The Anonymous Widower

United Airlines Introduce My Ideal Flying Class

The respected travelwriter, Simon Calder, on BBC Breakfast, alerted me to this story, which is fully reported in this article on USA Today, which is entitled United adds ‘Basic Economy’ fares with carry-on bag restrictions.

My Carry On Bag

When I flew to Las Palmas recently on easyJet, I did pay for baggage to go in the hold, as I thought I’d be taking more and I don’t have a carry-on bag, that is big enough.

Why is it, that all light carry-on bags seem to have wheels, which is just extra weight and wasted space,. to carry around?

All I want is a light square box with a comfortable handle.  My current Mandarina Duck bag is shown in My Packing List.

Since then, I’ve cut down on what I take with me, so I do have a bit more space.

I could therefor easily use a smaller carry-on bag, especially, if I was going to a country I knew well like Germany, Italy,Spain or Poland.

On a more ambitious trip, I could certainly fill a bigger carry-on bag with useful items like lots of M&S Honeycomb Crispies.

But unfortunately, I haven’t found the ideal bag.

  • No wheels.
  • Small comfortable carry handle.
  • No straps.
  • Maximum volume to fit carry-on rules.
  • Big enough to take a compact SLR and lens.
  • Not too many specially-designed feature pockets.
  • Secure.

I suspect that some clever American, will be designing the ideal carry-on bag for United’s Basic Economy.

Choosing Seats

I don’t!

This means I usually get an aisle seat, which is ideal for my needs.

  • I tend to get a bit stiff sitting for three or four hours, so a walk to the toilet is easy to stretch my legs.
  • I inevitably leave something I want in my carry-on bag, so if it’s in the overhead locker,  can get it easily.
  • I can get on at the last minute and know I can just sneak into my seat.
  • I can usually get off easily.
  • I can see what’s on the trolley, without reading the menu.

It will all go pear-shaped one day, when I get the dreadful centre seat of three.

My Coat

The picture shows the inside of my warm M & S winter coat.

My Winter Coat

My Winter Coat

Note the large internal pocket, which is big enough for a thick tabloid newspaper or a paperback book.

The external pockets, also are big enough for my camera, phone and a real hndkerchief.

A Few Travel Tips

Over the years, I have gradually cut down on what I take.

  • Take a battery-powered electric toothbrush. The charger of most others takes up too much space.
  • Charge phones, cameras and other devices, through a USB lead and just take a USB charger and adapter.
  • Don’t take soap or shampoo, or anything the hotel should have.
  • As I don’t use sun-screen, I don’t take that either.
  • Take perhaps three still-rolled real handkerchiefs, as they have other users, like stylish tablecloths on trains.
  • Take a spare SD card for your camera, already unpacked and ready for use.
  • On a long trip, I take older socks, knickers and shirts, discarding them, when they get dirty.
  • Take at least two credit cards in separate places, in case you lose your favourite.
  • Don’t buy anything in duty-free. It only encourages them! And we have to carry it.
  • Take a small shoe horn.
  • Take an upmarket compact plastic knife/fork/spoon from IKEA, as you never know, when that delicious snack will need it.
  • Never take nightwear.
  • Take a torch.
  • Take one of Sainsbury’s five pence orange shopping bags.

When I used to travel with C, we used to share a lot of things, like jumpers and tee-shirts, as we were of a similar size.

In fact, the last joke she ever said to me, was that I would have difficulty finding someone, to train to my packing habits.

Comclusion

I can’t wait for a European airline to introduce a Basic Economy class.

November 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Nightmare At Gatwick

I few out to Las Palmas from Southend and the experience coming back through Gatwick couldn’t have been more different.

I arrived in the North Terminal and this terminal is now very poor compared to modern standards.

  • The walk to Passport Control is long and tortuous compared to many other similar-sized European airports.
  • Passport Control was solid and was only half open.
  • The baggage took an age to arrive, but luckily my bag was off first.
  • I had to get the shuttle to the main terminal for the train, but it wasn’t a well-signposted route.
  • I of course just missed the shuttle.

The North Terminal is basically a 1970s design and it shows.

The terminal is a disgrace and doesn’t fit with any notion of Britain being open for business.

Did the Government plump for Heathrow, as they have all had very bad experiences of Gatwick.

To be fair to the Airport, their plans for the future look good.

Gatwick In The Future

Gatwick In The Future

But will we actually see it?

 

November 10, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

Leaving From Southend Airport

It’s a long time, that I did some of my flying training at Southend Airport.

I flew from the airport to Las Palmas, as it was only flight I could get on the Sunday, that had seats.

Southend Airport, must be one of the few with a lawn outside the terminal where passengers can waste time before going through the gate or people can wait for a passenger.

I couldn’t use the station, which is only about a hundred metres from the gate, as being Sunday, it was a bus on part of the way to London because of Crossrail work.

So I used Southend Central station and got a lift with a couple of Dutchmen.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Crossrail’s Park-And-Ride Facilities

Crossrail is costing upwards of around fifteen billion pounds, but when it comes to providing Park-and-Ride facilities for passengers, it probably scores a massive zero-out-of-ten.

Consider.

  • Parking at Shenfield station is no more than adequate for current customers.
  • Abbey Wood station‘s restricted site, may well be getting a flagship station, but where will passengers park?
  • Crossrail’s South-Eastern branch doesn’t serve Ebbsfleet International stastion, which has masses of parking.
  • Of the three branches, only Reading station can probably increase its parking to cope.
  • Where are the Park-and-Ride sites , where Crossrail and the M25 intersect?

It is certainly not good enough.

A Park-and-Ride At Brentwood

This Google Map shows where Crossrail crosses the M25, just South of the junction between the M25 and the A12.

Crossrail And The M25 And A12 At Brentwood

Crossrail And The M25 And A12 At Brentwood

I feel that this would be a logical site for a station with large and efficient Park-and-Ride facilities.

  • It would be about thirty minutes from Liverpool Street station and seventy minutes from Heathrow.
  • There would be over a dozen trains per hour (tph) to and from Central London.
  • Long-distance trains to and from Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Norwich and Southend could call and have cross-platform interchange with Crossrail.

I suspect that there would be massive opposition to building the station.

A Park-and-Ride At Iver

This Google Map shows Iver station and the M25 as it goes South from the M40 to the M4.

Crossrail And The M25 At Iver

Crossrail And The M25 At Iver

I feel that this would be another logical site for a station with Park-and-Ride facilities.

In Network Rail Plans Another Tunnel Into Heathrow, I talked about plans to create a Western Rail Link Approach to Heathrow.

  • The route starts between Langley and Iver stations, goes South roughly parallel with the M25 and then goes into Terminal 5 from the West.
  • Much of the route is in tunnel.

Surely, if a Park-and-Ride site was to be built in the West of London, then these two projects should be combined.

Since I wrote about the PRT System in A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5, I’ve met someone, who’s had a ride. Their view was totally positive on this new technology.

So I think there could be possibilities for a very futuristic transport system to Heathrow linked to Crossrail at Iver, in addition to the full rail option.

A Park-and-Ride At Abbey Wood

Abbey Wood Station

Abbey Wood Station

This Google Map shows the area of South East London around Crossrail’s terminus at Abbey Wood station..

There doesn’t appear to be much space around the station for a Park-and-Ride site.

This Google Map shows the roads in the area.

Roads Around Abbey Wood Station

Roads Around Abbey Wood Station

Abbey Road station is on Harrow Manor Way, which links two East-West routes; the A2016 and the A206.

As Abbey Wood is the only surface station on the South-Eastern branch, I don’t think that there is a great probability, that a large Park-and-Ride site can be built on the South-astern branch of Crossrail.

A Park-and-Ride On An Extended South-Eastern Branch

Crossrail have safeguarded an extension Gravesend, which is described in this section in Wikipedia.

The route to Gravesend has been safeguarded by the Department for Transport, although it was made clear that as at February 2008 there was no plan to extend Crossrail beyond the then-current scheme. The following stations are on the protected route extension to Gravesend: Belvedere, Erith, Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe for Bluewater, Swanscombe, Northfleet, and Gravesend

So does this route give possibilities for a large Park-and-Ride?

This Google Map shows how the proposed extended route of Crossrail, runs under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.

Crossrail, And The QE2 Bridge

Crossrail, And The QE2 Bridge

Slade Green station is to the West of the bridge  and the M25, in the top-left corner of the map, whilst Stone Crossing station is to the East, in the bottom right corner of the map.

This Google Map shows the route between Slade Green station and the Southern end of the bridge using the A206.

Slade Green Station To The QE2 Bridge

Slade Green Station To The QE2 Bridge

Slade Green station is in the top-left corner of the map and the Southern approach of the bridge in the bottom-right.

This Google Map shows between the bridge and Stone Crossing station.

The QE2 Bridge To Stone Crossing Station

The QE2 Bridge To Stone Crossing Station

The Southern approach to the bridge is in the bottom-left with Stone Crossing station in the bottom-right.

After a brief look at both stations, using Wikipedia and Google Maps, the following can be said.

  • Both stations are on the A206 road.
  • The links to the M25 and M2 could probably be improved.
  • There would appear to be space at both stations to build substantial parking.
  • Both have at least two tph to and from Abbey Wood at the present time.
  • From 2018, Thameslink will be running two tph will run from Rainham to Luton stopping at Stone Crossing, Slade Green and Abbey Wood stations.
  • Nearly all the trains on the line will be 12-car trains.

Could the Park-and-Ride needs on the Abbey Wood branch be solved by increasing the parking at stations like Stone Crossing and Slade Green, with passengers using local trains and Thameslink to access Crossrail?

  • There should be sufficient capacity in the 12-car trains to fit in a few short-distance travellers.
  • The frequency between Abbey Wood and Rochester should be at least four tph.
  • These trains will call at Slade Green, Dartford, Stone Crossing, Greenhithe, and Gravesend.
  • The Crossrail frequency at Abbey Wood will be at least eight tph.
  • Because of these frequencies, there shouldn’t be too much time wasted, waiting for a train at Abbey Wood.

I think that this shows that if the connecting trains to Abbey Wood have a medium to high frequency and there is plenty of parking along the line, then loyts of parking doesn’t need to be provided at Abbey Wood.

The more that I look at the lines and services in North Kent, it does appear that running Thameslink between Rainham and Luton via Greenwich, Abbey Wood and Dartford was a piece of very high-class thinking.

 

 

November 3, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Building The Third Runway At Heathrow

This is not concerned about the politics and protests of building the third runway at Heathrow, but about how it could be built and the options for transport to the Airport.

The Current Heathrow Airport

This is a Google Map of Heathrow Airport and the surrounding area.

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport

The Proposed Heathrow Airport

This map from the Heathrow web site, shows the position of the new runway and the expanded airport.

 

Heathrow Airport With Three Runways

Heathrow Airport With Three Runways

Note.

  • How the M25 is dropped into a tunnel.
  • The village of Harmondsworth is no more.
  • This page on the Heathrow we site gives a lot more details.

Construction

It looks to me, that the actual transformation of the Airport will be possible, as it looks like construction would just replace the housing with the new runway and associated works.

Diversion Of The M25

Cut and cover tunnels would carry the M25 under the new runway, but from the map, it looks like the motorway will only be in tunnel under the new part of the airport and for not that great a distance.

I think with careful planning, the M25 could be left functioning, whilst the tunnel and new runway are constructed, so it should be nothing like the problems of constructing Terminal 5.

Conclusion

The new runway and terminal shouldn’t be the world’s most difficult construction project.

 

 

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Comments Off on Building The Third Runway At Heathrow

Is Theresa Working A Flanker?

With my Project Management knowledge, but no actual experience, if I look at the three options for a new runway in the South-East, I come to these conclusions about each.

  1. New North-West Runway at Heathrow – Virtually impossible to build due to political, environmental and local opposition.
  2. Extended Northern Runway at Heathrow – Difficult but not impossible to build.
  3. New Southern Runway at Gatwick – Probably fairly easy to build.

But reading the media this morning it looks like Option 1 will get the go-ahead.

So could Theresa give her blessing to this option, knowing it will never get built, due to the will of the House and the people?

It would be Brexit all over again, where the electorate and some rebellious MPs override the wish of the Prime Minister and their cabinet.

Ultimately, it would mean that Option 3 at Gatwick could go ahead, followed in a few years by a cut-down Option 2.

This would future-proof the South-East’s airport capacity for decades.

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Planemakers’ View On The South East’s New Runway

There was an article in the Business section of The Times yesterday with a headline of Boeing Ditches Supersonic For Down-to-Earth Midsize Models.

The article says this.

For Heathrow, the traditional long-haul/short-haul connection model is undermined by the direction of Boeing and Airbus development, which means that long-haul can be achieved flying with smaller aircraft from secondary airports.

I read the whole article and they backed the statement with impressive evidence.

I think that if Heathrow gets the nod to expand, it could turn out to be a disaster for the Airport, especially as Gatwick needs to expand anyway.

But who knows, what the Government’s decision will be today, in this crazy world of UK Politics?

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 1 Comment

A Visit To Heathrow Terminal 5

The Heathrow Pod I talked about in An Innovative Scheme For A Rail Link To Glasgow Airport, just had to be seen, so when I found myself at West Drayton station and a 350 bus arrived with Heathrow Terminal 5 on the front, I just had to take it.

I got on the top deck and took these pictures, followed by others when I arrived at the Terminal.

Many of these pictures of the system were taken from the Cafe Nero on the Departures Level of Terminal 5. This cafe is a good place to meet someone, as the views are good if you have to wait.

I got a good view of the Heathrow Pod, but because of all the steel-work in the way, getting a good photo was not easy.

A few points about the Heathrow Pod.

  • It appears that both carriageways of the system are bi-directional.
  • The developer’s web site is here.
  • The official web site is here.
  • The most interesting comment was from a member of British Airways ground staff, who said that her kids always want to use it.
  • BAA has a stake in the company that makes them.
  • What I saw is probably a restricted system designed to be as reliable as possible.

Here’s a video

Watching the video and reading about the pods, I suspect they are best described as self-driving cars, that run on a restricted network of roads, which are described as guideways.

But the most interesting snippet is this from the developer’s web site, about a proposal for a new PRT system at Heathrow.

In May 2013 Heathrow Airport Limited announced as part of its draft five year (2014-2019) master plan that it intended to use the PRT system to connect terminal 2 and terminal 3 to their respective business car parks. The proposal was not included in the final plan due to spending priority given to other capital projects and has been deferred.

There have been suggestions that they will extend the service throughout the airport and to nearby hotels using 400 pods.

I’ve read somewhere, that connecting to Kingston-on-Thames is in their sights.

This is perhaps not so fanciful as you think. Look at this Google Map of the Western end of Runway 09L at Heathrow Airport.

The Western End Of Runway 09L At Heathrow

The Western End Of Runway 09L At Heathrow

If you can’t quite distinguish the Heathrow Pod, which is the narrow line snaking its way across in front of the runway, here’s an enlarged view of the Heathrow Pod on the Northern side of the runway.

The Car Park End Of The Heathrow Pod

The Car Park End Of The Heathrow Pod

And here’s another on the Southern side.

The Terminal 5 End Of The Heathrow Pod

The Terminal 5 End Of The Heathrow Pod

The Expansion Of Heathrow Airport

Looking at these Google Maps and applying my devious mind to the Heathrow Pod, I am coming to some conclusions about the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

  • Pollution caused by traffic is a big problem around Heathrow. By developing existing and future train services and an extensive Heathrow Pod system serving hotels and car parks, all cars, taxis and buses could be removed to a sensible distance from the Airport.
  • In the Heathrow Hub proposal for expansion of the Airport, there is a 650 metre gap between the two portions of the Northern runway. This gap would allow the ILS for the Eastern runway to remain in place and so the approach to this runway would probably be identical to what it is now.
  • I suspect the runway gap would also allow the Heathrow Pod to remain in its current place. But that would not be as tricky to move as the ILS. Or as safety-critical!
  • The Heathrow Pod system has charisma in digger-buckets.

I feel that an expanded Heathrow Pod could just swing the government to back Heathrow Hub, rather than totally new runways at Heathrow or Gatwick.

The Ultimate Heathrow Pod System

After a drink, I’ve let my mind race ahead.

  • Heathrow Pod stations could be placed in all hotels, car parks and train/bus stations ringing Heathrow, up to perhaps five or even ten miles away.
  • Passengers who are flying out, could scan their boarding pass and passport in the pod.
  • The pod would take you to the appropriate holding area for your flight.
  • Or if you failed the checks to an appropriate area for further checking.
  • Passengers who are flying in, would use the touch-screen terminal to tell their pod where to go.
  • A quick scan of your parking ticket could take you to the station nearest to your car.

I’ve always been sceptical about driver-less cars, but these versions which are all identical running on a fixed and limited network of guide-ways could be another matter.

A Sad Footnote

The driving force behind the system would appear to be Martin Lowson.

Sadly he died in 2013.

 

 

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 4 Comments

A Sensible Point About Heathrow

I usually listen to Wake Up To Money on BBC Radio 5, as I lie in bed before getting up.

Sometimes very sensible nuggets of ideas, news and facts are broadcast.

Today, an aviation analyst called Julian Bray, spoke about the masses amount of cargo going through Heathrow and how a lot was very inefficient.

He said, that if you chose Alitalia to send a parcel from th UK to New York, it would go to their cargo shed at Heathrow, where it would be sent to Fiumenicino Airport in Rome by truck to be put on a plane.

How efficient is that?

He was calling for a tax, that would force inefficient parcel carriers out of Heathrow and use the extra capacity for passengers.

I wonder if that well-known Third World airline; Air Neck End, has a cargo operation at Heathrow to bring in the dictator’s purchases made using money stolen from his people.

Seriously though, go through the list of airlines that serve Heathrow and they’re all there;  Air Cocaine, Air Corrupt, Air Crashing, Air Delay, Air FGM, Air GoneTomorrow,Air HangemHigh, Air Islamic State, Aim MoneyLaunder, Air Useless and Air Wanka

Sounds like a case of Brown Envelope Syndrome to me!

 

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Changing Sides

There is an interesting article in The Sunday Times today, entitled Boris Retreats In Fight Against Third Runway.

Boris is apparently saying he won’t oppose a third runway at Heathrow, so if anything he’s being consistent in changing horses, just as he did with Michael Gove.

But perhaps more surprisingly, Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of IAG, who own BA, is quoted as calling Heathrow a fantasy project, which has been gold-plated and inflated by the owners to maximise their returns, at the expense of the airlines.

The paper also says that Gatwick will build a new runway anyway.

The latter is confirmed in this article on the Sky News web site, which is entitled Gatwick Airport to plan new runway even if Heathrow wins.

Elsewhere in The Sunday Times, there is a story about lawyers preparing their knives and forks for an expensaive dinner on all the arguments.

On top of all this of course, Londoners generally avoid Heathrow, as they prefer to do business with any Airport that treats passengers how they prefer to be treated.

This article on Get West London is entitled Bookmaker installs Gatwick as clear favourite over Heathrow in battle for new runway.

Could we be seeing something unique in the world of airports? A city with two major two-runway airports!

It will be interesting to see if the smart money is being put into commercial property like hotels and offices at Farringdon, where Crossrail and Thameslink cross.

I think that as passengers are much more flexible these days and even eighty-year-olds know how to work the Internet to their advantage, I think that if the Government makes the sensible choice and chooses Gatwick, we’ll see a marketing war, between the two airports, led by innovative airlines.

The major winners could be the passengers.

 

October 9, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 3 Comments