Archive for the Clight Paths Category

“Welcome back to the Asshole’s Club, Mr Smith”

Posted in Clight Paths, Corporate Letter Campaign, irish with tags , , , , , , on 3 December 2011 by clightnirish

Why doesn’t American Airlines just rename the Admiral’s Club as the “Asshole’s Club”?

Despite paying some $7000 for a business class airfare or 25+ flights to qualify for status, the Admiral’s Club (at least at JFK) now started to charge their ‘most valued’ customers for drinks & food… except the self-serve dispenser of stale cracker & pretzel mix, but I don’t really call that food! (To be fair, if you’re really valuable, you might get a voucher for one drink, but after that you’re on your own!)

They’ve also started to charge for wifi, and the furniture is often old and shabby, or high on ‘design’ & low on comfort… less comfortable than on the concourse, in some cases. And despite all this cost-cutting, your airline still just entered Chapter 11?

In some international ACs (like Buenos Aires) you can still serve yourself a beer or scotch (thank goodness for Latin hospitality!!) but you still have to stare down other passengers eyeing off that last slice on the rarely-replenished cheese plate. You can’t get a sandwich, let alone a burger… even if you wanted to pay for it!! You know where they DO have great food to buy, though… out on the concourse.

So if you’re not giving any real ‘privileges’ and passengers would arguably be more comfortable, and certainly better fed, at the “Chilis Too” on the concourse… then what’s the point of an airline lounge? All that is left is some thinly-veiled form of class segregation: there used to be privileges that justified visiting the lounge, but now you’ve made ‘Admirals’ just look like ‘Assholes’ that don’t want to sit with everybody else.

Actually, worse than that… like cheap assholes fighting over the last piece of Gouda.

— Irish

PS… if you happen to fix things up, I’ll be sitting in comfort in Gate Lounge B6, with my Auntie Anne’s pretzel dog and a Cinnabon.

Why make going down hard?

Posted in Clight Paths, irish, Seriously Small Stuff with tags , , , , , , on 26 August 2010 by clightnirish

Few things in life are simpler than operating an elevator.

When you want to go up, you push the little “up arrow”. Or at worst, the “U” button. And down is just as straightforward. “D” or “down arrow”.

Once inside, you then just find the number of the floor you need, hit one more button and you’re on your way. The elevator even opens the doors for you.

If only it was so simple to order a coffee at Starbucks. Yes, elevators are one of the simplest things you can ever encounter.

So imagine my surprise at the sign in Swissotel Chicago when I stayed recently, saying something like: “We are proud to have introduced a new elevator system to enhance your elevator experience at Swissotel. Please follow these instructions to use our new system”. Followed by five or six steps each illustrated in an accompanying diagram.

I am sorry, my Swiss friends, but if you have to use the phrase “please follow these instructions”, then you have not at all enhanced my elevator experience. I was fine when I did NOT need instructions.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Swissotel system worked. Instead of an up or down button, I have a touch screen display and keypad like a giant cell phone. The only thing missing is a place to insert my card, else it would practically be an ATM. Apparently I use the touchscreen for “word” floors (gymnasium, garage, business center) or I dial my room’s floor number on the keypad for “numbered” floors.

Then it tells me to watch th display to tell me which car to take. So I stare intently at the little screen. But then other people need to type… What if my car is displayed while they are typing and obstructing my view? Shit!

Then an elevator arrives. Inside the doors it has a little grid showing which floors it will stop. But none are my floor, floor 30. Even though it’s doing 16 then 34. But if I get in I have no buttons inside to make it stop at 30 on the way.

I must stop and await my orders to join the assigned car. So I wait. When it comes, and the elevator roulette board finally shows 30, it’s already full from the garage. Double shit!!

Back to step one, the keypad. Now I am at the back of the virtual queue, and because the system is SO efficient, it’s getting longer by the second.

At one stage, when about 40 peeps left our meeting to go up for the night, despite having 6 cars to work with, most were still in the lobby 10 minutes in. A bellhop tool some of us in a service elevator because it was just bloody easier.

So well done Swissotel… your yodeling countrymen may have optimized milk chocolate, the analog watch and the eponymous army knife, but – despite the contrary argument of your instructional sign – you just royally screwed my elevator experience.

— Irish

Flying High Again

Posted in clight, Clight Paths with tags , , , , , , , on 20 August 2010 by clightnirish

Dear Readers and Comrades-in-Arms;

When the revolution comes, I think I’ve identified which fascists will be first “against the wall”: the TSA.

For  those of you not cursed to travel frequently in the USA at this time,  the TSA are a quasi-governmental paramilitary organization whose mission  is to steal medium-sized cosmetic items, engage in uncomfortable  probing and body cavity searches, take naked pictures of passengers  through an x-ray machine, and generally make air travel as uncomfortable  as possible.

TSA alternate logo

Violating your rights with a smile since 2001!

It’s  easy to see why jobs there are in such high demand, quite apart from  the fact that suckling at the government teat is increasingly popular  these days: Free cosmetics. A female TSA agent will probably never have  to purchase any form of soap or cosmetic for the remainder of their natural  lives. Nor will they ever be deprived of nail files, scissors, tweezers,  etc. That, of course, raises another ugly matter: with the confiscated  resources at their disposal, I expect TSA agents to be the most  well-groomed government employees on Earth. I ask you: When was the last  time you saw a hot chick TSA agent pulling you aside for a pat-down?  Exactly.

By  the way, why can we only have liquid containers that hold 3.4 ounces or  below? You’ll be pleased to know I’ve discovered the answer to that:  TSA agents find it highly inconvenient to take such small items home.  Anything below that limit means they’ll have to scrounge for shampoo more than once per week. It’s inefficient, damn it!

You  will say these are reasonable precautions. After all, I could slap the  flight attendant with my flip-flop, steal beer and escape via the  emergency slide. The horror! Worse still, I might spill hot coffee on  the pilot, thereby convincing him to comply with any command I might  make.  Box cutters – they’re even more dangerous. What if I used them to  OPEN A BOX of – gasp – unauthorized water bottles. Imagine the carnage  that might ensue from such a perilous lack of restrictions!

Once  you evaluate all the restricted items that are part of the TSA’s grand  Security Theater, the scenario they’re trying to guard against is  obvious:

During flight, man stands up and grabs flight attendant, brandishing a pair of blunt tweezers:
“Nobody  move. I am hijacking this aircraft in the name of the Hygiene  Liberation Front! If any of you resist, I shall pluck her remaining  eyebrows out!”

Flight attendant
”  Do what he says people! I can’t afford another trip to the salon! Do  you even realize what an eyebrow transplant COSTS these days?”

Man
“Now,  compliant passengers, observe this pair of scissors.  Unless the pilot  immediately takes this aircraft to the nearest Sephora, I will cut his  hair in the style of Justin Bieber!”

Passenger begins to stand up to confront man
“Not  so fast! Take one more step and I will spray you in the face with this  16 ounce bottle of saline solution, causing mild irritation to your  eyes!”

You  get the picture. Obviously the TSA are right to restrict such dangerous  contraband, after all.  The only thing they don’t potentially defend  against is a chap trying to light his underpants on fire. But I’m sure  they’ll come up with a restriction for that soon. Watch out for this in  your Fall TV programming: “Undies of Terror” A 5-part special  investigation brought to you by CNN. You heard it here first.

Clight

The Lamb Shank Redemption

Posted in Clight Paths, irish, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 2 May 2010 by clightnirish

I love London.  But when I was here in March with my girlfriend, we had a horror trip for food. So returning this week was a nervous moment for my tastebuds.

Where should I start on the woes of last time? ………….Oh, I know. The shortbread.

We thought it had just been the cashier’s funny Irish accent that made it sound like she said “shitebread”. Turns out she just might have said “shitebread” and had no accent at all. Because it was. Shite, that is.  We bought it in Windsor, near the castle, and it was called “Elizabethan Shortbread” or something. Turns out that’s not just corny royalesque marketing, but refers to the actual era in which it was baked.  It was not sugar dusted on the top, it was just plain dust.

Then we got to a castle in Wales to stay the night and dined in the big dining room.  I ordered a steak cooked medium.  Instead of pink in the middle, I got a steak that was last pink in the middle ages.  If they feed Kobe beef cattle beer and massage it to get it juicy and marbled, then this cow must have been a vegan cow from the Sahara that has an aversion to physical contact.  I have had juicier crackers.

Not going so well.  We better just have dessert to salvage something from the meal.  Ooooh… bread and butter pudding. Except it was late and they obviously had no more fresh bread up in this castle in the high Welsh mountains.  Except, I guess, some garlic bread left over from no-one ordering the canneloni special that night.  Seriously, the phrase “garlic bread and butter pudding” should never be used except as a “Before & After” on Wheel of Fortune.  But we had to use it. There’s no mistaking that flavor.

Hmmmmm. My birthday the next day, we have to do better, so we went to an unnamed river cafe of quite some reputation.  Mmmmmm. Char-grilled calamari appetizer, with rocket and red peppers. Sounds good, huh? Yeah. Sounds good. But the chef seemed to be using the word “char-grilled” as a synonym for “cremated”, and for the rest of my whole meal everything tasted like BBQ brickettes.

Okay somewhere for dinner… what is something safe? Ummmmmm – Shepherd’s Pie!!! You can’t get that wrong! Oh and look, it’s served in a cast iron skillet, doesn’t this look good.  First spoonful – oh, this crunchy potato top is delicious.  Second spoonful – mmm, the potato is still delicious. Third spoonful – scraping the skillet bottom now – the potato is still delicious. But, didn’t I order the Shepherd’s Pie? I know I have an accent (and one that you poms are not so fond of) but I am pretty sure “Shepherd’s Pie” still comes out sounding mildly different to “side of mashed potato”!

So returning to London this week, I prayed to the food gods (Asparagus, Prosciutto & Cilantro)  for better luck with food. And, thankfully, I can report much better results.  A great steak and ale pie in Oxford. A pork & jalapeno sausage in Covent Garden that I am still drooling over 2 days later.  Fudge topped coconut ice (why did no-one put those together before now?).  Some insanely good scallops with andouille sausage.  The best ever Indian meal, including an exquisite Carrot Pudding and my favorite, Gulab Jamun for dessert.

So London, your reputation has been redeemed. We’ll put last time down to a bad week, or just dumb luck in choosing all the worst establishments.   You’re back on the good side of my Yelp account.

But all is not forgotten – it will still be a long while before I will even look at another shortbread.

— Irish

Sydney, Melbourne and The Libby Kennedy Effect

Posted in Clight Paths, irish with tags , , on 15 April 2010 by clightnirish

As a native Antipodean, today I was again faced with the FAQ asked by people heading down under: “so should I mainly just focus on Sydney?” (Sometimes there is also a mention of the Outback or the Barrier Reef, but rarely any other cities.)

Given Melbourne’s global events — the Tennis Open, the F1 Grand Prix, the Melbourne Cup etc — I am surprised it does not come up more often as a possible location. (Full disclosure: I grew up in Brisbane, so am an impartial judge.)

It’s further perplexing for the fact that many an experienced, world-weary traveler that has been to both places – take Anthony Bourdain – expresses a keen love and (dare I even suggest?) preference for Melbourne.

A friend (and CnI official #1 fan) recently introduced me to a concept that I have found helped me grapple with why this happens: it’s called “The Libby Kennedy Effect”.

For those that did not grow up on a diet of “Neighbours” every night on TV, Libby Kennedy was the ‘quite attractive’ female resident of Ramsay St that grew up with us through the years. Plenty of the time, you found yourself with a bit of a crush on Libs. But as the show rotated through different storylines and families, others would come along like , Steph, Nina, and steal the limelight, because well, relatively they were just that much hotter. Libby was still cute, but now the boys of Ramsay Street had eyes for others.

My friend further explained that every night in bars around the world, perfectly attractive guys and girls “get Libbied” when a more attractive option glides in and soaks up the stream of attention. The punters are like moths to a flame, and our poor Libby is left to go home and play with Bouncer.

What’s this got to do with Sydney? Well, it’s nice, and you should visit. But I think in the past two decades or so, it really “got Libbied” by Melbourne – which is so much more charming and alluring to the seasoned traveler. It has multicultural, cosmopolitan natives; Australia’s best culinary delights; a vibrant theater, music and comedy scene; the premier sporting and cultural events the country has to offer; and shopping experiences from Australia’s best markets to high-end retail and suburban mega-malls to cater to everyone.

It’s an overall experience that Libby, uh, I mean Sydney, can’t quite match – as attractive as she (sorry, it) is, in isolation.

So, if you only have time for one city in Australia, I recommend visiting Melbourne first.

But sure, if you have a bit more time, head north and buy ‘Libby’ a drink, too.

— Irish

Cookie Monsters: an open letter to The Delta Gourmet Center

Posted in Clight Paths, Corporate Letter Campaign, irish with tags , , , , on 3 November 2009 by clightnirish

Following is my actual message to Delta Airlines:

“Dear Delta Culinary Gurus,
Recently flying on a Northwest flight to Wisconsin, I was pleased to not only receive some food in coach – these days on domestic airlines, that gets an audible “wow!” – but to get two tiny morsels of sustenance from the kind and gracious hand of Delta.
The peanuts were, well, peanuts – an airline staple. But this other little red pack of “Biscoff” looked like it might actually provide some pleasure to my tastebuds. After all, it was labelled as being from the Delta “Gourmet Center” -a title which is surely reviewed and bestowed by Michelin. (Forgive me – I jest. Let me get to my point.)
Anyway, having just returned from summer vacation with no tan, and five extra pounds, the anal little killjoy in my head suggested I had best check the calorie, fat and sugar information on these delicious smelling little morsels (I had copped a whiff from the guy next to me by now). But there is not a nutritional tidbit to be found. Instead, on the side
of the pack it tells me “Call or write for nutritional information”.

How, pray, tell, should I do that from seat 3D in a CRJ over Lake Michigan?

By aviation rules I am not permitted to email or make a call, so are you telling me that the nuts are for on board, but I am meant to wait to eat the biscuits until we land, and I can wait for an email back?

I notice you have found room on the package to show the words Delta, SkyMiles or your logo 8 times – perhaps thats a bit redundant given I am on your plane, being served by your staff, reading your magazine and have a Delta napkin as a coaster. At this point, your brand is painfully obvious to me. Painfully!! You even to try to sell me more biscuits with a special SkyMiles offer taking up half the back of the pack. I dont think the airline industry’s finances are going to
be turned around on cookie sales alone, so maybe you could give up some of that space to show, oh I don’t know, the calorie count for example?
Or here is a suggestion if you really need all those logos and offers on the pack: take a few column inches of space and add the info to the fine print in the back of your “Sky” magazine. At least I could access that at the time I can consume the cookies.
I look forward to receiving the nutritional information to find out how much damage I did that day, and also to your comments on my suggestions for remedying this embarrassing packaging guffaw.

Sincerely,
Frequent Delta/NorthWest Flyer and Waistline Watcher”

————————————————————————————

So I could leave off here, but the response was even funnier. I received the bizarre response that they needed my flight date, flight number, ticket number — in order to respond to a request about cookie packaging???? WTF?!?!?

But I obliged, and at this point it got really weird! Because of the “unsatisfactory quality of my meal” they sent me a $50 travel voucher. But I never said the meal was unsatisfactory! Just their packaging!! I will not accept payment for my silence… so I had to reply:

> Hi Jenny,
>
> Let me just say firstly, thankyou for the ticket voucher, which was
> not at all required. Very kind of you.
>
> However, I am entirely dissatisfied by this response.
>
> Your message apologizes for the “unsatisfactory quality” of my meal.
> Firstly, you are using the term “meal” very loosely. But more
> importantly, the quality of my “meal” was fine. The information about it
> was the problem. I very clearly asked for some information in my
> response: the nutritional info for the Biscoff biscuits that you
> provide on your flights.
>
> So, voucher or no voucher, I consider this response entirely
> unsatisfactory as you don’t seem to have read my initial request very
> well at all. I am left wondering if Jenny M James is even a real
> person or if this is some computer algorithm looking for certain text
> and responding automatically. Very dissapointing.

Finally, after this email (my fifth back to them), I got a simple, reasonable answer, with the nutrutional info I wanted. It’s a sign of the times that now you have to call into question the humanity of your customer service agent to get a proper answer.

But at least now I know that I can happily eat those cookies when I book a flight with that voucher!! Only 120 calories – nice.

Flyway Robbery

Posted in Clight Paths, irish with tags , , , , on 19 July 2009 by clightnirish

Travelling back to NYC yesterday from two weeks of R&R, my mind turned back to my first post-vacation post. As I sat aboard AA flight 2 to JFK it occured to me that I had missed one huge business opportunity for the government in my recent post about saving the economy by buying businesses that are fleecing us every day: the airlines.

Every time I fly (which sadly is frequently) I see they have discovered another way to stiff us poor travelers for another buck.

First it was food disappearing and then coming back, for a fee. Now, even on transcontinental slogs of over 5 hrs, if you want some grub you better bring some green. Actually don’t do that. It’s credit card only these days – apparently handling the cash got to be annoying to the crumudgeonly old flight attendants. So here is an idea, airlines… Give us the food for free if you can’t be stuffed changing all those twenties.

Then it was headsets. If you want to listen to our free on board entertainment, we’ll need you to cough up 2 bucks. The 800 dollar fare didn’t cover our headset cost you see. But good news! You can bring it back again next time – if the 10 cent shitty headphones we give you even last the length of the flight that is.

And now there is this “premium economy” seating bullshit. Pay $59 and we will give you the amount of legroom you used to get for free. Or else sit in the new standard economy seats where you have to chew on your own knees (at least it saves you the $10 for a sandwich.)

And you can even pay for expedited security and earlier boarding. It used to be that frequent flyer members would get these perks like an exit row seat and earlier boarding, but nowadays you have to have attained SuperTerrificTripleOpalPlatinum status before you get anything without paying for it.

There seems to be nothing the airlines won’t charge more for. Over in the UK, Ryanair is seriously considering a one pound fee for going to the toilet on board, only Boeing has not figured out how to install a payment device on the doors yet. I wish I was kidding!!

What next? I half expect to find only an upturned bucket in space 34D next time I fly with a note saying I can buy a cushion for $10 and a seatback for $20 if I so wish. Oxygen masks and life vests will now be part of the optional “emergency package” available for $32 – or $40 if you also want a token for a space on the emergency raft (not refundable in the case of a regular landing). Flight attendant service is now $25, or $75 if you want them to be either attractive or courteous ($90 special deal for both).

Actually, I think I had better stop writing right now – anyone from the airlines could be reading this and getting ideas. So if you find yourself sitting on a bucket next time you fly… I’m sorry!

— Irish

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