Lurching towards the Faroe Islands

stormy view over Torshavn

“Don’t worry, this is normal,” said the Faroese fisherman sitting next to us. Even for seasoned flyers such as Scott and me, that didn’t seem like it could possibly be true. Turbulence is one thing, but when it’s happening during a rather steep descent towards an unseen island? I suddenly understood why we had been served so much free liquor on the relatively short flight. Continue reading

In which we are very lucky travelers, despite Eyjafjallajökull

“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” is a phrase that has been running through my mind a lot for the past couple days, except in place of “Spanish Inquisition” I put “Icelandic volcanic ash.”

Long story short, we are some of the very few European travelers from the past couple days who actually made it to our destination, and only eight hours after initially scheduled. Pretty impressive given that we were originally scheduled to fly via Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, which closed the day before our flight and hasn’t reopened since. As it turned out, our Munich to Atlanta plane took a more southern route than usual in order to dodge the ash as we made our way out of Europe. We landed in the US to the news that airports (including Munich) as far south as Switzerland had closed while we were in the air.

Cancelations at Munich Airpot

We breezed by the long, long lines of stranded travelers waiting to be rebooked in Atlanta’s international terminal, glad that we already had boarding cards for our second flight. We started to think it was really going to happen, we were really going to make it. Not only was our connecting flight to New York on time, but we even got upgraded to first class. As I said, lucky, lucky, lucky.

This morning in New York the local news is full of stories about area airports full of stranded passengers and canceled local concerts due to musicians stuck in Europe. And me? I’m busy trying to learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull while enjoying my breakfast bagel. Mmmm.

The terrorists started winning when lip gloss became a threat

So rarely does something I read cause me to yell “YES YES YES!” the way that this commentary did, I figured I’d share it here. The article addresses the ridiculous and ever-growing measures which the US (and consequently other countries) is taking in the name of preventing terrorism attacks on airplanes.

For years I’ve been drunkenly expounding on this subject at cocktail parties to anyone who will listen, but I’ve never managed to sum up my ideas as eloquently as Campos does. Here’s the crux:

It might be unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a nuanced grasp of statistically based risk analysis, but there is nothing nuanced about two basic facts:

(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and

(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that you’re subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.

Zero sounds like a perfectly acceptable level of risk to me!  So why is it that I and millions of other travelers must be presented with ever-increasing numbers of hoops through which to jump every time we want to get on an airplane? Why is it considered a good use of time (and resources) for security personnel to hand-check whether my Sigg bottle is completely empty, but having higher speed limits is worth the additional deaths because motorists’ time is so damn precious? And why is it OK for the government to now take and store naked pictures of us in the name of reducing an already-infinitesimal risk? Would you be willing to let the government take naked photos of you if the stated reason was reducing your risk of death by flying tortoise?

In other news, there’s a lot of snow in Germany (via TQE).

Air Berlin: a bafflingly good airline

I’ve flown Air Berlin several times now, and I have to admit the airline confuses me. Its prices are often excellent, especially if you book during a sale (offerings such as 2-for-1 tickets can often be found on their website). The website is functional, allowing smooth and easy purchases and online check-in. On board, passengers are treated to free drinks, snacks, and magazines, even on very short flights. No luggage charges. Seating is assigned (you can choose your preferred seat when you check in online), and no one has ever hassled me about the size or weight of my carry-on. Basically, it’s everything the full-service airlines used to be, before they all turned into fee-grubbing customer-hating cesspools.

So what’s the catch?

So far I haven’t been able to find one. I’ve even called their customer-service hotline, only to find it staffed with competent, friendly people who demonstrated problem-solving skills. Sure, there are a couple small, nit-picky things I could mention (a small fee for using a credit card on the website, for example), but given the state of most other airlines these days, they hardly seem to matter.

Air Berlin flies from a ton of German cities to destinations all over Europe, plus a few farther-flung places (such as New York and Phuket).

What’s your experience with Air Berlin? Are any other airlines (low-cost or otherwise) worthy of praise these days?

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