Although I’m loving my trip and my time in the UK (they sell chocolate souffle in glass containers in the frozen desserts aisle for chrissake), I’m also quite eagerly looking forward to getting home and seeing Kate and having home comforts back (broadband internet, big clean bathroom with fixed shower nozzle rather than stupid corded contraptions that kink).
In anticipation of coming home, I was checking out the Heathrow and Singapore Airlines websites to see how early I’d have to get to Heathrow to check in. I noticed Singapore Airlines has Internet Check-in. It wasn’t immediately obvious why anyone would want to check in over the internet, given you’d presumably have to line up again to check in your bags, but I’m an inquisitive early-adopter so I thought I’d give it a try.
It appears that the main benefit is that you can confirm your seat on the plane. I expected at some point in the process that you’d be able to select your seat, but unfortunately I was simply assigned a window seat, which would mean clambering over strangers to get out to stretch my legs or go to the loo. Hate that.
Foiled! Despite my early-adopter hopes, the internet had let me down. I decided I’d better call Singapore Airlines and see if a ‘real person’ could adjust my seat reservation. The old school friend I’ve been staying with, Dave, doesn’t have a home phone, as apparently the UK is the only country that has taken its lead from Telstra and made them too expensive for the common man. He does, on the other hand, have WiFi broadband internet provided by the university, so I fired up Skype and called Singapore Airlines. Australian office – closed. Singapore office – closed. New Zealand office – open. Ah, the joys of almost free worldwide telephony.
The ‘frindly’ operator at ‘Sungapore Earlines Auckland’ asked whether I was leaving from Auckland or Wellington. I explained that I was leaving from Heathrow. She checked my reservation and said with some bemusement, “London – Sungapour – Sedney… okayyyy…” She was evidently bemused about why I was calling New Zealand. I then proffered a brief explanation about how NZ was the first Singapore Air office open at the time I wanted to call (I decided not to delve into the murky topic of voice over internet protocol telephony.)
She said I would have had to make my seat selection on the website. I pointed out that “IwouldveifIcouldve” and she said she’d send a message to Heathrow ticketing and see what they could do.
After all that, I remembered reading somewhere that there was a website where you can see the seating layouts on any plane with any airline (seatguru.com). That is really extremely cool. Frankly, that is a winning idea and I wish I’d thought to seek it out earlier, before ‘runging the tecketing agunt”.
Now I’ll have to try to scam a really good seat at the check-in counter. Perhaps I’ll have to resort to the money-in-the-passport trick, as outlined in Air Babylon (all the inside stories from the airline industry’s coal-face… made for very interesting, amusingly salacious reading on the way over.)
Internet in the air
I’m looking forward to using the internet on my London – Singapore flight thanks to the Connexion by Boeing system (your laptop connects to the access point in the plane via WiFi, and a 5Mbit/s satellite link connects the plane to the internet). It will certainly help wile away the time enjoyably, even if my PowerBook’s battery will only last at most 2.5hrs. No power points in economy seating unfortunately.
(Addendum: don’t you love websites that ask if you have a promotional code to enter in? I went to the Connexion website and it asked me this, so I immediately searched Google and found a 50% off code (P-AUGUSTNEWS05), valid until 31st October 2005, reducing the price for internet access for the entire 14hr duration of the flight from $US29.95 to $US14.97. Noice.)