Some time ago, for almost two years I had to fly twice a week, every week, and I couldn't complain about the TAM service. The hot breakfast was great, attention was in the details. But I know they have changed ways from fifteen years ago.
Same with Air New Zealand. They used to have nice hot food on domestic flights. Lately they replaced food with a (single) choc chip and water. Wow... Great stuff. They could have left the coke. Even in the U.S. with all cost cuts the arilines at least continue serving free soft drink (and paid alcohol).
Now I read on NZ Herald that
The free biscuit - one of the great traditions of flying on Air New Zealand's main domestic routes - is on the way out.
The national carrier has decided to axe the free chocolate chip cookie in favour of charging for a range of costly inflight snacks.
From Monday, passengers must pay or go hungry on all 737 aircraft, which fly main routes between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and Dunedin.
The free biscuit is a "great tradition[s] of flying on Air New Zealand"? Please... And now they will be serving overpriced food, supplied by a Wellington catering company.
What happened to "tradition"? No, I am not talking about the biscuit, that was just a cheap replacement to some (decent) food.
Air New Zealand flights over the Tasman to Australia have on-board service, including the food and drinks we would expect. But the food in coach is horrible. The "gourmet hashbrown breakfast" is something that is far away from gourmet, from hashbrown and from breakfast. The best I could have in the last three weeks was a toasted foccacia with cheese and ham.
I was in coach class in the last three out of four flights, and the difference between the food (and service) on business and coach is very visible.
And what about the decision to keep using metal forks, but replacing the knives with plastic ones. Where this very intelligent decision came from? I mean, the metal table knives, with no sharp points is replaced with a plastic table knife with no sharp points, but they keep the metal forks. Do they really think forks are no more dangerous than those blunt knives? Too much paranoia.
UPDATE: You should go and read Lance's take on this. Quite good.
During the panel publishers had a unique opportunity to interact with local Google AdSense and AdWords managers, ask questions to us publishers - myself representing Geekzone, and Australians Tim van Brugge representing i-do.com.au (a wedding directory) and Paul Greenberg from dealsdirect.com.au (an Australian on-line retailer).
But I decided to write about some non-technical stuff in this post today. So without further ado, here are my Best and Worst Facilities Awards:
- Best coffee: the cafe downstairs from the Hilton Brisbane
- Best hotel location: Sheraton on the Park, Sydney and Crown Promenade, Melbourne
- Best hotel room: the Sheraton on the Park, Sydney
- Best hotel bathroom: the Crown Promenade, Melbourne
- Best breakfast: the Crown Promenade, Melbourne
- Best gadget to have in the plane: Blackbox M14 noise reduction headphones
- Best casino on-route: Crown Casino, Melbourne
- Best airport experience: customs through Brisbane
- Best car show: the Ferrari 60th Anniversary Exhibition, Crown Casino, Melbourne
- Worst in-flight food: breakfast on Air New Zealand
- Worst in-flight movie editing: Casino Royale on Air New Zealand (they cut the poison scene, but left the torture scene in place)
- Worst in-room Internet service: Hilton Brisbane
- Worst airport experience: spending 100 minutes through customs in Melbourne (passengers with better things to do were disrupted because TV program Border Patrol was filming on location)
The routine is established: every Wednesday from 1:30pm people know I will be at Astoria Cafe for coffee, sometimes earlier for lunch. I bring my laptop and do some work from there. The folks at Astoria are cool with having a bunch of geeks using a couple of tables to spread their gadgets, tablet PCs, latptops and UMPCs around. It helps that they have a couple of wi-fi hotspots (Telecom New Zealand and Cafenet) right there.
Nick Randolph is back in Australia and is starting a similar "coffee group" in Perth:
Sorry about the late post about this, but tomorrow will be the first gathering of the Perth Caffeine Addicts - only kidding (well except for the Perth and the Caffeine bits). One of the best things I did when I was in NZ was attend Mauricio's Geekzone weekly coffee group and I thought the concept could work well here in Perth. So tomorrow, with support from Mitch and Alastair of the Perth .NET Community of Practice, we are inviting anyone who has an interest in developer technologies to join us for an informal chat at Tiger Tiger which is located here in the heart of the Perth CBD (opposite Star Surf Shop) from 1:30pm tomorrow.
Although this event is put together by the co-ordinators of the .NET user group I would like to take this opportunity to invite anyone who is doing application (be it web, smart client or otherwise) development here in Perth using any piece of technology to join us and talk shop. We will be meeting each week, same time, same place, so if you can't make it this week, why not join us next week.
We do have the occasional visitor to the group and we've also had someone just approach our table asking "is this the Geekzone meeting" or "Are you Mauricio, mind if I join you?".
People from Auckland say this never happens there. Doesn't anyone want to start a coffee group that way?
Auckland, New Zealand (20 - 21 February 2007)
Brisbane, Australia (28 February 2007)
Sydney, Australia (1 March 2007)
Melbourne, Australia (6 - 7 March)
Seattle, U.S. (10 - 15 March 2007)
I am going around a lot this month and next, participating as a panelist in a seminar with other Google AdSense publishers in New Zealand and Australia, and then attending the Microsoft MVP Summit 2007, with a keynote from Bill Gates.
If you are in any of these places on these dates, let me know and we might have a coffee and chat.
Of course the spokesperson said this was a policy only for large sums of money, and should not be applied to a single operation of such small amount and would investigate.
Here's a good reason to stay away from a bank that invest so much in advertising, but forget to train their people in common sense... The thing is that I simply dislike bad customer service, and I tend not to return to places that can't provide a good experience.
This is from the same bank who brought us pago.co.nz (I can't even bother to link to it), with all its security flaws.
After the meeting I headed to the What's UP 2007 event in the same building.
The event was very informal with five bloggers, myself included, making predictions for 2007. The bloggers were:
- David Farrar, Kiwiblog
- Hamish MacEwan, local visionary
- Mauricio Freitas, Geekzone
- Philip Fierlinger, turntable technologist
- Tom Beard, Wellurbanite and Wellingtonista's Web-Writing-Wellingtonian of the Year
And guess what? Against stiff competition I won the audience vote to receive the "Unlimited Potential's Visionary of the Year for 2007" award.
So what exactly did I predict? Here's my list:
- Telecom New Zealand CEO Theresa Gattung will leave the company by May 2007, opening the way for a takeover;
- Econet Wireless will not deliver a new cellular network in 2007, and may actually fold;
- Microsoft's new operating System Windows Vista will be used by end users, but enterprise will not widely adopt the new OS until 2008;
- MSM wants to have the same status as blogs, and bloggers will get together in networks and become more like MSM;
- Queen Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Queen of New Zealand and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith will abdicate (read more about New Zealand monarchy).
During the event we had the chance to present our predictions and explain how we got to those conclusions. Of course you should take these in the light hearted way they were meant - an entertaining evening with some good yarn in between.
The What's UP 2007 was promoted by Unlimited Potential, a community connecting young IT professionals, based in Wellington, New Zealand.
UPDATE: The event was covered by Ken Lewiss for m-net.
The only thing I can't complain is I've never seen anyone wearing my dress ;-)
But really, when I started working there sixteen years before I left, it was policy that any flight longer than five hours should be taken in business class. This covered pretty much coast to coast in the U.S., up and down in Brazil, or any flight from Brazil to the U.S. or European operations.
By the time I moved to New Zealand, the company changed the policy to force everyone to fly coach, on the cheapest available fare (making sometimes impossible to even get an upgrade from our own air points).
I remember once having to fly more than seventeen hours on coach, just to arrive on the other side with a message waiting for me at the hotel, asking to urgently join the project manager on an internal meeting. I couldn't join the meeting because of the time to cross town from the hotel to the offices and because I couldn't move outside the hotel so tired I was of that long flight. Never mind because I found out later the meeting wasn't even urgent, and was just to introduce me to other people in the team. More of a project manager's self importance declaration really. I am glad I took that time to sleep and go over a fifteen time zone difference...
All Dilbert comics and products are (C) Scott Adams and I do not claim it. Click the picture to visit the official website.
The last MVP Summit was a blast, and Steve Ballmer delivered the keynote. This time Bill Gates will keynote the event, and this is going to be another highlight:
The Microsoft MVP Program is proud to announce that Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates will deliver the keynote at the 2007 Global Summit! Save the date - the Global Summit will take place March 12-15, 2007 in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center and at Microsoft Corporation’s main campus in Redmond, Washington. Based on MVP feedback, you can expect a more dynamic and interactive atmosphere this year during the Executive Day sessions and we can’t think of a better way to kick it off than with remarks from BillG!
Great stuff... You can find more about the Microsoft MVP Programme here, and my own MVP Profile here.
A shipment sent out from the U.S. on the 22nd December has been here in New Zealand since the 26th and waiting for customs to clear it.
I called DHL every morning to be told a different story. "Our broker in Wellington is on holiday until next week" (really, so no one in New Zealand's capital is receiving parcels coming from overseas?), or "The shipment came unmanifested, our fault, but we asked for the papers to be faxed already", through "The sender did not provide us with documents, we have called them to ask for those", and other lame excuses.
The fact is that something I needed here before my trip to Las Vegas is not going to arrive. And the DHL service people are not helping at all. They provide mixed information, wrong information and all sorts of excuses.
Is there anyone reading this that can actually reach for someone clued up at DHL New Zealand?
Note that until now I had never had a problem or reason to complain about DHL services, and always used them for my courier needs. But I think I will simply have to shift to FedEx or some other alternative.
UPDATE: manage to get the sender to contact DHL in the U.S., and as expected, it was all clear. So the problem is here. I called DHL again and this time someone actually found out more about this, including the fact import duties are paid, and this is all that needed to be known. They are now sending this to a broker for release from customs - but if I want this before I go to Las Vegas I have to go and collect from their warehouse. No delivery...
The package has been in the country for four days now, in the bonded warehouse for three days, plus one day in Auckland.
I am also told that even though this box is sitting on a depot 20 minutes from here, even if an agent from Auckland releases it, the chances of having this delivered today are very slim.
Let's see: long New Year holiday from tomorrow, no deliveries until next Thursday... A week from now!
This morning CourierPost delivered a package with a device to be reviewed, posted two weeks ago from Sydney, Australia. Sydney is only 4 hours from Wellington!
There you go, this is the cost of doing business in this country.