(james benedict brown) on the road

Snapshot: Glasgow Airport

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 8 December, 2010

Seen from the departure loun… sorry, shopping mall, inside Glasgow Airport. The suitcase dropped off a baggage tug, and was retrieved about five minutes later.

It’s still your fault

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 30 July, 2010

Earlier this week I caught a flight from Stansted Airport back to Northern Ireland. I first visited Stansted shortly after it opened in the early nineteen-nineties, when the vast £100,000,000 terminal was home to just a handful of airlines. Back then it was a delightful experience; a crystal clear navigational experience, with clean signage and spacious circulation spaces.

The plan was for Stansted to become London’s premier gateway, a true alternative to Heathrow and Gatwick, which could tempt the long haul airlines and passengers out into the Essex countryside. Then the ground beneath the aviation industry shifted, and it became instead a low-cost hub for budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet. Designed with the intention of making your passage through the airport as smooth as possible, Stansted was rapidly reconfigured to make your passage through the airport as expensive as possible. The airside lounge is a grotty and crowded retail hellhole, designed around the meandering line principle that if you expose passengers to the maximum possible surface area of shop frontages, they will eventually succomb and buy something.

Despite having three satellites (and a fourth under construction) departing passengers are bottle necked inside this cramped area in the main terminal until the hour or half hour before their departure. This is again to maximise their exposure to retail enlightenment rather than the relative tranquility of the satellite buildings.

Of particular amusement to me, spotted while waiting for my gate to be called, was this notice, applied in vinyl beneath the departure screens:

Stansted Airport does not verify the accuracy or completeness of this flight information which is supplied direct from your airline. The airport accepts no liability for any loss or damages suffered as a result of the reliance on such information which may later prove to be inaccurate or incomplete.

Departure information? Nah, this is just the departure information screen. Not our responsibility, mate…

My flight memory

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 23 June, 2010

About a month ago I rediscovered my FlightMemory account. It had lain dormant for a couple of years, and on a quiet evening I was able to bring up to date relatively easily. FlightMemory is a free-for-basic / paid-for-premium online service that allows you to log aeroplane flights in an online database. You can specify the date, time, route, airline, aircraft; even the seat number. It can then calculate the flown distance to build a comprehensive database of how far you’ve flown, and which airlines and aircraft you’ve used the most

Even if it were possible to do it – which I don’t think it realistically is – the site doesn’t offer you an indication of the carbon emissions or environmental impact of one’s travels. Different planes, different engines, different climatic conditions, different passenger and cargo loadings, etc. all conspire to make each flight unique. By its very nature, the website seems to err on the side of celebrating rather than lamenting flying. There’s a machismo table of users so that you compare the size of your emissions to the size of everyone elses.

Although I appreciate that the very act of blogging about my (publicly accessible) statistics makes me guilty of participating in the macho competition. But to put it in layman’s terms, I’m prepared to admit that I have flown too much in my lifetime.

I’ve now flown in excess of 125,000 miles, equivalent to five circumnavigations of the planet, or half the distance between the Earth and the Moon. I’ve been able to take into account almost every commercial flight I’ve ever taken, starting with a short cross-channel hop in a Dornier 228 in 1994 (although the exact date still eludes me) up until the Ryanair flight I took this morning. All my recent flights have been booked online, so the receipts were somewhere in my inbox. My diaries filled in the gaps, and only a few school and university trips to Europe are missing precise journey data.

FlightMemory will generate a global, continental and domestic map for each user, personalised around their home country. The European visualisation of my travels is a record of many different holidays and study trips, but doesn’t represent the many journeys I’ve taken to France, Belgium and the Netherlands by train. At a push I’d guess roughly half my trips to the continent have been by train, so don’t throw the book at me yet.

My UK map is, however, a dense hive of lines, primarily because of my personal and professional connections between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. By my reckoning, I’ve only ever flown domestically within Great Britain three times, the train having always been cheaper and more attractive. But the real damage to the environment (and the real damage to my personal life) has been my commute between Glasgow and Belfast. While the longest route I’ve flown was more than 4,200 miles in length (from Edmonton to London) the shortest is between Belfast and Prestwick, at just 80 miles – the shortest route operated anywhere in Europe by Ryanair, and one that is quite surreal in a Boeing 737-800 series, lasting as little as twenty minutes tarmac to tarmac.

According to FlightMemory, I’ve now flown between Belfast and Glasgow fifty times. Strangely I’ve flown to Belfast more times than I’ve flown to Glasgow, and yet as I look around me, I’m still in Glasgow. Similarly, until earlier this year, Glasgow International Airport was one that I had departed from several times, but never arrived into. Having now done both, however, I can confirm it’s a ****hole whichever way you pass through it, and more expensive to use than comparable airports.

This unpleasant existence of commuting across the Irish Sea will continue for the next year or so. As long as I remember, I’ll keep updating the FlightMemory too, although I look forward to the day when I doubt have any trips planned by plane.

Ryanair starts advertising its competitors

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 16 February, 2009

For reasons I shan’t go into here just yet, I’m hoping to have reason to make more frequent trips back to Belfast in the coming months. The eco friendly option is the attractively priced train and ferry, but it’s slow and no use for a day trip. The budget choice has to be Ryanair, who fly from Prestwick Airport to Belfast City Airport.

Here’s the booking screen for a flight in March that I researched this afternoon:

ry1

Yep, the fare is just £0.01.

How do they subsidise such cheap air fares? Well, perhaps by allowing Google Ads to sell advertising space to Ryanair’s direct competitors on the same page:

ry21