Ryanair to take-over London Stansted airport?

Ryanair seems to be interested in taking over London Stansted airport (IATA: STN) according to a news article published in the Daily Telegraph today:

Michael O’Leary is interested in launching a £2bn bid for Stansted airport and proving to BAA and the regulators that he can run it much better than they can.

The current owner, BAA, has recently become under increasing pressure to break up its monopolistic ownership over the three busiest airports in London, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted after continuously failing to improve their performance. However, having Ryanair running an airport would raise other concerns: Would they make travellers pay for every little additional thing as they do with their flights? At least this discussion adds to some movement in the BAA question and that’s always welcomed.

[Picture from Flickr]

British Airways to give away airmiles for delays

British Airways today introduced a new program where they “generously” give away 5,000 airmiles when your flight from Heathrow Terminal 5 is more than 15 minutes delayed:

As part of our commitment to giving you outstanding service, we do everything we can to get you to your destination on time. So if in spite of all our efforts we can’t depart from Terminal 5 within 15 minutes* of scheduled departure time over the coming weeks, we’d like to give you more than just an apology:

When you fly Club Europe, Euro Traveller or Domestic Flights on a flexible ticket (booking classes JCDYBH) departing from Terminal 5 between now and 02 September 2008 you’ll receive
5,000 BA Miles if your flight leaves later than 15 minutes* of its scheduled departure time from Terminal 5.

BA actually has been doing this for quite some time, but you only received the miles when you actively complained about a particular flight. This offer now sounds fairly generous since manymost Heathrow flights these days suffer a delay. In fairness this delay is often not the result of a problem caused by the airlines, but more because of the airport’s severe capacity constraints. And, surprise, surprise, the small print of BA’s offer then exactly excludes those kind of delays:

British Airways reserves the right to exclude at its discretion any flights where disruption occurs beyond the reasonable control of British Airways. Non–exhaustive examples include severe weather conditions and their ongoing or consequent effects, air traffic control delays and industrial action.

With that, this offer all of a sudden sounds more like a common PR exercise than an innovative and generous customer centric solution.

[Picture from Flickrsome rights reserved]

Shopping desert at San Francisco International

San Francisco is a destination I frequently fly to for my job. When I took off there last time, there was no delay and in fact, when you take off from San Francisco International (IATA: SFO) in 98% of the times your flight is on time according to Flightstats.com. The Northern Californian airport was also recently rated best US airport. Despite all that, there will still be the odd occasion when your flight actually is delayed (my colleagues who flew back with BA the next day were in fact delayed for about 2 hours), plus, with international flights it is recommended to get to the airport 2 hours prior to departure which often means you have plenty of time to kill before the boarding announcement.

So, what’s there to do at San Francisco International? Well, according to the airports own statistics, the terminal is the largest international terminal by square footage in North America. There are two different boarding areas, A and G with most non-US carrier flights departing from area A. Whilst the size of the terminal is definitely adding to your relaxation, you would also expect plenty of shopping opportunities (even more so with the current weak dollar). No such luck – there are hardly any! For example, if you hoped to buy that last minute Apple iPod for your friend at home, you will be disappointed as none can be found at SFO. So, better get your shopping done before you get to the airport. But what can you then do at the airport? Here are my top 5:

  1. Sit at the North side of the terminal and watch the air traffic
  2. Search the few stores for that one Vitamin Water flavour you haven’t tasted yet
  3. Count the number of public announcements that were generated with a computer voice
  4. Connect online and download your latest emails (connect through T-Online for US$6/hour or use your companies connection software)
  5. DeleteUpload those crazy photos you took last Saturday night at that party in the Castro

Happy travelling!


Airport Facts and Ratings

Airport Name San Francisco International (International Terminal, A Gates)
Website http://www.flysfo.com
Design LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Shopping LateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Toilets LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Overall LateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award PointLateDeparture.com Plane Award Point
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum, 100ml at the Duty Free Shop
$66.00 (£33.20)
Bottle of Veuve Cliquot at the Duty Free Shop $99.00 (£49.80 – or click to see other currencies)

Hong Kong world’s best airport

Hong Kong International Airport has been named Best Airport in the world, in the passenger survey results released on Monday by Skytrax. Despite being “only” rated in 5th place in the most-timely airport survey, Hong Kong received the prestigious award after Skytrax collected 8.2 million questionnaires completed by passengers over a 10-month time period. The London based aviation-research company rated the airports in more than 40 categories of product and service quality from check-in to departure, from arrivals to baggage collection – including terminal cleanliness, staff efficiency, staff courtesy, terminal signage, security processing, immigration and customers, walking distances, as well as features like shopping, dining options, internet services.

Second best airport went to last year’s winner, Singapore Changi airport followed by Seoul Incheon. Best European airport was Munich in 5th place and San Francisco took the place for the best ranked US airport but didn’t make it in the top ten. Here’s the that top ten:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore Changi
  3. Seoul Incheon
  4. Kuala Lumpur KLIA
  5. Munich
  6. Kansai
  7. Copenhagen
  8. Zurich
  9. Helsinki
  10. Cape Town

Note that we already wrote about Zurich and Copenhagen on some delay stories, but both airports rated fairly highly in our own surveys as well.

Also, make sure you check out the full list of the category winners – Brisbane for example received the award for the airport with the friendliest staff. Well, I guess that’s no surprise when you work in a city with one of the best climates and the most leisure attitude…

[Picture from Flickr]

Crowded house at London Heathrow Terminal 3

Even in full anticipation of a delayed flight, I left my home well in time for check-in at London Heathrow‘s Terminal 3 – home to Virgin Atlantic. It’s funny how this blog can change your whole expectation (but then this was part of the idea anyway). So, was my flight delayed? Technically yes, but I have to admit, it was a close call. The Boeing 747 left the gates about 20 minutes after the scheduled departure time and took off 11 minutes later. In fact, that’s a very acceptable delay, especially for a 10 hour flight.

So, what was there to do in Terminal 3? Quite a bit: Until the recent opening of Terminal 5, this terminal was probably the best Heathrow had to offer, especially in terms of shopping and amenities. It’s still pretty good, however, the one thing that is striking every single time I get there, is the sheer amount of people in one space. The main area is ridiculously undersized for the amount of people and as a result you will have a tough time finding a seat even during quiet times like this morning.

However, there’s good news as well. Having been in this Terminal a couple times before I already know you can find the usual newspaper, electronics and book shops, a large duty free shop, a Harrod’s outlet, the only Yo! Sushi restaurant in Heathrow, TGI Friday’s, Brasserie Chez Gérard, a handful of Designer shops and four coffee shops. Four coffee shops? Yep. And with that insight, I told myself there must be quite some competition among them, so I took a closer look and compared the prices for a regular sized latte (or in new coffee lingo it would be a “tall” sized drink):

  • Bagel Street, £1.80
  • Eat, £1.90
  • Starbucks, £2.05
  • Caffe Italia, £2.10

If you are looking for a soy milk latte, this changes the game slightly as both Eat and Starbucks charge extra for this luxury health choice (Eat £0.30, Starbucks £0.35) where as the two others don’t.

But if price was equal, which one should you choose? Which coffee is the best? Well, personally I favour Eat for regular coffee and Starbucks for Soya as they have the better soy milk. But in line with my previous post about eating healthy while travelling, I only tasted these two this time. I will update this post when I’m back to taste the other two.

Oh, one more thing: From now on we will add a little price index to our airport short facts where possible. I’ve chosen the two most useful likely products you would find in every duty free around the globe: Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. Prices will be shown in local currency and US Dollars.


Airport name: London Heathrow, Terminal 3
Website: http://www.heathrowairport.com/
Design factor: 2/5
Shopping factor: 3/5
Toilets factor: 3/5
Overall factor: 2/5
Chanel No 5 Eau de Parfum: £57.70 (click to see other currencies)
Bottle of Veuve Clicquot: £28.25

[Picture from Flickr]

What the hell can you do at Berlin’s Tegel Airport?

Despite its capital status Berlin has no representative airport so far – which leads to the hassle of few direct flights to international destinations and the question of how to spend your time at Tegel or Schönefeld when your flight is delayed since both airports are very small.

When you have several hours, go back home or to the city center as both airports are close to the city. If you have less time try this:

  1. Find out that “Tegel” is only one label – which man is honored by giving his name to the airport as well? (No internet research allowed!) One tip: He died in a plane crash.
  2. Find the Starbucks in the airport (This is a tricky one! I once thought I was at the wrong airport when somebody told me to meet at the Starbucks.)
  3. Walk around the circle of Tegel and count your steps. Add some entertainment for the other passengers by a) counting loudly b) running c) running trailing your luggage behind you! I assume that should take less than 3 minutes when you shout out loud enough so people jump out of your way (“Bahn frei, Osterei!”).


Please write down your records and I will try to beat them next time I fly from Tegel!


Airport name: Berlin Tegel Airport.
IATA code: TXL
Website: http://www.berlin-airport.de/EN/
Design factor: 1/5
Shopping factor: 1/5
Toilets factor: 2/5
Overall factor: 3/5 (because it’s just 10 minutes from my home and easy to reach!)

The future: Waiting at Design Airports

Clearly, lengthy delays must be less painful if the surrounding is pleasant. At least this definitly holds true for me at London Heathrow‘s terminal 5 where you’re never further than three meters away from the next shop. So, what will the future of airport design bring? Check out our friends at “Designboom” and their article “Contemporary airport design“. Wouldn’t you want to be late for all your flights in these beautiful buildings?


[Via Designboom]

Eating healthy at the airport a myth?

Think back when you last rushed to the airport dangerously close to the final call of your flight only to find your plane being delayed for an unknown amount of time. Even worse, it’s evening and you haven’t eaten anything since lunch – you were wo looking forward for that sandwich on the plane. What to do now? Of course you could rush to that McDonald’s outlet in terminal 2 and quickly stuff yourself with your usual Quarter Pounder with Cheese and gain 510 calories in a blink of an eye. But we both know that’s not really the most clever choice nor will it satisfy you for the rest of the evening.

So, is there a healthier alternative at the airport? There sure is, as my friends at LifeApps wrote in their blog “Healthy snacks for travellers” you should follow three simple rules:

  1. Eat light
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Consume caffeine and alcohol in moderation

I know, you now probably think, well, I knew that already, but can you explain this in a bit more practical way, please? Sure, we can! Life Apps defined it in the following way:

Eat light: this is the heart of this post. By eating light we want to avoid fatty (especially saturated fat) and sugary foods, and empty calories. When it comes to snacks, there ARE healthy alternatives to airport food courts, and I’ll go into some of those alternatives in a moment.

Water: this is hardly a news flash, but it bears repeating: stay hydrated, whether you’re flying internationally or are holed up in your office! It’s especially important when flying, however, as the air being recirculated in aircraft cabins is quite dry. Moreover, caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate this condition, contributing to the risk of dehydration. The general rule is that you should drink ~12 oz. of water for each hour you fly.

Caffeine & alcohol in moderation: as an addicted, er, dedicated coffee drinker, this one’s a bit tough for me. In general, don’t go nuts with the quad espresso’s… a cup or two of caffeinated coffee is OK, just be mindful that coffee is a diuretic and you don’t want to be dehydrated on the road. As for alcohol, my only advice is to be careful when going out to dine with a group of colleagues. The best strategy: drink sparingly before dinner, and you’ll be much more able to be disciplined about what you eat during dinner! Keep “all things in moderation” as your mantra, and you should be just fine.

The blog article then goes on and provides a few very good snack alternatives. My favourite of the lot definitely has to be the Larabar – a very tasty yet nutritiously well balanced snack bar. You find them in the US in abundance yet they are harder to find in the UK (try the Whole Food outlets or selected speciality stores).

So, can you only eat healthy at the airport when you bring your own snacks? Not at all. Most airport eateries feature healthier alternatives as well. At Heathrow for example you find fruit, nuts and lean wraps in most Pret-a-Manger, Eat, Nero and WHSmith. As listed before, check the labels for their nutritious information and select low fat, low sugar and low salt food.

[Via LifeApps]
Picture from Flickr

Surprise: Heathrow worst performing airport in Europe

What a surprise! According to a study published by the Association of European Airlines (AEA), London’s Heathrow airport is the worst performing airport in Europe:

AEA’s survey of its members’ punctuality at 27 major airports identifies London Heathrow as the most affected, with 44.1% of European departures subject to delays of 15 minutes or more – substantially higher than second-place Dublin with 33.0%, followed by Helsinki, Geneva and Frankfurt – all three of which are customarily to be found in the lower half of the delay table.

This surely comes as a huge surprise to all of us. Not really. Heathrow has long been troubled by lengthy delays many caused by its limited number of runways and overall capacity problems. According to the report 15.3 per cent of outgoing flights delays were caused by problems with airport and air traffic control, while a further 11.1 per cent was blamed on loading and handling issues.

This news couldn’t have come at a worse time for BAA, the owner of Heathrow airport as the Daily Mail writes

The latest figures will add further pressure on the Government to end BAA’s much-criticised monopoly on London’s major airports.

The least affected airport, according to the report, was Munich airport which we already featured in the top 10 most punctual airports worldwide.


(Picture by Flickr – some rights reserved)

Kodak moment at Rochester airport?

Rochester, home of the Kodak corporation is a 200,000 people city in Monroe county, New York state, south of Lake Ontario. And despite the towns small size it actually has an international airport called “Greater Rochester International Airport” (IATA: ROC). Just don’t expect to fly there directly from anywhere far away, it’s not that international (in fact, I think the only international flight is across the lake to Toronto). But at least it features frequent flights to and from JFK. The only problem is that if JFK is disrupted for some reason, you’re stuck at Kodak’s home airport.

And that’s exactly what happened last time I went there for business: I was hoping to get back to JFK quickly in order to catch my flight back to London Heathrow. But unfortunately a major storm over New York caused my JetBlue flight to be delayed by several hours (and making me miss all possible flights back to London that day, but that’s another story…).

So, what was there to do at thrilling Rochester airport? Here’s my top 5:

  1. Feast on JetBlue’s generous food and drink offerings (mind the cookies, but indulge on the blue crisps)
  2. Make use of the free Wifi (while getting annoyed with yourself for leaving the charger in the checked bag)
  3. Search for the one coffee shop which actually does have soy milk coffee (the one between the two concourses has!)
  4. Calm down the lovely lady next to you who has tickets for the premiere of the Sex and the City movie at the Radio City Music Hall tonight
  5. Bond with fellow stranded travellers and complain in loud voices about the lack of information (and the distasteful cookies, see 1.)

What? You think that stained glass thing (see picture above) should have made it into the top 5? Common, stay focused! 😉


(Picture from Flickr)