Flighty thoughts

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling recently, which has prompted a few thoughts. In no particular order.

1. In Melbourne airport, one of the things you notice when moving from the Qantas terminal to the Virgin Blue terminal is the absence of water fountains. And in a move reminiscent of the way inner city nightclubs behaved when ecstasy first hit the market, they’ve also ensured that there’s no cold water available in the bathrooms either. I’m pretty sure that there were water fountains in that terminal when Ansett operated it, so am mildly surprised that Virgin went to the trouble of taking them out.

2. If I could only break up one monopoly in Australia, it would be Canberra Cabs. When I called them last Friday morning to ask why my airport taxi was 10 minute late, the cheery voice said “Oh yes, we lost all last night’s bookings. What was your address again?”. If they had competitors, stuff-ups like this might affect their bottom line. But they don’t, so it won’t.

3. It’s quite bizarre to visit American airports, and be asked to take your shoes off. Someone should write a paper called “The Deadweight Cost of Richard Reid”, in which they estimate the annual productivity loss to the US of this policy. If they’re especially bold, they’ll then compare that dollar figure to PVC, where P=chance that a shoe bomb could bring down a plane, V=the estimated value of a statistical life, and C=carrying capacity of a typical airliner.

4. When I’m doing a weekend trip, I often get frustrated at the stringent limits on carry-on luggage that the Australian airlines impose. But I’ve now developed a new appreciation for the policy. US airlines are much more lax, and the result is lots of jostling among passengers to be first on the plane and claim an overhead locker, followed by angry words and cross looks from those who fail to get a space. The Australian policy does make for a more tranquil start to the flight.

5. The best thing about an exit row is the legroom. The second-best thing is the company. You’re always next to frequent travellers – a big plus on a long-haul flight.

6. Normally, I get through a few books in a trip to and from the US. This time, my only achievement was Ian McEwen’s Atonement (highly recommended). So in place of a bunch of book comments, I offer the following United movie reviews (out of 5)

  • Chronicles of Narnia ***
  • Rumour Has It ***
  • Nanny McPhee **
  • Fantastic Four *
  • Aeon Flux *
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8 Responses to Flighty thoughts

  1. I don’t recall Ansett water, but you could be right. But the blame, if there is any to be allocated, should not go to Virgin Blue but to the federal government. It privatised airports at very high prices, which the new owners then have to recover partly by charging retailers very high rents. Part of their deal with drink outlets would have been to remove free water to force people to buy it instead.

    And I wish Australian airlines were even tougher than they are on the carry-on luggage issue, for the reasons you mention.

  2. derrida derider says:

    Yea, bad cess to Canberra Cabs. Canberra has a terribly performing, and overpriced cab system. Why do so many local governments around the world think it their duty to look after the cab owners rather than the customers?

    Also the bit about Yanks and overhead lockers is spot on. I reckon the first airline to clamp down over there will win customers on balance – but of course none of them see it that way and so none will be first. A bit like non-smoking venues – some restaurants still don’t see that they lose more customers than they gain by permitting smoking (so we end up with legislation to solve the co-ordination problem).

  3. Epic Cure says:

    Canberra Cabs? Please, that’s not even the half of it. Canberra is a monopolist’s heaven. It means our restaurants, retail outlets, medical services, local council services (no, I don’t recognise the ACT govt — A Human Rights Commissioner? No thanks, I just need my green waste collected.), grocery stores, fruit & veg are all overpriced and very poor quality.

    Booo! to Canberra and its artificiality.

    (I suppose it’s not all bad, but I’m sleepy and mentions of Canberra ‘That’ll be a 40 minute wait’ Cabs have set me right off!)

  4. Andrew Leigh says:

    EC, I’m rather less concerned about governmental monopolies – if I got to vote for Canberra Cabs every few years, that would do me fine.

  5. epiCure says:

    Andrew, it’s taken a while for your message re Canberra Cabs to get through to the politicians, but after a bit of lobbying, looks like Dr Craig Emerson has taken your message to the monopolists! Here’s an extract from yesterday’s Hansard:

    Dr EMERSON (Rankin) (1.53 pm)—I wish to
    share an experience that I and many others have had
    with Canberra Cabs here in the ACT. It is now on a
    voice activated service and the conversation with the
    computer goes like this:
    Welcome to Canberra Cabs. Please give the full address,
    including street number, street and your suburb.
    If you say ‘Parliament House’ it says:
    Sorry—I cannot understand that.
    So you say ‘House of Representatives, Parliament
    House’ and it says:
    Sorry—I cannot understand that.
    You repeat ‘House of Representatives, Parliament
    House’ and it says:
    Is that 8 Parliament Square, Parkes?
    You say ‘No’ and it says:
    Do you know the address?
    You say ‘Yes’ and it says:
    Please tell me.
    You say, ‘House of Representatives, Parliament
    House’. It answers:
    We have your address as 150 Sanders Place, McGregor. Is
    this correct?
    You say, ‘No.’ And so it goes on until it identifies
    places such as 1,000 Riverband Rd Wallaroo. There is
    no Wallaroo in the ACT. There is one in Western Australia,
    one in South Australia and one in Queensland. I
    hope not too many cabs have been dispatched to
    Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. I
    have had the experience of the voice-activated machine
    hanging up on me, so that is a bit worrying. I have
    complained in a letter to Canberra Cabs. They have
    said that overall the implementation has been
    successful and that they are in the process of entering 1,000
    buildings into the system. I hope they get around to
    entering Parliament House. If this were not so serious
    it would be hilarious. Drivers are unhappy, but I am
    most concerned for our elderly residents who will not
    be able to use this system and who will find themselves
    isolated, very often in a cold Canberra winter. This
    outfit is operating like a monopolist. Lift your game,
    Canberra Cabs, and stop operating and behaving like a
    monopoly.

    You may be interested to know that, following this rant in the Chamber, all occupants of Parliament House were this morning provided with a list of ‘Building Names’ to use with the automated phone system. That’s 2,000 people who have had to print off an A4 sheet of instructions to facilitate the company’s new, efficient systems.

  6. Steve says:

    Just a few comments about the biggest problem in Canberra and thats the fiasco of Canberra Cabs. I work in a hotel which has a taxi phone and the voice recognition system does not recognise accents, visitors to Canberra do not know the suburb of every attraction in Canberra, and the elderly just can’t work the system at all. We also house the nations top Judges, Politicians, professors & intellectuals of all shapes and sizes who frequently curse and swear and slam down the phone (in our lobby) in sheer frustration. If having to put up with aggresive behaviour from frustrated guests who can’t negotiate this rediculous system isn’t enough…. the operators are just as useless. I saw one guest who was hung up on simply because he could not understand and the poor chap eventually missed his flight as a result. The newest and most laughable incident was when I tried to book a cab to pick up and elderly lady from the train station (at 1035 pm) to bring her to the hotel before it closed at 11. Well I was told that they cannot book a cab for the train station because there was a cab rank there, so effectively we did not know if she would be picked up or not. Of course when she arrived the rank was empty. So after finding a man with a mobile who knew the number they phoned (and booked) a cab. The first cab that showed up would not take them because it was a booking. It is so bad its worse than laughable… its a disgrace and an embarrassment to Canberra. How can we operate a city without a reliable means of getting from A to B…. it enfuriates me every day!!!!!

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  8. StrandedInCanberra says:

    I, for one travel to Melbourne frequently just to get “routine break to keep me sane”. WHat if my plane depart early morning like 7-8 AM ?
    Can’t really ask my friend to fetch me that early!
    That bus to the airport is not even operational 24 hours!
    Screw this place! It already trapped me here and even unwilling to let go of me!

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