Posts Tagged ‘airlines’

First time flying Norwegian

19.11.2012 12:44

As some of you know, I went to Oslo to see Gabriel Iglesias this weekend, and for the first time, I decided to go with a different airline than I’m used to. I used a low-cost airline called Norwegian Air Shuttle (or just “Norwegian” for short), since their flights matched my own schedule better than my usual favorite this time around.

I had my suspicions beforehand, given the reputation of most very-low-cost airlines (even this one), but I figured I’d be OK, since it was a direct flight (no further connections), and it was for a weekend only. They usually charge extra for checked-in baggage, but since it was for a weekend, I only needed a small enough suitcase bag to fit into the overhead compartment as carry-on luggage.

Then again, since I use Expedia to book both flights and hotel as a combined package, it turned out that the baggage fee had been included in the price, which meant that I could also check in my bag if I wanted to (even if it wasn’t required). Even so, I made sure to shave and wash my hair before I went, so I could cut down on how much I needed to bring with me. This meant that I only had to bring along a few items for my bathroom kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and deodorant. This also meant no liquids necessary (and I didn’t have to think about that if I had to bring the bag with me through the security checkpoint).

With Norwegian, you can go straight to the gate (through the security checkpoint) without checking in first if you only have carry-on luggage, since their system automatically checks you in (and you can use an app that has your boarding pass on you phone), which was a bit discomforting, since I’m used to checking in to my flights online (which tells the airline that I will be using my flight ticket, and reserves my seat on board).

Taking the flight from Ålesund to Oslo was quite painless. The bag I had was a tiny bit heavy to carry around, so I decided to check it in after all, only bringing my iPad and travel info on board. I also put my show ticket in my iPad bag, in case my checked-in luggage got lost on the way, or was delayed (since the show started only two and a half hours after I landed in Oslo – and a half hour of that needed to be spent on the airport express train).

I was pleased to see that the flight was on time, and the trip itself went smoothly (although I needed to bother the person next to me by taking a quick trip to the bathroom), but one of flight attendants (the one in the front of the cabin) seemed rather in a bad mood (not smiling), so that lowered the experience a tiny bit. Knowing that this was a low-cost airline, that I shouldn’t expect the service I’m used to, it didn’t bother me that much, though.

On my way back, though, I ran into some issues. I got to the airport express train towards the airport a bit later than I originally planned for, which meant I took the one that went at the very last scheduled time that I had written down in my notebook that would still allow me to catch my flight. What I hadn’t accounted for, though, were the extremely long lines for about anything at the airport.

First up when arriving at the airport itself, was the check-in machine, where I would print out a baggage tag for my checked-in bag. That had a small line for each of the machines, but at least I got one printed. After that, there was a very long a slow-moving line to get to the self-service baggage drop-off area (the manually-operated drop-off had an even longer line). When it was finally my turn, and I scanned my baggage tag, I was told I was too late, meaning that baggage check-in was now closed.

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

This meant that I had to take my bag onboard the aircraft instead, at which time I was thankful that I had packed a bag that allowed me to do just that, so I headed for the security checkpoint. The line just seemed endless, but at least I went through security without having an additional check (which would delay me even further), and just as I was putting my belt back on, I could vaguely hear my name being called on the speaker system. Hearing your name being called during boarding time is not a good sign, so I had to start running, and checking the boards along the way to find out exaclty which gate I had to run to. The flight had been assigned gate 15, which is an even worse sign, given that gates 28-30 is the first gates you can see beyond the checkpoint.

To make matters worse, when I finally got close enough to the gate to look for airline personell, I could see that the gate had just been closed, and that no-one was to be seen at first. While panic rushed through my mind, trying to come up with alternate options to get me home, someone popped out from the gate doors (probably to catch up on some manifest paperwork or something – I have no idea what they actually do). She intially said that I was too late when I asked, and I even told her that I had just heard my name being called after passing through security. The airplane was still at the gate, though, so she called them up, read my name from my boarding pass, and thankfully, I was let onto the aircraft after all (and assigned a seat quite a bit further back than my original assignment, but at this time, I was just happy to get home on the scheduled flight after all).

Kudos to the crew at Norwegian that allowed me to get on the flight, even though I was almost a minute late to the gate. This brought a big plus in my book.

I will definitely consider flying with Norwegian again on one of their direct flights.

Stockholm 2010, day six (final), going home

05.10.2010 23:54

Final day, and time to just wake up, pack up the last few things before I check out of the hotel and start my way towards the airport.

I was a bit worried about getting the spin art from the day before with me home, but after a few tweaks to my suitcase (if I open up a special zipper in the lid, the suitcase can contain about 2-3 cm more stuff), I was able to carefully squeeze the frame into the lid. I was already looking up options for mailing it home or cost for extra pieces of luggage on my flight (the first piece of luggage is free with SAS, anything beyond that costs extra), but the fact that it managed to fit into the lid made me relax a whole lot more.

I had been up almost all night surfing the web and didn’t get around to really turn in for the night before closer to 6 in the morning. I already had my phone’s alarm clock set to a 8:30 wake-up call, since they stop serving the breakfast buffet at 10, with an additional wake-up at 11 (final check-out is at 12, or noon). I woke up just slightly at the first wake-up call, and decided I could just catch a few more hours of sleep and find something on the way to the airport instead.

I’m thankful for almost eternal repeat (the app I use for my phone’s alarm clock makes me solve mathematical problems to completely shut off the alarm) – I didn’t get my ass out of the hotel room until it was closer to 11:55, which is really pushing it. I took the bus the usual three stops to where I can switch to the subway. There’s a Burger King right next to this stop, and I had originally thought about grabbing me a burger menu (I didn’t have to be at the airport for another 2 hours at least), but I decided to just travel all the way to the airport, get myself to the baggage drop and be done with it. The subway leads about 4 stops to T-Centralen, which is where just about all public transportation in Stockholm meets, including the Arlanda Express, which takes me to the airport in 20 minutes or less.

Yes, this little folder

Arriving at the airport at about 13:10, I felt I had all the time in the world, and after walking about 5-10 minutes around the check-in area to find my airline’s check-in terminals and baggage drop-off counters, I suddenly realized I had forgotten my folder aboard the airport express train.

Now, this is where I kept a written copy of the booking reference code, one of my credit cards (more specifically, the credit card I used to pay for this trip), and last but not least, my passport.

You can imagine the sense of panic I felt at that moment. I rushed downstairs to the airport express trains and waited for the next train to arrive. I tried looking in through the windows around where I sat, hoping it was the exact same train I arrived on myself, but without luck. Finally, one of the train staff noticed the slightly confused and worried person that I had become at that point, and approached me. I explained the situation, and he managed to call up the train central for more information. The train he was operating was at its last stop, and would be switching tracks to leave for the city about 5 minutes later, but he would meet me again at the track at the other side of the platform to give me an update.

Sure enough, the guys at the central had found my folder, and the person now holding my travel folder would be on the train arriving at 14:10, about 40 minutes later. I patiently waited at the platform until the time came, and I finally got it back, with an immense feeling of relief.

I rushed back upstairs to check in my baggage (SAS lets you check in to the flight and select seats up to 22 hours before the flight, so I did just that the night before), first via one of the check-in terminals (for a baggage attachment), and then over the the drop-off counter. When I had dropped off my suitcase, I looked at the clock up on the wall; it was now 14:30. The flight takes off at 15:35, and baggage has to be checked in no later than an hour on international flights (this was for a flight from Stockholm, Sweden to Oslo, Norway). So much for that relaxing extra time I was hoping for.

Next up was a quite long walk through the security checkpoint and to my gate (which was probably as far away as you could possibly get – if you’re on an international-bound flight at Arlanda airport outside Stockholm, try walking the distance to gate 10A, you’ll see what I mean). I managed to grab me a cinnamon bun and a croissant along with an orange soda (Zingo) when I had found my gate, just to eat at least something (and those were the only things I found tempting at the time).

The transfer from an international flight to a domestic flight at Gardermoen airport (outside Oslo) was no picnic, either. I now remember what I hate about travelling internationally, especially if the first airport I arrive at on an international flight isn’t the airport of my final destination. I have to walk a long way to the baggage pick-up, take my luggage, haul it through customs and outside the security checkpoint, where I have to check-in my baggage again (I can go directly to the drop-off counter this time, though) and go through the security checkpoint all over again. I don’t think I’ve walked that far in a very long time.

Good thing the next flight of my trip wasn’t leaving for another 2 hours or so. After finally finding some decent food (the choice finally landed on a heated ham and cheese ciabatta), I found the right gate for my flight (which wasn’t up on the boards yet when I first arrived through the checkpoint) and sat down for some eating time. The flight appeared to be slightly delayed, and seemed to be the last of the 19:10 flights to start boarding, but this slight delay allowed me to finish my ciabatta and soda before the boarding started.

Some flights can really be tiresome. I just hope the flight portion of my next trip goes more smoothly. I don’t know when or where my next trip will be, though, but I hope it won’t be too long.

And for those who are interested, I’ve uploaded all photos from this week to my Flickr account:

Flickr photoset: Late Summer Vacation 2010

Stockholm 2010, day one

30.09.2010 00:10

My first day is just about over, and not much has happened.

My day started with the airport bus at 10 am, lift-off to Bergen at 11:05, and touchdown in Stockholm around 2 pm, the Arlanda Express arriving in the city center a little before 3 pm, getting a little lost trying to find the right subway track going near my hotel, and finally checking in at 3:45 pm.

I was originally going to the first Blue Man Group performance of the week at 7:30 pm, but I got an e-mail from the ticket agency on Friday letting me know that the Wednesday show was cancelled. To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed. Still, there’s always the other 7 shows, starting with the 7:30 pm show tomorrow (Thursday).

I spent the left-over time using the free Wifi connection at the hotel (for hotel guests), wasting several hours. The fact that there’s a supermarket next door to the hotel comes in handy for snacking supplies, though. I finally got my ass together around 8 pm to get some dinner.

Today’s dining choice became Stockholms Matvarufabrik, about 1 block away from the hotel. The menu was limited, the dining area was a bit so-so (but clean). I’m not a big fan of the deliberate worn-down interior designs, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy the atmosphere too much.

My choice on the menu landed on venison with pumpkin, duck liver, black currant and liqourice ( hjortrygg med variation på pumpa, halstrad anklever, svarta vinbär och lakritsrot hjort med gresskar, andelever, solbær og lakris). Delicious!

And now, for a shower and it’s off to bed for me…

Ferie i USA, del 2 av 2

13.09.2010 17:02

This article is intended for Norwegians who’d like to repeat my vacation last year, either in whole or in part. It contains information on travel, booking and other travel tips when going on vacation to either Las Vegas (Nevada), Orlando (Florida), or both.

Min ferie i fjor sommer (2009) gikk til for første gang utenfor Europa, destinasjon USA, og jeg reiste helt alene. Nå i etterkant tenkte jeg å dele noen tips basert på mine egne erfaringer både i planleggingen og under selve reisen. Jeg føler at disse kan være til nytte for andre som kan tenke seg å reise til USA, og kanskje alene.

Dette er del 2 av 2 i artikkelserien rundt dette temaet. For planleggingsprosessen og innkjøp før avreise, sjekk del 1 i denne serien. Denne delen vil ta for seg selve reisen. (more…)

Earth Hour? What a concept!

02.03.2010 19:53

I recently caught on that my hometown is going to participate in the Earth Hour event, which this year lands on March 27.

Now, I’m all for changing the global climate and protecting the environment and all that. I just don’t think that shutting down non-essential lights and appliances for an hour a year (on a Saturday evening, no less) will do the trick.

We have come to a point in our technological advancement where electricity is a requirement. When we lost power in Ålesund and the surrounding area for an hour last week (mid-day on a Tuesday), our society more or less halted. You need electricity to register bar codes, fry/heat/cook food in cafes/restaurants/fast-food joints, pay with a debit or credit card, pay with cash where things like CashGuard are used, cool things down in fridges and freezers, work at an office (where computers are essential), etc. Basically, while not intended, we’ve already had our Earth Hour.

I see less of a point of the focus on an event like Earth Hour in Norway, where the vast majority of our power production comes from renewable energy. Living in a country full of mountains and subsequent waterfalls does have its benefits.

Also, we export more power than we import, so I don’t really see the point in the power companies’ major need to export power as much as they do.

Basically, with the amount of renewable energy produced in Norway, I simply don’t see the big need to “celebrate” an event like this.

So why do we do it? “Raise awareness?” What good will that actually do? It seems to me that the only countries participating are either already fully aware of the world’s energy and climate problems, or not big enough to make a significant impact in either direction.

We don’t need to cut back on energy consumption, we just need to find more efficient methods of both producing and consuming the energy, and that should be more up to the companies who make the energy production and energy consuming products. Although it’s more or less up to us consumers to select the right products, the companies making the products should be forward enough to do the necessary changes without having to wait on consumers and/or local regulations. And in particular when it comes to energy production, we also need the methods to be environmentally friendly.

To sum up just a couple of the not-so-environmentally-friendly energy production methods:

Fossil fuels: Coal, oil, the burning of wood, stuff like that. Sure, they produce the energy needed, but they icky stuff behind, both in the air and where they actually burn. That dark smoke is not a good thing, you know. Forests are replanted all the time, but unless you can dispose of both the ash and smoke somewhere other than Mother Nature, just skip it. Burning of wood in a fireplace should be saved for the rare occasions.

Fission: Or, in three words: Nuclear power plants. Sure, there’s a high yield compared to any other energy production, but there are also higher risks. Last I heard, nuclear waste still can’t be broken down easily; all they can do is store it in a safe place for a few thousand years in containers built especially for that purpose. Also, if the careful balance of keeping a nuclear reactor online is askew just enough, there are serious consequences, much like dropping a nuclear bomb in the area. Worst case scenario: think Chernobyl.

When it comes to the awareness bit, most of us are already well aware. What we need is for manufacturers to keep up, and preferrably in a quicker speed than now.

After all, if awareness with the consumer is so important to the environment, why aren’t the airlines pushing the manufacturers for more energy efficient airplanes? Instead, they choose to only focus on “reducing your carbon footprint” and buying carbon offsets.

And there’s another less-thought-out plan. Buying carbon offsets is really just marketspeak for paying a country to use some of their carbon emission quota which they weren’t going to use in the first place, and seems to be merely a the modern form of indulgence.

I’m just saying.


18.02.2010 02:28

Believe it or not, I actually got a reply from SAS Norway (airlines) via Twitter, as well as replies to my blog post about my airplane woes earlier this month. Apology was accepted, and I actually learned something new about air travel.

The few of you who actualy read my blog might notice that the comments to my blog post didn’t appear at once. That’s because I’ve set up the blog system to let me approve the first comments from someone (by which time their comments will be auto-approved). This is more to avoid comment spam, something which is (thankfully) due to a secondary system of the new blog system. I always approve comments that are not spam and not direct attacks on my person, just give me time.

Also,  the more perceptive of you might’ve noticed that I also just turned 30. I’m already done ranting about my life achievements, but the big day more or less came and went. I had an aunt and uncle over for coffee and cake (not originally planned), and I’ll have another aunt and uncle over tomorrow (Thursday). I’m having a larger family gathering on Friday (with dinner), and I might go clubbing on Saturday (I haven’t decided just yet). The clubbing run might include finding a special someone, but to avoid being disappointed, I’m not going to make that the primary goal.

I’m a man of very few friends (and many acquaintances), so the clubbing run will also be an alone run, as usual.

I don’t go out clubbing much, really, I go out rougly two or three times a year (not counting when I’m on vacations). I like going where people are (as long as it’s not overcrowded), but since I’m a shy guy, I have difficulty hooking up with anyone, even as basic as “just friends” (my list of actual close friends proves that).

My shyness seems to be my biggest hinder, both with gaining friends and finding a life partner, and I have no idea how to overcome that hinder. Just jumping in to the ocean of relationships is not an option, my shyness sees to that (in case any of you were going to suggest that).

Then again, a compliment I got from a pair of girls at the aforementioned singles party (after the matching cards had been given out) does suggest that I’m boyfriend material. They didn’t seem interested in me in particular, but they were trying to push me to go seek out my matches, as I seemed like a very nice guy who deserved it.

So apparently, I seem like a nice guy, and a safe bet, it’s just that there’s this wall of shyness (and appearance) blocking the view. I just never seem to catch a break, at least not good enough for someone to see the person inside the body fat.

Okay, I’m done now. I promised not to rant too much about my life goals, and yet I did. I guess I just don’t seem to get over it. Ah, the sad life of a loner.

Too fat for airplanes?

15.02.2010 18:58

Over the recent year, I’ve had more than a fair share of airplane travel. My trip to the US last summer encompassed 10 flights alone (to and from), and my trip to Oslo last weekend counts as two additional flights (including the return flight).

Some of you might’ve caught film director Kevin Smith‘s recent trouble with Southwest Airlines, where he was, in essence, kicked off the flight because he was too fat – after being seated. He had paid for two seats (which is already a bullshit premise), but arrived so early at the airport, so he decided to jump on standby for an earlier flight. That earlier flight only had a single seat available, which mr. Smith didn’t mind – in his words; “I didn’t buy an extra seat because I’m fat (which I am), but because I’m anti-social and didn’t want to sit next to someone & possibly have to make convo (in person, I’m very shy)”. According to his story on Twitter, he was seated between to ladies, and he fit the seat perfectly without an extender, yet, the captain didn’t want him on the flight because he was a security risk.

When I returned from the singles party in Oslo last Sunday, I had a similar problem. I had checked in to my flight with SAS the night before using their mobile website, just to make sure I actually would be on the flight, considering it was the last flight of the evening (SK 1334 from Oslo to Ålesund at 9:45 PM on Feb 7, to be exact).

Knowing that seat rows with the emergency exits have slightly more leg room, and considering that I had no problem sitting next to an emergency exit on of the US flights last year, I checked in to seat 11A, which on this flight is the window seat smack dab next to the emergency exit. This was even indicated clearly on the seat chart during check-in (which is why I selected that seat).

As I said, sitting next to an emergency exit is not a problem for me, even if there should be problems during the flight. I have enough arm strength to rip the door handle right off if/when needed, I can remain calm in an emergency, and I can be more than helpful guiding my fellow passengers out the emergency exit if the plane should be damaged enough to make for a hasty exit. I sat next to an emergency exit at one of the flights in the US (I don’t remember which flight at the moment), and I even sat next to an emergency exit on my flight down to Oslo earlier that same weekend. As on all flights in recent years, I was wearing a seat belt extender, and on both previous occasions, I was only asked if I was able to handle the emergency exit if an emergency should arise, in addition to being asked about language barriers and my understanding of the additional instructions when seated next to an emergency exit.

However, on this last flight, I was told that since I was wearing a seat belt extender, I had to move to a different seat, due to being considered a security risk. I was even compared to a woman with child (pregnant or with a new born), and was told that anyone requiring a seat belt extender could not be seated next to an emergency exit. Not one to cause a scene, I reluctantly moved to the seat row behind my original seat, as that flight had about 20, maybe 30 passengers in total (and both seat rows in front and behind my original seat were empty). I was kinda grumpy the rest of the flight, to say the least.

In recent times, I always ask for a seat belt extender the second I board the flight. Sometimes they give it to me there and then, and sometimes they bring it to my seat after the boarding queue has died down. When I flew to Oslo that weekend (SK 1331 the Friday before), the attendant brought it to my seat – knowing full well that I was sitting in a seat next to the emergency exit. I was only asked the usual questions regarding emergency instructions etc.

For some reason, the flight attendant on that particular Sunday flight had a beef with me.

I mean, if there’s such a security problem regarding seating next to emergency exits, why even allow passengers to check in without problems to these seats? Also, it’s the first time I’ve even heard of such a regulation.

I fit snugly into airplane seats with the arm rests down, no problem, it’s just that the seat belt itself doesn’t reach all the way around. If I stand on my knees on the seat, people can pass by me without any problems, so frankly, I don’t see why I couldn’t sit there.

I originally was going to let this one slide by silently, but with the issues Kevin Smith had today,  I just couldn’t shut my mouth much longer.

Between Ålesund and Oslo, there are only two airlines available; SAS and Norwegian. Norwegian (Air Shuttle) is the cheapest choice of the two, but you do get to bare minimum. A friend of mine used Norwegian Air Shuttle on a trip to London a few months ago, and had trouble with flight delays due to weather (where SAS re-routed the flights to the neighboring city (Molde), Norwegian instead let the airplanes return to Oslo), in addition to not getting any service or information during these delays (something which she noticed the passengers with SAS got – SAS, to their credit, even set up bus trips to Molde so people would get to their destinations). This little story made me select SAS for my flights out of Ålesund. Yes, they are a little bit more expensive (anywhere from 100 to 300 NOK extra), but you (usually) get a whole lot more customer service out of those extra money.

Then again, that single flight attendant did kinda ruin my flight that day. I know how Kevin Smith must feel.