, spending a day in the Midlands before heading back to London on Sunday. Instead of staying in central London I headed off to the wilds of Hendon and Harrow to see mates like Ronan and Enda… worth it, but tiring as I was on a plane to Dhaka in Bangladesh the next morning, via a really rushed connection in Dubai.

I haven’t had jetlag for a long time, perhaps because I am doing a lot of north-south flying these days, but it’s hitting me quite hard today – I’m writing this wide awake at 4am and paying the price for flying East.

Arriving in Dhaka was certainly an experience. Passport control takes ages. Each passport is subject to checks that drag on for several minutes. Now add an entire plane-load of hundreds of passengers and even the locals were complaining about how long it was taking.

I needed to get a visa on arrival, so I joined the visa queue – even slower than a regular passport check. Once I got to the front of the queue they told me that I should have gone to the bank to pay first… no sign or official had told me.

I went to an ATM, withdrew cash, went to the bank, deposited the money – for some reason the bank would not just take the debit card, I had to get cash.

Then, I returned with my receipt and they stamped my passport. The visa official said that I needed to come into his office to check on something in my passport. I went to the office, he asked me for 100 Taka for his help in giving me a visa. That’s only something like $1.30 – he was not asking for a big reward and it’s hard to even call it a bribe as he asked for the money after stamping my passport.

But it’s not the best welcome, having airport officials asking for tips because they did their job. I’d better tip the captain the next time my plane lands safely if this is the precedent being established.

Then the journey into town started. The traffic was horrendous. It took around 2 hours to get from the airport to my hotel. Not because it is a long distance – like in Tokyo – it would have been faster to just walk.

In the end, from landing to getting a glass of water at my hotel took over 4 hours – not much fun. But complaints aside, the hotel is nice, the food has been good, and I’ve met some really interesting people on my first day in town.

World Class Traffic Jam

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भारत में आपका स्वागत है

I finally arrived in India. It feels comfortable and familiar each time I arrive here. I have now been here so often that the routine at the airport and on arrival at the hotel all feel quite welcoming.

I was interested to see that the road immediately outside the international airport here is getting an upper level – there is a huge flyover being constructed that will presumably create a bypass for those cars just going past the airport. There is a very nice Hyatt hotel just outside the international airport and now this flyover is being constructed right in front of their windows – a shame for the guests there as someone up on the sixth floor will just have a view of cars now.

I’m staying in Bandra this time and there is a lot of new construction going on here too – more than I have seen in this part of Mumbai for a couple of years.

I’m surprised really that I feel quite OK today. It’s now Monday and I left São Paulo on Saturday afternoon, so my journey was around 30 hours long. I had a lot of trouble initially because BA was delayed. I was supposed to connect in London and they told me I could not make the connection to India, so they eventually rebooked me onto a Lufthansa flight.

Incredibly Lufthansa managed to find me some good seats (I always try reserving emergency exits or at least an aisle seat when on economy seats – this trip doesn’t have the budget available for business class) and vegetarian food. The crew at the airport and on the plane were really helpful – with one of the cabin crew really taking some time on board to talk about India with me and help to confirm my onward connection at Munich.

Unfortunately a bottle of cachaça that I had stowed in my luggage got broken, so a lot of my clothes ended up smelling of distilled sugar cane. It’s a good thing that laundry doesn’t cost too much in India…
Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India

Back to NASSCOM

Every year in February the Indian hi-tech trade association, NASSCOM, runs their big annual conference in Mumbai. It’s the big annual get-together of the great and good in IT, especially in India, but these days there are around 30 countries represented at the event.

Now that I live in Brazil, it’s a 23-hour journey to get from São Paulo to Mumbai, and that is just changing plane once in London. So I’m going to be dosing up on new films on the way, provided BA has something worth watching.

I’m going to be writing about political risk for Reuters, filing a daily ‘from the conference’ report for silicon.com, blogging about any interesting social media content for Computer Weekly, and anything related to Brazil and South America on IT Decisions, plus I am gathering research for a report I am writing for PA Consulting.

It’s going to be very busy as always, with meetings from breakfast until dinner and this year I am not staying in the conference hotel. It always helps if your room is just above where the conference is taking place, but never mind, I’m sure I’ll cope…

If you are going to be there then do get in touch. I am arriving in Mumbai on Monday and will be leaving very late on Thursday night… once the conference is over I will get dinner then go to the airport to catch the 02.45 flight to London.
NASSCOM Global Leadership Awards

Mexicana struggles – no surprise there then

Mexicana airlines is in complete turmoil. Having filed for protection from bankruptcy, they are now fighting off a complete collapse as the unions refuse to allow restructuring and the management have axed services – including the Mexico City to London route.

I had the misfortune to use Mexicana to go to Mexico City from London last December. It was possibly the worst airline I have ever used in terms of service, aircraft, and overall experience. Imagine catching the 73 bus from Hackney to Oxford Circus in the rush hour and you get an approximation of what it’s like to travel with Mexicana… including the crowding and lack of any form of on-board entertainment, despite the long-haul nature of the journey.

I took an American Airlines return flight from London to New York last week and I encountered similar chaos on board – the crew wanted to charge me $7 for a glass of wine despite my ‘economy’ ticket costing $1475.30. The cabin crew were upset with me when I told them to take the wine back. But they had spent the entire flight calling me ‘special’ because I had ordered vegetarian food… somehow not realising that it makes me sound more like an asylum inmate than José Mourinho…

Airlines all over the world seem to be in chaos, yet surely they can see there are two basic business models. No-frills like Ryanair, where the service is cut to the bone so that the price reflects only a safe journey and nothing else, then the regular full-service airlines where a price comparison is still important, but value enters the mix… airport used, ability to select seats, quality of service… This is where airlines like BA can stake themselves out as leaders (if the unions don’t bring them down first) because they have the quality on-board service and innovative online services.

Having got used to ba.com allowing me to set my meal preference, choose a seat, and get my boarding pass before I even leave for the airport, I’m not really all that tolerant of companies like Mexicana who tell me that online check-in doesn’t work “because you live in London…” Will anyone be sorry to see them go?
Rolls Royce jet engine

Farewell British Airways

It was nice to know BA and to be a member of their Executive Club for many years, but with their ongoing battle with the ash cloud and now the battle against their own cabin crew, I fear this is going to be a battle to the death.

BA refuses to budge from the insistence that the changes they are enforcing are required, and the Unite union is insisting that the changes (particularly around the deal for new recruits) is unfair. It looks like both sides are prepared to go right to the brink and then to head over into the abyss.

Loyalty to BA is haemorrhaging amongst those I know who travel regularly. It’s bad enough trying to deal with all the random flight delays caused by the Icelandic ash cloud, but add a seemingly regular pattern of strikes and the chaos caused trying to get the service back to normal after each one, and there is not much hope for the future.

If the regular business travellers are giving up on BA and the union is going all out to bring down the firm then regardless of whether you support the striking staff or not, it really looks like they might be striking themselves out of a future.
BA flight from London to Cairo, Egypt

Ash disruption to last for a generation?

When the unpronounceable volcano in Iceland erupted and caused air travel chaos a few weeks ago the reporting of the chaos was presented as if it is a story that will literally blow over.

Aviation expert David Learmount yesterday reminded BBC viewers that this might change air travel for a generation.

Nobody can predict when this – or other – volcanos will stop pumping ash into the sky so there are only a couple of realistic long-term solutions:

1. Build engines that can fly though the ash without any danger to the aircraft

2. Build better real-time warning systems so pilots don’t need to cancel flights, they can take evasive action to go above, below, or around a dangerous ash cloud

Today we aren’t in a position where either is feasible, and the second option looks more feasible than the first. So we might face years of ash chaos and uncertainty now, until the boffins produce a system that can model an immense area of our atmosphere in real-time.

Don’t forget, a regular airliner can cruise along at more than 20km a minute… so even 10 minutes of cruising can cover 200km. Now imagine multiplying distance east-west with north-south and depth to an altitude of about 13,000 metres.

This is a problem that’s not going to be solved anytime soon.

Planes over Ealing (3 planes heading west))

Is everything going to be nationalised?

The present crisis in Europe over the ash cloud from Iceland is fast moving beyond a joke. Of course, it’s no joke for the thousands of people struggling to get home and stranded all over Europe, but what will happen to the airlines?

BBC Business editor Robert Peston has estimated that BA alone is losing something like £20m a day. And as each day passes, the EU warning is extended to the following day. I’m supposed to be visiting Austria this weekend and it seriously looks like it won’t happen. Of course, I’m not choked about it because I am at least at home and able to just stay home rather than being stranded thousands of miles from home. But how long will this go on?

And what is the implication for the national air carriers if they need governments to bail them out? First the banks, then the airlines? The question will be asked that if the airlines are so essential to national economies then how come they are not already government owned – like the old days?

Who would have thought that in 2010 we would see nationalised banks on the high street and private airlines all over Europe begging to be saved by national governments. Next thing, the private power companies will ask for government help setting up new power stations, err…