Tag Archives: heathrow

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

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Checking in – just in time

I had an interesting experience getting to India. Quite stressful.

I booked a flight with Virgin Atlantic. I did not realise it was going to be a code-share until I got the ticket… it was going to be operated by Jet Airways. Which is OK, because I like Jet too… but a day before the flight I logged into the Virgin website to check-in. Nothing worked. I thought maybe I need to go to the Jet website and check-in over there. The reference number didn’t work.

So I couldn’t check-in online with Virgin because it was a code-share flight, and the Virgin reference number did not work on the Jet Airways website. So I called up Virgin and asked them what to do. They said, don’t worry, just come to the airport and check-in at the Virgin desk.

I was thinking it’s strange to come to Virgin if I know I am on a Jet Airways plane, but the Virgin customer service guy had heard the exact problem and he sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

So off I went to Virgin at Terminal 3 in Heathrow.

Virgin automated check-in at the airport did not work. They don’t fly to Mumbai. I asked the staff what was wrong. They told me that I needed to go to see Jet Airways… I was a bit exasperated at the conflicting advice, but I didn’t argue. I just asked where to go for Jet, they said around the corner, further along T3.

So I went looking, only to find that Jet Airways is in T4.

I went to the train transfer. 15 minutes to the next train. So I went to the Underground and went back to Hatton Cross, then back into the airport again so I would be at T4.

I got to the check-in counter and they were about to close. I had 2 minutes left before check-in for my flight was closing. When I asked to be in an aisle seat the girl laughed… she said the only available seat was wedged in against the window with two people blocking me. I explained my sob story of how difficult this whole procedure had been and by that time the check-in had closed and she could see an aisle seat with a no-show… the guy had not arrived at the airport so the seat was free.

Thankfully I got that seat… but how do I check-in on the way home now?

Cycling around all day

I’ve been cycling quite a lot today…

I went in the morning from Ealing to the British museum, so I could have a chat with Philippe Legrain about his new book. Hopefully I gave him a few useful bits of information. If it was all nonsense Philippe then you can email me for something with more thought 🙂 I cycled back home after chatting to Philippe and started writing something for the Labour Friends of India.

Then, I had to go to Heathrow airport to say goodbye to my gf Angie, who is working the rest of the week in Berlin. She went to the airport on Heathrow Express and I went from Ealing – on my bicycle…

I saw something that surprised me on the way home. I stopped just as I got beyond the airport boundary, to send a text message without also riding the bike. I pulled up on Cranford bridge and I was stunned to see a nice-looking little river and a Heron wandering around – this was a few hundred metres from Heathrow airport! Then, as I was watching, the Heron stuck it’s head in the water and pulled out a frog! The frog was fighting, but he didn’t last long as he immediately ended up as an early-evening snack for the bird…

Interesting… then, as I got closer to home I realised I was passing the old Firestone factory where my father used to work in the 1970s, so I snapped a photo.

Quite a nice day on the bike anyway.