Sunday, December 26, 2010


A recent flurry of correspondence in mainstream consumer travel media has once again bubbled this inflight chestnut to the surface.

It's a classic flying flashpoint and one that brings out all manner of human vulgarities. Is it really the height of bad manners to recline your seat without ask the passenger behind if they mind? Really?

And if your request is met with a, "Well, actually, I'm quite tall and I'd prefer if you didn't", what then?

Is that it? No room for compromise? Do you have to negotiate a personal-space treaty? Work out a roster system? Or is it just, London, here we come...bolt upright.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


There's every chance that this Christmas will be the final one for Ballina's Big Prawn.

The giant fibreglass crustacean has been a Ballina icon for nearly 20 years but, for the best part of 12 months it's been a sorry sight for passers-by, boarded up and awaiting demolition.

I'm a massive fan of Australia's BIG things and still carry around some very brittle memories of my first encounters with The Banana and The Pineapple in the mid-70s. They're a fading filmstrip of souvenir rulers, novelty oversized pens and pencils, souvenir teaspoons, regular-sized fruit, miniature fruit, and the plain amazement of a little boy standing in the shadow of some really, really big tropical fruit.

The Banana and The Pineapple are still with us. As are hundreds of other oversized attractions around the country. But, Ballina's Prawn is not. So what went wrong?

Monday, December 20, 2010


Image borrowed from
Lots in the news today about the chaos caused by heavy snow at airports across northern Europe and the affect it's having on passengers travelling for Christmas.

These delays are an absolute nightmare for everyone involved. People are missing Christmas holidays at home, in the sun, wherever. The airlines are losing money. Airline and airport staff, I'm sure, are bearing the brunt of the abuse and general ill-feeling. Mainstream media have, it's been reported, been banned from reporting from UK airports, but the delayed diaspora have been taking things into their own hands and posting their feelings on Youtube and the like.


Image borrowed from with thanks 
My first reaction to this story's headline was, who's the Scrooge offended by a Christmas symbol this time?

Santa shoved Jesus aside long ago, and we seem to tiptoe around other Christian symbols more than ever for fear of offending the good people of other faiths. And here is this enormous, generous tree as a hotel centre-piece in a society inextricably linked with its belief in Islam.

But, fortunately, this story doesn't appear to loaded up with any sentiment other than perhaps-we-loaded-the-tree-up-with-too-many-expensive-jewels. And it's for this very reason that it's so odd.

In one of the richest places on the planet, in a hotel that cost around three-thousand-million dollars to build, that has a gold-bar vending machine (why not?), serves 5kg of edible gold on its petits-fours each year, and a $1 million dollar all-inclusive (I should think so) package, $11 million sounds about right for a Christmas tree.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I was surprised to read Cathay Pacific's (CX) announcement of yet another new business class configuration.

It doesn't seem that long ago (certainly not a standard product generation) that the airline launched its herringbone product, following Virgin Atlantic's lead, and the similar configurations subsequently rolled out by Air Canada, Delta, Jet Airways and Air New Zealand (licensed from Virgin Atlantic).

I flew in Cathay's herringbone seat a few years ago between JFK and Hong Kong and, to be honest, I thought it was bloody terrific. I was working for Virgin Atlantic at the time and had fairly low expectations of the Cathay seat  for the following reasons:


Absolutely delighted to see that, after a stop-start start, the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson collaboration on a series of Tintin movies is back on track.

I hold Tintin (that's him with his trusty pal, Snowy, or Milou in the original French/Belgian version) 95% responsible for the itchy feet that have led me around the globe and to a career in travel. Herge's tales of the youthful, adventurer journalist certainly piqued an interest in Latin America that has seen me return to that neck of the woods on numerous occasions.

My aunt Margie gave me my first Tintin book when I was 8, and let's just say it led to something of an addiction that I have force-fed to my son (now 5) whose middle-name is, yes, Tintin.

So, when Tintin hits the news, he has my attention.


SkyMall. And Slanket.

I read this week that United Airlines finally has plans in place (or would like) to upgrade the Inflight Entertainment (IFE) systems on its, let's face it, ageing Pacific fleet.

Exciting news, no doubt, for long-suffering Australian Star Alliance card holders. As are the rumours of the Virgin Blue group again flirting with the alliance.

But I ask you, will the implementation of seat-back TV screens on United really improve the entertainment offering?

Anyone who has flown with United across the Pacific will (or should) be familiar with what surely has to be the world's best take-home inflight entertainment system - The SkyMall shopping catalogue.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I've just stumbled on an app courtesy of a tweet (thanks, @redshoes) that, at first glance, looks supremely useful.

It would have enabled a very good friend of mine to avoid ordering what his rudimentary Spanish determined to be lasagne but was, to his surprise, a hearty-sized serving of tongue in Colombia a few years back.

The clever people at Word Lens have developed an app that translates text live through your phone's camera. Seriously, it's brilliant.

Take a look...


There's been a lot written recently in the consumer travel press about inflight armrest etiquette, and it's a regularly re-cycled topic. Gets people very worked up.

So, who has the overriding armrest rights on a flight?

Is it a first-in-best-dressed scecnario? And does that give you rights for the whole flight? Is that fair when you've just boarded that 16-hour sector from JFK to Hong Kong?

Now, if you happen to turn left on boarding, this isn't usually an issue. But, down the back, it's an altogether different playing field where tensions/apprehension/anxiety can be high. It's a perfect pressurised petri-dish of passive aggressive cultures awaiting a willing host.

But surely, you don't need to be Ghandi to come up with a peaceful solution.