Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Never This Nice

As part of my ongoing self improvement program I try to learn from past mistakes. One such mistake was identified last year when I flew from Melbourne to Israel using the services of Turkish Airlines. At the time I did not have much choice, but as it turned out I had myself quite the ordeal. Knowing the experience of having to fly to Israel at a short notice will come back to haunt me, I took measures.
This time around, I was quite picky with my flights. For a start, instead of a three leg itinerary from Melbourne to Tel Aviv, I insisted on a two leg journey. The difference in flying time is not that big, just a few hours on top of an already exhausting journey, but the difference it made to the livelihood of the passenger - yours truly - was huge. And it's not just the flying time we're talking about; it's also messing around with another transfer at yet another airport. Remember, not all airports are created equal (I'm pointing my finger firmly at you, Istanbul!).
The next measure I took was insisting before my travel agent that she tries to seat me at the back of the plane. Normally, airlines and agents alike tend to think the seats at the front are better, mainly because it implies disembarking would be faster. While potentially true, what's the big hurry? Personal experience seems to indicate that if there are empty seats on the plane, they tend to be at the back; and having an empty seat near me, especially on a long flight, can make the experience of flying across the world so much easier.
As was the case with my flights this time around. Out of the four legs I have had the "pleasure" of flying on, the shortest of which was 9.5 hours long, I had three seats for myself on three of those legs. Let me spell it for you: T-H-R-E-E seats on T-H-R-E-E legs. That is to say, for three quarters of my flights, I slept better than I had ever slept abroad long range flights. Screw business class, give me three economy seats any time.
The difference those three seats made was huge. Usually, I get my worst jet lag flying west to east. This time around, my return to Australia had left me tired and out of sync with local time, but it did not leave me with the feeling of having to force my eyes open as of midday. I was just a bit tired, that's all; nothing a cup of coffee could not sort out. Never in my history of flying did jet lag come this easy.

There is another avenue I commonly turn to when it comes to making my life an easy pleasure: Gadgets. Again, last year's experience had taught me a lot on how to cope with such long trips.
The first problem that needed tackling was the noise on the plane. Aside of physical compression, it's the constant noise on the plane that troubles me the most. This time around I had my noise blocking Shure headphones with me! Compact and easily carried in their tiny pouch, these proved effective ear blockers on their own right, even before I pressed "Play"; but then, when I switched Spotify on, I was amazed to hear high quality music reproduced in my ears. Fancy that, enjoying music on board a noisy plane! Unbelievable.
Last time around I carried my Mac Air with me for my computing needs. As nice as it is, the Mac Air is not that easy to deploy aboard a plane or in the mess of an airport terminal. This time around I had an iPad Mini: quick and easy to deploy, sporting a longer lasting batteries, a sharper screen, and offering a larger variety of travel suitable entertainment. From Kindle to XCOM, I had it all at the tips of my fingers.
Last, but not least, was my iUSBPort2. Probably a member of one of the lesser known gadget families, this one is a wifi hard drive. That is, it can act as a hard drive for the iPad, with which it communicates via its own wifi network. Essentially, this meant I could bring all the entertainment I could carry along with me, regardless of my iPad's limited storage space.

Between gadgets and smart bookings, the journeying part of my latest trip to Israel was probably as easy as it could ever be.
Sadly, there is still the nonsensical security theatre to deal with. At Bangkok I had to explain, twice, that I prefer a manual body scan as opposed to them porn scanners. In Israel they now demand one leaves one's suitcase unlocked, which offers the terrifying prospect of all my stuff spreading itself out on some remote piece of tarmac, never to be seen again. And then there is the whole mess that is bringing duty free items to Australia: they actually open your hand luggage just as you're about to board to inspect each and every item you bring aboard!
Those issues, however, can only be fixed at the voting booth.

Image by Doug, Creative Commons licence

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