Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Google now searches flights - but with sometimes weird results

As predicted Google has launched a flight schedule search facility

All you have to do is type in something like 'flights from Sydney to Los Angeles' and it will give you the flight schedule as results:

But it doesn't work for all searches.  I tried 'flights Darwin to sydney' and got nothing.

I tried 'flights from' for a range of Australian capital cities, and mainly got what I expected, except for Darwin (no results) and Hobart - weird results below:

Apparently Hobart is also a place in Indiana, and its nearest airport is Chicago.

Obviously Google has a little more to do.

Source: Gadling

Seat Guru talks about airline seating

I remember discovering this website: SeatGuru a few years ago, and using it to guide my airline seat selection. I then found it to be a little formulaic, as opposed to its original genisis which was founded on personal experience and recommendation.  If seats were close to the toilets or the galley, then: 'the proximity to the lavitories/galley could be bothersome.' I must say that I love the use of the word 'bothersome' - so old-fashioned - so correct.

Anyway - I still use it occasionally to check that I am getting the best seat I can. Matt Daimler made some money form it when he sold it to Tripadvisor.  It became useful again when they added the function whereby you type in your flight code, and it will show the aircraft and seat configuration, and recommended seats.

He still keeps abreast developments in seating - check out his views.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, May 30, 2011

Qantas moves further towards becoming a half-full service airline

Another flight, another downgrade of service.

I can confirm that rather than a one-off, it appears no-more-flowers in the business class cabin toilets is a Qantas policy change.

Lonely little empty vase fitting
Just had my third flight with no flowers.

Also vanishing in business class - tablecloths - gone I'm afraid.

Downgrading these little things seems odd when Qantas is about to face competition in domestic business class for the first time since the collapse of Ansett.

Will/does Virgin have full vases and tablecloths?

On a more positive note - my flight Brisbane to Darwin on an A330 came with lay flat beds. Nice for a nap on a long flight.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Next Generation Check-in - Is Qantas becoming a half-full service airline?

It becomes obvious pretty quickly, that really the Next Generation Check-In is just a way of Qantas reducing service, and making passengers do what the airline used to do.

Instead of chatting to a counter attendant, and them tagging your luggage, you get no personal interaction, and you have to do-it-yourself.

You get to:
  • print your boarding pass
  • print your luggage tag
  • attach your tag to your luggage
All formerly done by check in staff.

OK - you can eliminate the luggage tag if you use one of Qantas's new electronic tags, but unless you are top of the tier in frequent flyer status - you get to buy your own tag for $50.

You're meant to be able to eliminate the boarding pass - but I never get the promised sms.

So not only do you have to do the work you have to pay for it as well.

Seems like Qantas is becoming a half-full service airline - which I suppose means it's heading to becoming a half-empty one.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Qantas Club Telstra WiFi Hotspot - can anyone ever log in?

Dear Telstra,

It's great that you provide free WiFi connections in Qantas Club Lounges. Only problem is – they don't work.
Let me qualify that. If there are more than about 2 people trying to connect, they don't work.

I have spent time in Qantas club lounges on six occasions in the last few weeks, and have only managed to login once – and I think the other guy logged in too.

Now - I don't particularly care, because I didn't have anything more urgent to do than check emails from my clients who provide my livelihood. But, Telstra, I was thinking that this problem might not be so good in the PR department.  You see if I was a businessman (which I am) and I continually couldn't get access to your promised hotspot (which I couldn't) I might not be likely to recommend your services to my company (which I havn't). In fact – my experience might give me a slightly negative view of your services (which it does).

Do you think my view is misguided?

Yours sincerely,

refused telstra hotspot user

Monday, May 16, 2011

No more flowers in Qantas Business Class Bathrooms

You really know that Qantas is slashing costs when they nix the flowers in the business class bathrooms.

It's a pity - that little touch of nature amidst the most man-made of environments used to lift my spirits.

What's worse is the loneliness of a redundant fitting. So sad.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hyatt-us #2: Service, Tricks and Tips

A while back, I pointed out how one bad experience at the end of a hotel stay, can colour all the good service previously provided.

I found myself back at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne this week for three nights, and I have to say, service was exemplary.

Given my previous experience, I was steeling myself for checkout - prepared to dispute all aspects of the bill. But, I was denied this problem for 2 reasons:
  1. no bill was placed under my door the previous night, and 
  2. when I was presented with the draft bill at check-out - all was correct.  No drinks I didn't have, and no multiple internet charges.

I upgraded with points to a club room on the 32nd floor with a magnificent view over Melbourne, and the bay. I was out most of the day, and working most of the evening, so I consumed a bit of room service, and used the club facilities for that end of day drink and snack. All good.

A faulty phone handset and non-operational Nespresso machine were dealt with immediately, and the bell captain held my bag way after check-out time, (and provided me with a shopping bag for my extra luggage) so I could collect it on the way to the airport.

A simple trick I also used:
I viewed the pattern of room rates on Wotif. I could see that the room rates decreased as a date got closer - so I delayed my booking until the week before, and got a rate about $30 cheaper than quoted a week earlier. Obviously this was a risk –  if it had been a high demand week, the rates would have risen, rather than dropped.

Thanks Hyatt. Next Hyatt-us will be from the Hyatt Regency Perth

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Punctuation in the modern age

Scoures: New Yorker via JoeMyGod

Virgin Australia . . . Doh!

A new name - which makes sense, and was the common sense launch name, except that Singapore Airlines had the rights to the Virgin brand in this region, and presumably nixed it.  So no big surprise there.

New uniforms have already been announced.

Actual business class seats on domestic aircraft - again not news - already announced for Perth-Sydney route.

New logo - its just 'Virgin' with 'Australia' after it - like 'Virgin Atlantic' or 'Virgin America' . . . I'm actually yawning.

And the way the 'Virgin' works on the tail is not a great solution. I was not impressed when Qantas spent whatever millions on re-branding to change the flying kangaroo so that the feet weren't bisected by the horizontal tail flaps - but this application of the Virgin brand with the 'V' cut off is just plain ugly. The white body - clean and nice, but it will look like Emirates, or Thai, or Asiana, or Cathay.

The one thing that is an innovation is a real business class - but strangely not a lot of detail yet.


That's the launch video - not a lot of information.
To paraphrase a catch-cry from their new website: Lets hope that they have '. . . really only just started – there is plenty more to come'. I hope - Qantas needs the competition if passengers are going to be the winners.

For a different view - see Elizabeth Knight in the SMH/Age business section.

Sources Virgin Australia, Australian Business Traveler

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Qantas Next Generation Check-in fails the first test

Qantas Next Generation Check-in station
Last month I wrote a post about the Next Generation check-in area at Qantas: Hello machine, can I charm you into an upgrade?. This week I put the new system to the test.

Since I was travelling to Melbourne, and only had cabin luggage - I thought I would give it a go.  Three problems:
  1. It didn't work
  2. It didn't work
  3. It didn't work
I list it three times, as there were three service 'touch points' for this exercise:
  1. I swiped my card - it failed and asked me to try again. I tried again, and it told me I was checked in, and to go to the 'service desk' if I didn't have any luggage to check-in
  2. The only desk I could see which did have a sign on it with a Qantas logo - was an airport information desk and not a Qantas service desk. I abandoned this exercise, on the basis I could sort this out at the Qantas Club - which I did - the old fashioned way - with a boarding pass - only to be used as a "last resort"
  3. Computer said 'Yes' - I was checked in - but no text of my seat number etc ever arrived. I had to use the old fashioned boarding pass they had kindly printed for me.
Well - to be fair, there may have been a problem with the operator (me!) so I will give it another go tomorrow on my return flight.

I'm doing a bit of domestic travel in the next few week, so I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is making expensive art books out of adversity immoral?

'The Art of War' spread in Men's Style from Stephen Dupont's website - biography section.
Stephen Dupont is an outstanding photographer and limited edition books maker.

I just saw/heard him speak at the agideas 2011 in Melbourne.

He makes both mainstream and limited edition books based on his photography. He tends to work in third world countries, expecially if there is some danger (Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, etc).

Most of the work he showed was in black and white, and selected from self published limited editions beautifully handcrafted, and sold for thousands.

This gentle giant of a man is an engaging speaker and a lover of the hand-crafted and the lovingly made.

However, towards the end of his talk, I found myself feeling more and more uncomfortable.  Was it because I could never see myself living in a bomb ruined house in Afghanistan for months to photographically document US Marines? Or that I would never place myself at the kind of risk required to photograph 'Raskols' with their home-made weapons in Port Moreseby.

I'm still not sure where my discomfort lies. But I think it has something to do with this perceived and probably real contradiction: An artist producing high value artworks to be consumed by an elite, made possible by taking images of the dispossessed, disadvantaged, or those in peril.

I don't want this to be a criticism of Stephen's work, because we all engage in this contradiction each day with our clothes made in sweatshops, and out ipads, and iphones made in third world countries.

I suppose I just want to note it, as a reminder that art practice needs to contemplate ethics just as much as scientific research does.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Logo design - what are the current trends?

If you look along the design shelves of any respectable bookseller, you will have seen Logo Lounge publications.

Part of what they have done for the last nine years is report - or collect trends in logo's and issue a report.  They have just released their 2011 logo design trends report, noting developments in the last year.

Check out the full report, but here is a taste.

Trends for 2011 are:

  • Gradients
  • Juvi (as in Juvenilia)
  • Vibrate (deliberate misregistration or blur)
  • 'O' - the form
  • Earth - everytihing on or in
  • Monoline - literally or almost so
  • Series - somwtime as a collection of brands
  • Brown - the colour
  • Dandruff - as in logos populated by snow, or degradation - usally to give faux age
  • Concentric - lines, forms
  • Loopys - often with a hand-drawn flavour
  • Banded
  • Comma
  • Buckys - as in Buckminster Fuller - shapes together making shapes
  • Fruit


The report also gives credeit to some other forms including the 'Back again, Isometric, Blackhole, PickUpSticks, reactive and medalions.

As usual, there are some good, bad, and naturally ugly examples.

SOURCE: JustCreativeDesign

Plnnr - more than just a text contraction for 'planner'

Plnnr is a great little tool for planning your next trip. It's US based, and only covers a small number of cities so far - but the functionality of the technology is pretty impressive

You just pump in where you want to go, your dates; the theme to your trip (culture/outdoors/best of/ with kids), and then the level of intensity you desire.

I like their categories:
  • Light (wake up late - here to rest)
  • Easygoing
  • Moderate (no Rush)
  • Vigorous
  • Extreme (wake up early - See everything)
And finally, you choose your level of 'luxe' - one through to five stars.

Once you have made your selection in these steps, plnnr delivers a layout incorporating categories, lists and a map of your itinerary, together with this cute overlay which tells you what is what:
Initial results page from plnnr.com
It interfaces with google maps, visualises your itinerary, and even allows you to change your trip profile while in the application. It has the usual social media integration, and links through to hotelscombined.com to make your hotel booking.

It's a pretty good site/application now - but will be great once it grows to cover more cities and countries.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Specialist Blog - designing social media interfaces

One of the joys of the internet is the amount of information you can find on the web.  Even more interesting is the specificity of that information.

Today, I was thinking about a social media problem for a client - and was thinking about the placement of certain elements of the interface in the design. Naturally my search led to the web, and from a recommended book to an author, and then their website.

BOCARDO is the blog of Joshua Porter - who specialises in the design of interfaces and evaluation of social media.  His focus is on marketing.

His design philosophy is worthy of adopting, or at the least paying attention to:

Five principles guide my design philosophy:
    1.    The Experience belongs to the user.
    2.    Technology serves humans.
    3.    Design is not Art.
    4.    Great design is invisible.
    5.    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
These sit pretty well with me - but they do betray his roots in programming rather than design.

Business travel is bad for your health - Who knew?

I'm travellling to a conference for the next 3 or so days and my digestive system doesn't react well to irregular eating. I find myself already thinking of when I will be able to make it to the hotel gym, and when I can get proper meals while traveling - so the publication of this survey's results is timely.

As the report in the Economist points out - we love to read research about things we already think we know about:
This study is sure to join "old people prefer happy memories" and "siblings who fight don't get along" in the ranks of obvious scientific "discoveries." To her credit, the intrepid Ms Roan notes that the authors of the Columbia study acknowledge that "it's not hard to see how frequent travel can erode a person's health." You don't say! Road warriors work longer hours, get less exercise, eat worse, are more stressed, and have messed-up sleep schedules. It's not that surprising that we're less healthy. 
That may be so, but the interesting results of the research are that people who don't travel for work are not as healthy as people who travel 1 to 14 days a month. On the other hand, people who travel more than 14 days in a month are not as healthy as those that travel less. 

Better watch out - I have 11 days of travel scheduled for this month.

Sources: The Economist, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Kansas City Star