Alex tells us all about his return to Hong Kong, with Cathay setting a new gold standard in IFE over Emirates (Greg flew China Southern, and, errr, well). Paul flies the all business class 321neo from La Compagnie from Orly to Newark (road traffic was key to that story, but traffic there is none to board, how crazily fast is that, kudos La Compagnie!). Choose your BA seat on Jordanian (neat trick), but it might come with a free infant for you. After 27 years, Qatar Airways replaces Al Baker (would some call him the Jeremy Clarkson of the airline industry?). Can reward/award finders help you spend air miles faster than they devaluate? The biometric airport experience is upon us, and AI is rising (but robots do strike in London when they drive trains). Is British Airways' customer service seeing a renaissance after having listened to Layovers? (at least they're investing quite massively in it, hopefully in IT -capital letters- too). Will we see boarding group -2 arise (group 0 is here)? ExTime, beautiful third party lounges thanks to a je ne sais quoi (the French flair surely). The bucolic murals at that -4 walkway.
We did travel quite a lot, pardon the delay in getting this one out. We'll be back in December!
Happy flying, all.
Paul is on Instagram, Threads, and Twitter.
Alex is on Instagram, and Twitter.
Layovers is on Instagram, and Twitter.
So small, cozy, cute, a very special airport, that was Tegel, not BER: can the finally (nearly) finished Berlin Brandenburg measure up to the "poor but sexy" German capital? At least the cleverly named lounges have an even cleverer backdoor (and, hey, it's not a poor bus station like Schoenfeld).
Bundling the unbundling: a (great) rant by Alex (Hunter, but Vukolova chimes in, and Paul got confused having two Alex on the show).
Do the Adidas Lufthansa sneakers give you extra status (you can now buy them, unlike the staff limited editions that Paul bought off from an employee a few years ago, in order to pair them with the Family Mart socks he just got).
Condor offers you a branded beer (another Brewdog airline brew!), but also booking your …overhead bin?? (Alex tested it, and we look at everything that could go wrong).
JetBlue and the inaugural massive dog.
The admirable journey out of fear of flying.
Air Astana is amazing, Almaty airport not so much (the former gives you amenity kits, and slippers, in economy, for 3 hours!! The latter does not have free water in its lounge WTF).
Thanks a million to Alex Vukolova for having joined us (and for having waited FOREVER to be on our podcast).
You should follow Alex on LinkedIn (she posts great avgeek stuff!): http://linkedin.com/in/alexandravukolova
On Instagram (Paul messed up her username all this time!!): https://www.instagram.com/avixalex/
Give a listen to her aviation podcast, Sky Lounge: https://podcasts.apple.com/de/podcast/sky-lounge-podcast/id1678045129
And here's the Ladies Beyond Flying group she mentioned: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12451302
(See, there are links in our show notes for once).
Apologies for the audio quality, we had to work around a ton of glitches, and preferred recording than postponing.
See you in the next one! Happy flying!
Paul tries multiple Italian airports, Alex finally visits the new Istanbul (and flies Turkish for the first time!). The passport blowing border official trick (it doesn't work better than the Super NES cartridge blowing). BA will soon introduce water bottles the size of mini bar vodkas (at least it seems so). The Magical Finnish hippos, another first in a long line of firsts by Finnair. The perma-scaffolding of a rather joyful Birmingham airport. Italian really do duty free differently (from currency to cars). Alex visits what is easily the biggest third party lounge he's ever seen in his life. Tom Cruise runs over the new Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi (and of course, WE ARE TOP GUN MAVERICK). When the fast track is in the lounge. Creatively naming the airline Wifi (send us your favorites). Imperial Airways lives on (on the IFE). Luton LOL. Do airlines realize people usually need to have a bag when they fly? Are Ryanair pilots of drinking age? Don’t ask Apple Maps for Bologna Airport.
Combini, tamago sando, Skyliner, vending machines, ekiben, baseball Suica cards, yes we discuss Japan, where Alex was earlier this summer.
And yes we talk (err, Alex talks) about air travel too, British Airways, Southwest, Hawaiian, ANA, and, drumroll, Zipair — not in that order, and with hops at London Heathrow, San Jose, San Francisco, Tokyo Narita, Osaka Itami, and some shinkansens (and lots of Pocari Sweat, Alex is a fan, Paul isn’t), on a few 787s, a 777 (should have been a 380, but …BA), a 737, a MAX (and Alex has thoughts on that one), and a 717 (a great beat up commuter bus!).
A new acronym for BA, Belated Airways (are they ever on time these days?). JAL used to advertise: we don’t economize in economy, so what about their long haul low cost ZipAir, the “new basic airline”, do they economize? And would you ditch your luggage completely, and rent your clothes at destination, for the duration of your trip? Jerks being jerks, but, really, do you need to complain for hours to no end (aka, the rise of disruptive passengers, Alex had one, could have been two). ANA domestic is like flying United in the 90s, golf highlights included, only announcing turbulences are coming in exactly 30 seconds. Would you rather be clocking in and out of lounges, max duration 30 minutes, or looking at nothing but the Pacific for 10 hours? The beer robot at lounges, the perfect good bye to Japan (or is it the soothing sound of Live ATC?). The two dings, the ominous two dings, they will make robots of people.
Kyle Potter, Executive Editor at Thrifty Traveler, all-around awesome(ly smart) dude, Hello Kitty enthusiast (well, it's that EVA Air flight, you'll see!), and (very) long time Layovers listener and friend, tells us all about why MSP is the best thing ever, like everything in Minnesota — but also whether cheap travel is still possible in the current era of airfare inflation (yes!), whether passenger rights will ever be a thing in the US (maybe), whether boarding groups will ever be abandoned (forget it). We debate the wilderness where having no status means real freedom (that status, the warm blanket you're sure you need, right?), the crazy valuations of US loyalty programs (and airlines wanted to spin them off? HOW WOULD THEY MAKE MONEY lol, it's as if they're banks that happen to own planes), the devaluation of those programs (non-travel Covid has something to do with it), the importance of alliances and joint ventures in the current air travel era. And yes, for once, we touch upon the world of air miles programs a bit more, and its nearly MLM-esque ecosystem in the USA. As Kyle is a Delta fan (and captive!), we ask him: Why are they so good (that padding!), and how is that new Delta One seat (hint: we're all aligning in saying doors aren't really something we value).
Oh, and ORD doesn't get a lot of love, LOL.
Nearly two hours of great fun, whilst learning quite a bit (Alex and Paul learnt a lot).
You can follow Kyle on Twitter (please do):
His writings are on:
Of note, he wrote about the EVA Air Hello Kitty flight he took here:
and a great guide on how to find cheap travel via Google Flights:
Layovers will return in August (when Alex does).
We flew to Geneva to record an episode of Attaché (now on YouTube, link below), so how were our flights, and what did we think of the airport (the new C-Gates are excellent, the time at immigration not always). Does too much info add unnecessary travel stress? (Aka Flighty is Paul's IFE of choice in lounges). Is Covid wear and tear a thing? Some aircraft interiors look older than they should. Dublin airport can be frustrating, but it's pretty much forgiven when you can see one of the most famous airplanes in the world next to you. The 380 is an absolute winner in those times of constraints, the 777X could be too (come on, when???), but its new window dimming is what we'll have to settle for now. The new security machines are awesome, unless you shoot film (yes, you know, rolls of film in cameras, the youth won't know what we're talking about), and a photographer friend has some update on that front. Some LCY & Cityflyer love, but "that stupid goddamn piece of crap building that I'm sure is really important to the operation of the airport blocks the view" (HAHAHAHAHA). We both sing in unisson: BA is improving. Undercover flight attendant CEO, whilst Starlux's saves the day (but might get a fine). Did passengers gain weight during Covid? We have the answer (for Europe at least). Apple Vision Pro, the new IFE (Vomit Pro or not?). Remembering Brian Shul.
Lots more stories, from Japan to terminal pubs (morning beer anyone?).
And whilst we always forget to link stuff in those show notes, for sure go watch Attaché with Alex and Paul:
Do you have a number? The saga of Alex trying to beat boarding time at Lisbon (you won't believe he, of all people, made that mistake). A completely charming SWISS cheese board on-board (and cows in the Zurich airport train). Etihad 2.0 are quietly great, a tasteful experience we appreciate (and flying over the Arabian Gulf is a sight to be seen), plus they're now about making money (err, shouldn't it have been the case since the start?). The "Etihad Lounge, The House of the Name of the House of the Lounge of Etihad and Other Airlines that are associated with us, but not really, and we are a good lounge, Lounge" is no more, but Alex isn't sure where he was anyway. A prescient Careem driver takes Alex to the Midfield Terminal, a mirage in a Star Wars movie (will it finally open this December??), but for the moment, the 1970s airport stays your only choice (T3 was opened in 2009, but feels way older). Saudi Arabia is launching a second flag carrier, and another airline, and expansion of airports, and like wow. Floating at 40'000 feet in silence (but with Flightradar). A new A380 UK-based carrier, are they for real? A lounge within a lounge, but it's Louis Vuitton. Super Mario Bros Warp Zones in Madrid.
Alex gets lost at JFK T8, only to encounter crazy turbulences over the Atlantic (a future worsening trend). But how did he get there? Finally testing what Paul did in 2021, the Mint Studio — a hope for the future of long haul narrow bodies. Airfare prices are way up from 2019 (more than inflation!), is that temporary, or what prices will be, and should always have been (that's the opinion of AirAsia's founder), so, please, JetBlue, don't Norwegian it! When you call BA, you will get quoted different fees and taxes every time, just keep calling (but who calls in 2023??). Also, DO YOU KNOW WHAT AIRLINE YOU WORK FOR?
Our proposal: play musical chairs in lounges and every five minutes, you have to get up and give somebody else your seat (just keep the ceiling intact, unlike in Paul's sound studio).
How is it we had never actually done MAD as an episode title? This ends today, however the mad MADrid dash from T4S to T4 never does. Alex has lots to say about BA and it's …not great (he's not alone to think like this). Paul calls it, the better London airport is definitively Gatwick (stop being a wannabe posh by preferring LHR). Lufthansa introduces a grand new First Class, and a super complex Tetris business class with 14+ options (Swiss introduces the same, but in bordeaux). Will Dolomiti be folded into ITA (the ever growing Lufthansa Group realm of the European skies). Emirates is the Apple of airlines, you might not love them but they offer incredible consistency at massive scale, truly admirable (DXB could do with a bit of a refresh though). You know what, you can fly the 747-400 to Palma (BE QUICK, BEFORE THE 744 ERA ENDS).
We mentioned (and promised to link) those two:The worst airport in the world (by Jo Ellison, in the FT, paywall possible, I'M SORRY, JO, FOR MISNAMING YOUR LAST NAME!!!!), andThe DISGRACEFUL State of British Airways (by Nonstop Dan, on YouTube).
See you again for 127, and, in the meanwhile, please give us any feedback on Twitter or Instagram (and Apple Podcasts if you're inclined to give us a nice review).
The airport you think is overrated, the airport you like, the airport you love, the airport you feel yourself in, the airport you need to visit — play the airport game with us (and feel free to tweet us your answers!).
The new Air France lounge at CDG T2F is beautiful, as can be CDG …when it works (you'll probably need to taxi on a country drive to get there haha).
The new lounges at JFK T8, the new of BA in New York, feel like a success (and clever naming!).
The end of the 747 production line triggers memories for the both of us (a crazy typhoon for Alex, a cramped Combi for Paul, a sense of place for both).
A renewed joie de vivre by flying Air France (is Transavia the legitimate child of KLM though?).
Flying the OG Norwegian, riding the good old Acela, and a French guillotine in the 777.
Friend of the show, and very long time listener (since episode 1!), Hakan Yılmaz, aka @LAFlyr on Twitter, grew up wanting to go early at the airport to see the planes, and collect avgeek paraphernalia, and never stopped being a kid, by still going early to the airport to see the planes, and a career that led him to American Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Atlas, etc., with millions of miles under his belt, and tons of stories to share — from the admirable rise of Turkish Airlines (fascinating SAS story on the invention of the hub and spoke model), to the celebrity stories at Virgin (do you carry money when traveling but nothing else? Or lots of LV luggage instead? Reach out to us!), from over-complicating airline operations (which airline is it, do you reckon?) to the uncomplicated life as loyalty programs free agents (the three of us are becoming so, though it's a mental fight to let go), we geek out and rant and laugh, we get the in and outs of LAX (that's Hakan's pun), and thank you all for still listening to us in 2023.
Follow Hakan on Twitter: @LAFlyr
Ed Parsons, the Google Maps guy, is our guest today. He's heard the Concorde prototype noise as a kid, flown on the Concorde before it got retired, explored all the Concordes in existence around the world since — a true fan — and we discuss it all, from the history to the conspiracy theories, to a certain nostalgia about a future that's now in the past.
He is also a GGL, Gold Guest List, the (almost) top tier British Airways status, which gives him access to the exclusive Concorde Rooms (yes, there's more than one), and we learn about more the extra perks, whilst we discuss the not-exactly-great state of current BA, and Heathrow.
Ed tells us about the many Air Shows he's toured (and photographed!), and of the amazing BRR beach airport (Otter it is, but no Maldives temperatures). Thank you SO MUCH, Ed!
You can find Ed on:
And check his photographs on:
Thank you all for your graciousness in 2022, we love having you as listeners.
Happy New Year, and see you in 2023!!
Alex has a joyful experience to Oslo with Norse Atlantic Airways (he flies to Stockholm too, the Nordics know how to handle snow, whilst the UK clearly doesn't). Finland sees record traffic to meet Santa Claus, whilst Air Greenland celebrates a new 330neo. France says NO short haul flights, the EU says YES to mobile networks in flight, the UK says NO MORE to liquid security limits. Doha opens a massive new airport garden, says Singapore stole their idea. Can someone remember Florence Airport, or Pisa Airport, for us? (The Pisa lounge is miserable, no need to tell Paul). Is there a fast track trick at Heathrow transfers? The revolution: a lounge with a nacho cheese dispenser!!
Be excellent to each other.
(We covered Oslo OSL in episode 032, and Stockholm ARN in episode 99)
"What are you going to Saudi Arabia for?" asked the puzzled flight attendant — Paul was flying to Jeddah, to then drive 8 hours, to reach one of the places of his dreams: the Nabataeans tombs of Al-'Ula. From sand to copper, the massive new Jeddah terminal is impressive, and big, and really big, and has the highest airport tower in the world, and they even built an …aquarium (!?)
No champagne, broken seat and flimsy IFE — is Emirates still what it used to be? (Yes, and no).
An X never marks the spot, how travel is about dealing with ambiguity too (and …“we named the dog Indiana”).
(Yes, we talk about the World Cup too)
Alex needed to be in Quebec City, so he obviously flew to Montreal — that made him try Air Transat (is that a controversial airline, Canadian friends?). Our friend Greg sadly never got to fly WestJet however …and Paul still hasn't been to Canada. Qatar is getting ready for a massive amount of daily shuttle flights for the FIFA World Cup (1.5 million fans expected, they're a country of barely 3m!). IAG wants Avios to go beyond BA and QR, but would any other airline be really interested? No AirTags allowed: Lufthansa wants to be left alone losing your luggage. Virgin and Alaska are fighting over a trademark that isn't being used (huh?). Virgin does a Upper First class with the Retreat Suite on the 330-900neo, a perfect bed for Presidents and Prime Ministers ;-)
Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, three cities, three cultures, and three airports that correspond them well — Paul flies in and around Pakistan (flying out was not a given on one of those trips!). The retro liveries of PIA and QR. Japan opens up on October 11th, ticket prices skyrocket, also as the USD rises against pretty much every other currency, making flying more expensive to many. The NOTAMs for the Queen passing (LGW went full radio silent!). United and Emirates integrate, and Virgin finally joins SkyTeam. Alex gets plusgraded to Upper Class (just after a status match, HOW DOES HE DO IT?!)
No, the other La Paz — the Southern/Baja California Alex Hunter 2022 Tour, with Megan as a VERY supporting avgeek act (aka Alex is the supporting act, Megan is the star, but you all knew that already). Emirates refreshes its fleet on a crazy tight clockwork upgrade schedule. Air France reveals its PORTE FRANCAISE* business seats (*French door). Lufthansa loses a star, and its general shine in a summer of strikes and chaos (those Philippines Airlines aircrafts won't be enough, guys). Don't try to smuggle McMuffins in Australia, even if you had to wait hours to no end in Bali. No more fuel after United taxies EWR for 9.5 hours (is that worse or better than Vueling?). Yes, yes, Paul knows, it was a 350 on the pic he posted on Instagram, not a Dreamliner (he's going to hear about this until the end of time, won't he?).
Alex lives and sweats the travel chaos, trying to get to Valencia with Vueling (what was he thinking?!) with an epic (FAIL) journey that ended up with Easyjet saving the day. Paul develops some Apple AirTag anxiety. The A380 is back with a vengeance, though Tim Clark wishes he had a two-engine 380, or a 350-2000, or anything BIG (meanwhile his ticket prices are soaring faster than aircrafts). COVID is kinda back too (it never left) but the travel world won't use that C-word to not jinx it all. Alitalia pilots mistake JFK for Naples at rush hour. No more BA livery in South Africa after the demise of Comair, but BA has more issues to think about for now (ground personnel strikes, fuel delivery strikes, and more strikes, on top of staff shortages). Also, in which country is Corsica?
Enjoy nearly two hours of #avgeek stories between Alex and Paul — not sure when we'll record next, Alex being in holidays, but hopefully sometime before end-July.
Brace brace brace, travel chaos ahead — from staff shortages, to strikes, to supply chain issues, to a global recession, it's going to be a messy year (and more) ahead. The mess will however make for an interesting wet-lease global puzzle (Mel Air for Air Nostrum as Iberia??), and the experience of using buses instead of airplanes (not sure how we think about that one). Tim Clark is becoming increasingly impatient with the ever-expanding delays at Boeing, and Al Baker wishes he didn't have to put the 380s back in service (that makes us happy!). Alex sleeps his way to Bogota and back, and tells us all about flying to Medellin. Also, did you know there's a 747 parked in Valencia airport that has racked up over 200 million Euros in fines? And that there's a Pret Index?
The turbulence forecast website is: https://turbli.com
A Round the World conversation with our friend Mark Vanhoenacker for the launch of his new book 'Imagine a City, A Pilot Sees the World', a sequel to 'Skyfaring'.
We talk about our love for cities, the small ones of our birth, the big ones of our dreams, the ones visited once (even only at the airport), the ones we feel home at, the ones that shine bright, afar from an aircraft window or from a walk on their streets.
We even geek out on public transport (including the Yamanote Line, whilst Alex isn't sold on the Elizabeth Line haha).
Mark also tells us about moving from his beloved 747 to the 787 (we ask: why that one?), and the strange feeling of flying through the pandemic (for British Airways, if you didn't know it already).
We also go through some fire alarm (thrice) and decide to stay put, after all, it had been 2.5 years Alex and Paul hadn't seen each other in person, and nearly 5 (!) years since we had last had a beer with Mark (yes, we went to a pub after this recording).
Learn more about the Imagine A City on Mark's website: http://markvanhoenacker.com/imagine-a-city
And buy the book on Amazon, Waterstones and in any good bookstore — it's a must for travelers, we both can attest to that! (US friends, you'll have to wait until July 2022!).
Listen to our previous conversations with Mark:
060 to Nairobi NBO
040 to London Heathrow LHR
And follow Mark on Twitter: @markv747
See in our next episode, whenever that is (Alex goes to Medellin, Paul to Karachi, Lahore, and Corsica, but 116 MDE it will be, PAUL IS VERY JEALOUS).