Thursday, April 14, 2011

African airlines experiences

I have a feeling that if I go over my various emails and notes from the last 10 years I will find that I have spent altogether between 1 and 2 unplanned and unwanted weeks at airports or hotels due to the sometimes glaring incompetence of various African airlines.

I mean like arriving at the airport to be told the plane has already left "we rescheduled but called everyone". No you obviously did not.

Or arriving at the airport to be told that the flight has been cancelled. I like a recent one that did not happen to me: "that flight was removed from the schedule months ago". So why in the name of any God have they then issued tickets less than 2 weeks ago to the flight? And to a number of passengers, not just 1 or 2?

And of course the most common one: the flight is delayed. And here is when the chaos normally really kicks in. For whatever reason noone present at the airport never seems to know why. SHOULD someone know why or for how long this is almost never announced over the sometimes working speaker system. Why this is so - I have never understood.

It feels like "don't give out information in case it is wrong better just pretend all is normal". The problem is that after a couple of hours or so it is obvious to everyone that it is NOT "business as expected" any longer.

A point in case is my own experience from a few weeks ago: Arrive at the airport for a flight that has already been rescheduled/delayed. Checked in and all seems "normal". Except there is no plane in sight. Or information. Or staff from the airline.

I finally find a "business lounge" where a terrified young lady has ran out of snacks and drinks to keep the crowd calm, some of which I found out had been trying to get home since the day before... she knew nothing (can not blame HER for that) and noone else did. After hours of waiting the plane finally arrived and we did actually get on our way.

I can understand and tolerate delays, I can understand problems. Believe me we were very patient with Air Zimbabwe during the "gonomics" hyperinflation era -but that was because we knew what was going on (meaning the challenges they were dealing with, not what was happening at the airport - they are masters in the "non-information game").

What I do not understand is the total lack of professionalism in dealing with the situation. If it regularly happens to your company - try and figure out and correct why. If you can not for "reasons beyond your control" then at least make sure that staff is on site that can inform the passengers and deal with problems like connecting flights etc.

A more comical attitude to the passengers is displayed by at least 2 national airlines: demand that the passengers are checking in well before you open for check-in. In other words ask them to be at the airport in the morning some 30 minutes or so before you arrive and open for check-in yourself.

I suspect the main causes for this sad state of affairs are a mixture of overregulated airspace and "national" government-controlled airlines. Not giving the buyer/passenger much of a choice is of course a safe way to be able to treat them as described above.

Finally let me mention 2 exceptions: South African Airways and Ethiopian Airways.

And last of all thank all the staff I met over the years who actually try to do their best - there are more of you than this description might make you think!

Powered by Blogilo

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

New computer, fresh headaches

As you who read this reasonably often will know already I work with computers, computer systems and information systems.

From my point of view Linux is the best choice of operating system and laptop is what I must use. Laptop because I travel a lot, a "netbook" does not quite cut the mustard, ever so smart phones do not either as the infrastructure in the countries I work does not really offer enough connectivity and I want to use quite a few applications not (yet) available via phone systems.

The currently popular tablet computers with touchscreens leave me rather uninterested, I need more screenspace and more power than what an ever so slick tablet computer offers.

So after I once more found myself as consultant I decided to buy a new laptop. My "old" Dell is used at home by Mia, the even older Dell by the kids and the one I was using belonged to the former employer. I was allowed to keep using it but did not feel all comfortable with that arrangement.

As a friend/colleague/partner was arriving from Sweden I asked him to buy and bring a computer for me. Did some research and ended up with a HP Pavilion dm4.

In my experience Dell, HP and IBM/Lenovo are the best brands (ok maybe Sony Vaio but you pay through the nose then) in terms of reliability, service and so on. They also normally work well with Linux instead of Windows. I was a bit unhappy with some minor issues with the Dell I had at work last so decided to try this HP instead.

It is just to admit it: I did not do enough homework. Only after it arrived did I discover it has this new "switching" graphics with 2 systems, one for when you are on power and the other for when you are on battery.

"Only" problem is that this is poorly supported in Linux so far. So boy have I struggled to get that sorted. Some computers have a function where you can via setup (bios) switch off one or the other. Not this one, to be honest it is the most useless bios system I have ever seen. Not to mention that an upgrade of it (bios) actually made wireless internet stop working, both in Windows and Linux... NOT what I am used to from HP.

OK have that sort of under control now. But things like screen "dimming the lights" when power goes does not work (I have to do it manually) and I can not switch off the stupid fingerprintreader I don't see myself using. And and and.

And just like the last Dell it gets uncomfortably hot for having in/on your lap. The new processors seem to give off considerably more heat than the one I have in my "trusty old Vostro" that Mia is using. The difference is not small, from around 35 C to 55-60 C. NOT too nice with sweaty lap when sitting on the sofa (like now).

And I HATE the new touch/clickpad that does not have separate click buttons. Both in Windows and Linux it is a nuisance and I can only pray that better drivers will make it work better "next version".

Of course it is faster, better screen, more memory, larger disk, has webcam (that I never use..), is lighter and so on. But somewhere along the line of development certain things that I really like from the old Vostro are sadly missed.

Going back is not an alternative though (Mia keeps suggesting we swap if I am not happy) as all that I crammed on the disk now will simply not fit on the older computer...

Powered by Blogilo