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badice.com ~ musings for the masses

Korean Air - 777-200ER

Today is the big day, Korean Air is arriving from Seoul around 8:30am CT, bringing the first non-stop passenger service between Houston and the capital of South Korea. The flight is being operated by a Boeing 777-200 with three classes of service, first, business, and economy. It appears they will be featuring their new product on the route, the Kosmo suite in first and the Prestige sleeper seat in business, both of which are lie-flat seats. The economy seat is also a new product featuring audio and video on demand and power and USB ports available for each seat. The seat map below shows the layout of the cabin.

Korean Air 772 Seatmap

Korean Air has an extensive route network and gives Houstonians another great option for getting to Asia. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, while far from the city center, is a great airport for connections and offers plenty of amenities, including free shower rooms for transiting passengers. They also offer free tours of Seoul for transiting passengers, which is a great way to see a city rather than sitting an airport waiting for your connection.

I should note that Korean also flies into Gimpo International Airport, the smaller, closer to the city airport, with flights only serving Asian destinations. But, if you are spending a few days in Seoul and then continuing on elsewhere in Asia, Gimpo is a great option with frequent flights and an easily accessible location close to the city center.

This is a fantastic option for travelers to get to Asia. Of course, I wish it was Asiana Airlines with their ties to the Star Alliance and United, but another carrier at Houston offering more flights is never a bad thing.

The Korean Air flight departs Houston for Seoul at 10:40am and arrives in Seoul at 3:10pm the next day. Current summer prices on the route range anywhere from $1500 round-trip to $2000 round-trip in economy. Korean Air is a member of the Skyteam airline alliance.

Portland, Oregon

Houston, I grew up on your suburban streets. You have been my home for the better part of 25 years. But, it is time for a change. We’ve grown apart the past five or six years, my work taking me to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, and D.C. for most of the week. I would return on Thursday evenings and enjoy a fun weekend. That has happened less and less the last couple of years and I blame you. You have grown too big too fast and I long for the Houston of my youth. Not only have you grown, you have become more expensive, yet added little in the way of benefits. All of this, coupled with the heat, has made you less enjoyable.

So, my family and I are leaving for greener (literally and figuratively) pastures in Oregon. We are giving up the 100 degree summers for 80 degree summers. We are giving up Saturday afternoon traffic for Saturday afternoon hiking. We are giving up newscasts where the nightly report is a shooting or stabbing for a nightly newscast where the big story is “What to do with all that cauliflower”. We are slowing down. We are going to enjoy life and our city, not have our city rush us from one place to the next, trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We are giving up this:

Houston Skyline

For this:

Multnomah Falls

Yes, the news is true. We are leaving Houston for Portland come July. With my work being focused on traveling to customer sites, we can be based anywhere there is an airport. We are ready for a change of scenery. We are ready for somewhere where 30 minutes away we can go for a hike and see waterfalls like Multnomah Falls pictured above. I am willing to put up with rain and gray days for the opportunity to have summers that are spectacular and give my family the ability to be outdoors most of the time.

This has been a long time coming. We had our hearts set on moving to Berlin but I was not able to find an opportunity with my company there, so we started exploring cities in the U.S. We have always loved Portland and on our most recent trip back, we knew it was where we wanted to live. It is a big city that doesn’t feel like a big city. The downtown is well laid out, the people are friendly, and the weather, even when it is raining, is pleasant.

Of course, we are sad to leave our family and friends in Houston, but we will certainly be back to visit. This decision was not an easy one but we do believe we are doing what is right for us as a family.

That is all as far as Portland news is concerned. Now back to your regularly scheduled travel post!

I am a sucker for this kind of, in Jeopardy terms, potpourri. Priceonomics has a short piece on why UPS trucks do not make left turns. The most telling part:

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents.

UPS even has a page describing the practice of no left turns and they expand on the above idea.

What we found: A significant cause of idling time resulted from drivers making left turns, essentially going against the flow of traffic. From there we explored routes where these turns were cut out entirely, and then compared data.

The use of data to make a decision that goes against logic is what I love. UPS leadership was experimental enough to say “we are going to implement this and see if it works” and then study the results from that test. There are a number of very large companies that I have worked with that would immediately balk at this idea. They almost go through stages of grief (sans depression) with ideas like this.

  1. Denial – the companies claim the data is wrong or that it is flawed
  2. Anger – the workers who are responsible for causing the data become upset that someone found out about their poor work habits
  3. Bargaining – to get out of making a change, people start tossing out different ideas, none of them good
  4. Acceptance – “I guess we’ll just have to do it”

Then there are the companies who do the complete opposite. They implement a terrible idea based on bad data, or their understanding and interpretation of good data, and it blows up in their face. Once that happens, they become very adverse to ever trying a new idea again. We need new ideas backed by data and I think it’s awesome that UPS took their data and made some interesting choices that have paid off.

Seth has details of the changes. The big changes are in the AAnytime Awards, or awards that have more availability across dates. There are now three tiers of AAnytime Awards with the highest tier being exponentially more expensive than the lower tier. US Airways also upped the price of the sweet spot on their reward chart, US-North Asia rewards go from 90,000 miles to 110,000 miles.

The biggest news out of this seems to be American releasing the chart with no announcement and making the changes effective immediately. That is definitely not the most customer friendly way to do business and is different than the announcement from other airlines regarding similar types of changes.

I think this is the beginning of the end of the American Airlines love affair that a lot of travel/airline bloggers seem to have. American is going to start to fall in line with what the other carriers have in place for elite programs and reward bookings and people need to prepare themselves for that.

SAS has announced they will start a new flight from Stavanger, Norway to Houston on August 20, 2014. This flight has been rumored for a while (no it’s not an April Fool’s joke) and it looks like it is coming to fruition. With ExxonMobil and Shell both having large facilities in Houston and Stavanger and Exxon’s Dallas campus, the flight is a great way for these companies to move their people between offices and offshore operations centers.

The flight will be operated by a PrivatAir 737-700 in an all business class configuration with 44 seats. The service will operate every day of the week except Saturday.

I will definitely be trying to move one of my reward tickets to Europe to this flight as soon as it becomes bookable later this month.

Swiftwater Seafood Cafe - Whittier, Alaska + high-res version

After queuing for a while, we drove through the single highway lane Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel and emerged in Whittier, Alaska. It was lunch time and hunger was starting to overtake us so made a pit stop at Swiftwater Seafood Cafe. It is a tiny place but the fish and chips was delicious and they had cold Alaskan Brewing Company beers ready and waiting. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed our lunch on the patio, watching a couple of cruise ships leave the small port before petting a reindeer and waiting in the queue for the next crossing through the tunnel.

A very well thought out post on speculation and Malaysian Airlines flight 370

I have thrown out a few small speculations of my own about the flight but the reality is, we won’t know what happened to the plane and the passengers until we find it. Add on top of that the poor leadership by the Malaysian government and other governments in the region to coordinate information and search efforts and we have powder keg of emotions ready to go off. The passengers on Malaysian Airlines flight 370 deserve better.