A challenging business trip to Ireland

I recently made a 3-days business trip to Ireland for a 2-day Conference. Due to a relatively recent operation I had, I decided to travel light, carrying only my backpack and a cabin-sized suitcase with only the basics. But this is a trip where things went wrong…

  1. During the flight to Dublin, I managed to stain my shirt (one of the three I had with me) with olive olive during the in-flight lunch. I tried to remove it with wet towels, hand refreshers and lots of soap and rinsing with water but didn’t succeed.
  2. I reached the hotel after about a long trip of 12 hours from Athens. As a result, I missed the interesting guided tour to the Kilkenny Castle, the Welcome Reception (drinks included) as well as a couple of interesting speeches.
  3. When I reached the hotel and started unpacking, I realized that the small dispenser with my dry-skin lotion was broken in the suitcase and left some stains on my second shirt – two shirts off before even the start of the Conference!
  4. My third shirt, which I had picked up from the dry cleaners just before the trip had some small coffee stains which had not been properly (and entirely) removed) – I only wish I had noticed that when I picked it up…
  5. The hotel had a maze-like arrangement (rather complex for newcomers) and some irregularities (e.g. Reception was on top of the 1st and 2nd floor!) so I got lost while heading to the reception. This resulted in me getting out of the building through an one-way security door (not opening from the outside) and I found myself in chilling cold, wearing only a shirt and having just left the steaming shower. That was a shock for me, but fortunately I didn’t catch a cold. No doors opened from outside, so I had to walk in the woods surrounding the hotel until I reached its main entrance.
  6. I left my smartphone to charge overnight using an EU to UK adapter but forgot that the UK power outlets have a small on-off switch. When I woke up in the morning, the smartphone’s battery was almost drained. It was a good thing I had my second device almost fully charged.
  7. On the way back to Athens, my flight from Dublin to London was delayed by more than 1 hour, so I was not sure if I will be able to catch my connecting flight to Athens. I tried to reach both Aer Lingus and British Airways through their social media (FB pages and Twitter) but I got no response. On top of that, power outlets in Dublin airport were out of order and I was running out of battery. Thank God for the free WiFi.
  8. When we landed in London, nobody knew if we had sufficient time to catch our flight to Athens. I was rushing so much that I missed the signs leading to the bus connecting Heathrow Terminal 2 with Terminal 5 and I had to walk much longer to catch the train. I was in a real shock.
  9. Fortunately our flight from London to Athens was also delayed, so I found myself boarding later on. Unfortunately It was delayed so much (more than 2 hours, if I recall well), that we reached Athens early morning (about 05.30) instead of 02.30.
  10. British Airways has turned into a low-cost airline and I was not aware of that. Instead of free beverages during the flight, we were handed a Marks & Spencer menu list and we had to pay for virtually anything that we needed – even for coffee and water. I feel sorry that I had opted for the BA flight instead of e.g. an Aegean one.
  11. The delayed flights along with the lack of proper sleep during the previous days, resulted in me sleeping abnormal times during the weekend, as I was really exhausted.

That’s the kind of stuff that you hate when traveling – especially for business purposes. No matter how well you prepare, things can easily go wrong. It’s a good thing that they’re not typical to most of my business trips, but some times, shot happens!

Traveling light: What I pack

I used to travel a lot for business purposes. And I mean a lot. And by traveling, I mostly refer to flying; I have used most of the airlines operating in EU (save the low cost ones) and have been through various hard circumstances during my trips; lost luggage, missed flights, traveled sick and unprepared for meetings etc.

A photo posted by Uçak Bileti (@ucakbileti) on Dec 27, 2015 at 11:39pm PST

 

One of the issues when traveling (especially when flying) is proper packing; it’s always nice to travel with only the minimum but you always need to ensure that everything needed will be packed and travel with you, being available when needed. Packing efficiently and light is crucial when flying with low cost airlines (or when the cost of checked luggage is not included so only hand/cabin luggage is an option), where every centimeter of the luggage and every gram counts.

So what are the most essential items that need to be included when packing and what could be avoided in order to save space?

  1. Gadgets: Since I am referring to business trips, a laptop, charger and all peripherals are essential. So apart from my laptop I usually need to take with me a mouse (to work more efficiently), headphones with mic (when Skype calls need to take place during the trip), my external hard disk (which hosts my >21GB email inbox, working files and movies if time allows). I also take a paper notepad and pens with me (to keep notes when using a laptop is not an option), a couple of USB flash disks for sharing files and my mirrorless Olympus E-PM1 camera with a spare battery and its charger. I also take my Philips MP3 player with me, which doubles as a USB flash drive if needed. During my last trips I replaced my 17- or 15-inch laptops with my 10.1-inch WinTab (a Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard); this allowed me to save space and weight while at the same time I managed to work really efficiently – even during the flight. It only takes a couple of cables (a microHDMI to HDMI for projecting to larger screens like hotel room TVs and a microUSB to USB one for making use of all tablet’s extension ports) to make up for the tablet’s limitations. In addition, if space and weight is an issue, I opt to leave my camera behind and use my Nokia Lumia 735 smartphone for taking photos; it never lets me down with its wide-angle Zeiss lens and 6,7MP sensor.
  2. Clothes: This is what takes the most of space and weight of a luggage. Depending on the length and type of the trip, a different number of outfits are needed. As a rule of thumb, at least one extra pair of trousers is needed (accidents happen), a couple of shirts and a smart combination between them (i.e. make sure that most of them match).Pyjamas, slippers, underwear (1 set per day plus one extra) and a casual outfit (e.g. jeans and a hoodie) are handy for free time/walks during trips with spare time included. An extra pair of shoes never hurt by the way, if space is not an issue. otherwise a comfortable pair will do the work for all days. In order to save space, I tend to wear jackets and suit (if needed) during the trip (it saves on wrinkles, too!) and leave all light clothes in the luggage.
  3. Toiletries: This is also tricky, especially in the case of cabin luggage only. In this case, all liquids need to be in <100mL containers, so I have to spare my Detol disinfectant spray (replaced by a small bottle of disinfectant) and my deodorant spray (replaced by a roll-on). Toothbrush & toothpaste, shower gel and shampoo come anyway in small containers; the latter are usually available in hotel rooms anyway but I take them with me just in case. A bottle of perfume is always needed and a nail clipper can always come handy.
  4. Other stuff: One of the things that I carry with me during business trips is a folder with printed material; this includes e.g. the agenda of the meeting/workshop/conference, related material that I need to go through during the trip, a notepad for taking notes, a map of the city I am visiting or the directions from the airport to the hotel, boarding passes and hotel vouchers etc. In some cases I need to carry a poster with me and since I want to have my hands free while traveling, I try to squeeze the poster box inside the luggage. Last but not least, I usually feel nice when using my own towels so I get a couple of them with me if space allows. Last but not least, I like to take my Klean Kanteen insulated water bottle with me; this allows me to keep hydrated throughout the trip days and avoid disposable plastic water bottles.

I like airports, even though they’re busy and noisy!

A photo posted by Vassilis (@vprot) on Sep 3, 2014 at 11:55am PDT

 

It is obvious that depending on the length and type of the trip (some trips are more formal than others), I try different combinations of stuff that I carry with me and the option of a checked luggage expands possibilities. In any case, I always try the pack the least I can so that I carry the least with me – traveling light is convenient!

Short trip to Brussels

…and I mean really short: arriving to Brussels at 15.00 on Monday 21/12 and leaving at 15.o0 on Tuesday 22//12 – but the customers insisted on this meeting and flight tickets and hotel were paid by them so I only had to prepare myself and spend two days away from home.

Preparation

I was thinking of packing only my hand /cabin luggage: it has plenty of space for a two days travel and fits in the requirements of most airlines. All clothes, snacks (for the munchies at the room) and liquids, along with a pretty large box – gift from the company to our customer went into this one. However, I also needed to pack my 15-inch laptop and charger for working with the client as well as my WinTab for working on the plane (it was a long flight). The laptop would not fit in my small laptop case, so I had to go for my casual backpack; it didn’t fit there either (in the padded compartment) so I had to use the main one, reducing the space available for other stuff. I ended up with the suitcase and a packed backpack but thanks to Turkish Airways I didn’t have any issue.

As there is no transportation at all towards the airport early in the morning, I had to arrange a taxi pickup at 05.00; I have found that Asteras Radio Taxi is a reliable and relatively cheap option – and there are plenty of them.

The trip

I was flying from Athens to Brussels through Istanbul, with Turkish Airlines. For less than 200 euros – it was even cheaper than Ryanair at the point we booked the tickets a few days before the trip. The trip was a long one; I woke up at 04.30, got prepared by 05.00 and got the taxi – for something like 15 euros to the airport. I am no longer a Golden Miles+Bonus member of Aegean, so I could not access the lounge – I went directly to the gate, which was boring and challenging; no power outlets and for some strange reason, I could not connect to the free WiFi of the airport using my Windows 10 devices (Lumia 735 and WinTab). I got bored.

The plane was full but I managed to find a space for my cabin luggage. I spent some time reading material about the customer’s organization and the work we have already done for them. After having a nice breakfast (but only consisting of fruits, crackers, jam and butter, among others – I thing Aegean has the best breakfast with hot pies/crepes etc.)  I started feeling tired. The flight was short and I soon found myself at the Ataturk Airport.

The Ataturk Airport is big and crowded but still you can find some quiet spots with power outlets so that you can work or watch movies; however, there is only a 15 min free wifi option, which is appropriate only for connecting, sending and receiving emails and maybe checking in on Foursquare. It is a good thing that I have learned how to work offline during my trips so I stayed productive during the long transit time. I did not find any free water sources but I enjoyed the multicultural travelers, raging from north Europeans to Mongol-like Asians, with their colorful outfits.

As soon as I got to Brussels airport, I found my way to the bus line 12 which would drop me off at Schuman station; however, the telematic screen was apparently misconfigured so I found myself at the previous station, something like 25 mins on foot from the hotel room. I didn’t feel like using metro for a couple of stations and I wanted to take a walk seeing a bit of Brussels so I walked to my hotel room. I managed to get there on time (about 30 mins before my meeting with the client), checked in, got  bit refreshed and got prepared for the meeting – managed to be there on time as well. The meeting was long, I got exhausted and needed some rest.

Life’s hard for the business traveler sometimes 🙂

 

Business trip with a tablet

I just returned from a two-day business trip. It was the first time as far as I remember that I traveled with a cabin luggage only and I had to make some room – starting with my laptop. Instead of taking my 17-inch (ouch!) work laptop from the office with me (too heavy) or my personal 15-inch from home (that was hardly an option, as both my wife and kids use it on a daily basis), I opted to take my 10.1-inch transformer with me.

Did it perform well? Well, I managed to finish my slides, keep up with my emails (using Mozilla Thunderbird on an external hard disk), browse and use social media, blog, check maps of the city and places to eat – all using just my tablet with its docked keyboard.

Could it be any better? Well, I had my micro-HDMI to HDMI cable with me, hoping that I could plug it in the flat TV available in my hotel room – unfortunately the TV did not have any HDMI ports. Apart from that I faced no performance issues with 4-5 browser tabs open, an external HD plugged in as well as a USB mouse and the charger at the same time.

Will I do it again in the future? Well, unless I get myself a 12/13-inch ultrabook, this will be my travel companion from now on. I may get myself a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse so that I can type faster and use the tablet from a distance while it is plugged in a larger monitor. No need for carrying around a much heavier 15-inch laptop or an even heavier 17-inch one – I have done that in the past and it did not work well while commuting with a backpack full of papers, books/notepads, cables etc.

My 5 days in Budapest

This year we decided to spend the New Year’s holidays in Budapest, instead of staying at home. Both tickets and hotel room were booked back in August, so the prices were appealing and not too high for such trip.

Period of reference: 29/12/2013-3/1/2014.

Team consisting of me, my wife and our 4 year old son.

My last time in Budapest was back in September 2010, but it was for business purposes so I did not get to see much things.

Why Budapest?

  • It is a traditional city, with an intense medieval character at the center of Europe,
  • it is said to be cheap (at least compared to other destinations),
  • it is said to be really festive during Christmas holidays
  • there is a direct flight from Athens,
  • we found really cheap flights during the summer (for the Christmas holidays)

Why NOT Budapest?

  • It is cold and humid during the winter, especially for a 4-year old kid
  • Use of English is limited in public places (e.g. metro stations, public means of transportation, even shops)
  • The use of the local currency means that one will lose some money during conversions (e.g. cash conversion, credit/debit card)
  • It is not as cheap as it used to be; prices for goods like food, shoes/clothes and other stuff are now comparable (if not more expensive) to the Greek ones!
  • There’s no metro connecting the airport with the city, so you either have to commute using more than one mean or to use a taxi.

The hotel:

  • We had various issues with our debit cards during the pre-authorization. We finally managed to have one of them working. It was probably not the hotel’s fault, but the communication was rather problematic as they never responded in our requests to find an alternative way of payment.
  • We arrived at the hotel at 10.30 but the check in was at 15.00 (rather late, but it was the policy of the hotel). There was no way to speed things up, so we had to leave our luggage at the hotel, take a short/long walk around, had something to eat before we we returned to the hotel and almost fell asleep while waiting for our check in.
  • The hotel’s spa, swimming pool and wellness facilities are actually shared with guests and people actually using the gym etc. In fact it is a rather crowded facility, to which we also had access.
  • The apartment was indeed big and included a fully-equipped kitchen, a sofa, a large LCD TV and lots of storage spaces. The bathroom was innovated, clean and bright, featuring both a shower and a bathtub; however, it lacked any window or mean of ventilation… a bowl full of fruits was available and well-appreciated.
  • Not too many bathroom amenities; just two bars of soap, an antibacterial gel and shower gel/shampoo in a dispenser. I missed anything with the hotel’s logo on it.
  • The apartment smelled badly; it had something to do with the bathroom and despite the use of an air-freshener, the smell was obvious
  • The room was cleaned daily and a broken lamp was immediately fixed without us asking the reception (apparently the previous guest informed the reception about that)

The city:

We had the opportunity to do a little sightseeing, as our son was getting tired and bored easily, he had to be at bed at about 14.00 and 23.00 respectively, he does not like to eat outside (e.g. fast-food, restaurants etc.), he was getting cold etc. On top of that, he didn’t like us to take photos so we had to trick him. The weather was cold and cloudy (as expected) but at least it did not rain during our stay, so we could take some short walks.  We visited the central market, Vaci utca (the most visited street of Budapest) and the green bridge. That was all. We planned to take the Children’s railway (Gyermekvasút) but it looked hard to reach any of the stations…our son would love that but we had to skip that. We mainly used the blue metro line, as there was one metro station close to our apartment and the city center was only 3 stops away.

The shops:

We had our first lunch at the local KFC, which were rather close to our hotel. I really liked the food but my wife and son didn’t. We also tried McDonald’s and had dinner at two more formal restaurants. The food was nice, goulash soup was lovely but the prices were rather high – higher than the ones some years ago. One planned dinner at For Sale pub was cancelled due to a problem with our reservation and I was advised not to visit my favorite Fatal restaurant for various reasons.

The central market was crowded and provided us with the opportunity to buy some souvenirs for family and friends; however, the prices were not lower than the ones in the shops, even at Vaci utca, which is considered as a tourist place. We got some sweet paprika, cups and toys for the kids.

Trivia:

  • On Sunday evening we had a meeting for dinner with other Greeks at the Calvin metro station, which was only 10 mins by metro from our station. We went to get the metro tickets but the booth was closed (as expected). The automatic ticket machine outside the station did not accept bills (we only had 500 and 1000 HUF banknotes) and after we made some change by buying stuff at the nearby grocery, the ticket machine proved to be out of order. There was no way for us to buy tickets at this point so we started walking. It took us about 30 mins to reach the Calvin metro station and our son froze in the meantime!
  • Prices were rather high in general; in restaurants we paid about 15 euros per person for a main dish and a shared desert, while prices for clothes, shoes etc. were usually higher than in Athens!
  • The best way for buying local currency is to wait until you reach Vaci utca or other commercial streets of Budapest, which are full of exchange shops. The exchange rate is much better than the one provided by banks or at the airport. You can even pay the taxi with a credit card, so you do not need any HUF before reaching your hotel.
  • As regards taxi, the safest option is Fotaxi, the official company associated with the Budapest airport; they are legitimate and you even get a voucher with an approximate amount of payment, based on the place of your destination (which in our case was almost 100% correct). It takes about 20-25 euros from the airport to the city center and the taxi drivers are really kind.
  • The use of credit/debit cards is really common in Budapest and might be the best option of paying while shopping, eating out and booking tickets. You only have to check with your bank if additional fees apply; in my case, I had one debit card which had additional fees for paying in currency other than EUR, so I opted for another one which was only charging the currency rate based on the Visa one.

Trip to Washington D.C. – The story in bullets

  • It was a business trip
  • I exchanged 200 euros for USD260. I would have gotten much less at the Athens airport.
  • I flew from Athens to Washington D.C. through Philadelphia with US Airways
  • Various snacks and beverages were offered during the flight but I still felt hungry; I tend to get more hungry when I am tired. All experienced passengers had snacks in their carry-on luggage!
  • It was really cold during the flight; it reminded me of Greek ships to the Greek islands, where the temperature in the salon is usually really low. I suppose they want to keep us fresh and young during the long trips in both cases. At least US Airways was kind enough to provide warm blankets to everyone during the flight.
  • Due to extremely long queues at the passport check points, in Philadelphia I missed my connection flight to Washington… had to wait for three hours at the airport, which to my surprise provided free access to the internet.
  • My luggage traveled to Washington without me, as I was told this happens with national flights. I was really worried that the last time I saw it would have been at the Athens airport; however, it was on the correct lane, waiting for me to arrive in Washington.
  • While waiting at the Philadelphia airport, I grabbed a snack and sat to eat it; I didn’t notice a small (but oily) piece of food left on the chair. This left me with one pair of trousers less during my stay in Washington.
  • I wish I have chosen a direct flight to Dulles or Baltimore airports; I would have saved a lot of time from the security screening and might have shortened my trip – both of them were more far away from the city center though (so I would have to take a bus and a metro later), and this is why I chose to fly to Ronald Reagan Airport. I promise that I will never do that again – Only direct flights to my U.S. destination if possible.
  • I left home at 07.30 and reach hotel at 05.30 (Greek time), so my trip took almost one day!
  • Metro at the Ronald Reagan Airport was not operational due to works; I had to get a bus for a couple of metro stations, carrying around my heavy luggage
  • I reached hotel only to realize that there was a problem with both my debit cards (both Visa and Mastercard); the Mastercard was rejected, while the limit for the Visa was 500 euros. I only had USD250 with me.
  • The hotel policy for Debit card owners was to charge a fee of $60 per night for the use of the card – I was not aware of that rule and would have paid in cash if I only knew about that. They said that it would be automatically refunded after 10 days – I never trust this kind of transactions, as businesses tend to “forget” that they have to give you back your money.
  • Each evening I returned to the hotel room after the meeting, only to realize that the magnetic key was not working; I was told during my last night at the hotel that this was due to the fact that the room was not paid yet. However, this also applied to my first night at the hotel.
  • I could not withdraw money from a nearby ATM with my Debit Mastercard – I will have to check with my bank about that. **edit** I had to slide the card in the ATM slot and after taking out I was allowed to proceed with the transaction. It was tricky and surely not how things work in Europe.
  • I was never sure the amount charged to my card by the hotel (twice), as the transactions took place behind the counter and in a nicely-hidden spot. And we are not talking about crooks here; it was a $250/night hotel at the center of Washington D.C.
  • I booked the room through Booking.com for a fixed price; I am curious to see how much I was charged in the end.
  • Finding out the exact price for an item is hard, as the prices shown never include taxes – and taxes are different in different cases. You can only find out about that after you pay.
  • On top of that, you need to tip in almost any occasion. You need to tip the doorman, the bellman, the waiter, the lady cleaning the hotel room, the taxi driver etc. Sometimes you are kindly requested to do so, sometimes you really need to. This is not common in Europe and of course it adds up to the prices.
  • I could not find a fast food in Washington, at least the ones shown in movies, with large burgers, large fries, large milk shakes. I only got to each some “big” (but still normal in size) sandwiches and less-than-normal sized milk shakes.
  • Walking around Washington was a pleasure; big pedestrian walks, enormous parks, lots of sights. I walked so much that my feet hurt.
  • You feel safe in Washington. There is police around the city, especially near the public buildings (which are really numerous).
  • I spent about an hour walking to the Capitol, thinking that the river would be exactly behind it; I was totally disoriented as usually, as the river was on the exactly opposite side.
  • There were a lot of buildings that looked like ancient Greek ones; it was really appreciated. On top of that, Americans seem to be really proud of their history and respect monuments and figures; this is not the case in Greece.
  • Jogging is very popular in Washington – you need to take better care of the joggers than the cyclists.
  • Jet lag is a fact – I felt exhausted every day after the lunch for the first days. Then I traveled back home, where things were even worse (see below).
  • There are no croissants in grocery stores (I think they call them Pharmacies here) – The only options for breakfast at the hotel room were biscuits and cereals, along with milk. I lived with that during my last morning in Washington.
  • I did not find any stores to buy gadgets/clothes etc. I wouldn’t have minded to get my hands on a refurbished Microsoft Surface tablet, a Nokia Lumia Windows Phonw or maybe a Mac Pro, but it seems that there was nothing around my hotel (and my long walks).
  • I was nervous about the use of power adapters in US with a Schuko plug (for my laptop) so I grabbed a cheap one from Athens, which costed my 14,5 euros. A similar but more well-built-looking adapter in the Athens airport was sold for 35 euros and the same one (as mine) at Philadelphia airport for about $30. I have to admit that I loved my adapter, which allowed me to charge all my gadgets using both the plug and the included USB port at the same time. It is highly recommended as a cheap alternative to the more expensive and elegant ones (such as SKROSS).
  • I had problems checking out of my hotel, as my cards could not be used for paying the remaining amount ($600 while my account balance was much higher in both cases). I had to visit an ATM and use both cards (Visa & Mastercard) for withdrawing money as there was a $400 limit per card by the ATM and I needed $600 (transaction which incurred fees both by the ATM and by my banks). In the end, there was a pre-charging made in both cards and one of them will have to be released (it may take up to 10 working days as I was told by the hotel). I just hope that I will not be overcharged. Cards are a mess-cash is good…
  • On my was back to Ronald Reagan airport I managed to get the wrong metro line and I started moving outside the city – thanks to a friendly passenger, I was told how to get the right line again.
  • Before flying from Washington to Philadelphia but as soon as we were seated in the airplane, we were told that there was an weight imbalance and one (volunteer) passenger from rows 1-4 should be moved to the last row; I am currently 115 Kg and was sitting at row 4, next to a guy who seemed to be twice as big as me. To everyones relief, I offered to move to the last row.
  • This time there were no big queues so I had to wait quite a lot at the airports. However, there was a 50 min delay from Philadelphia to Athens. This trip seemed endless.
  • As I flew from evening (U.S.) to morning (Greece) I had trouble getting some sleep during the flight. I spent two days trying to recover from the trip.
  • I was expecting my wife to pick me up from the airport but (of course) something happened and I had to take the suburban railway. This meant a delay of about 20 mins and me carrying my 20Kg suitcase and 15 kg backpack over a quite a big number of stairs at the destination station, as both the elevator and the escalators were out of order.

My brand new laptop backpack

After heavy use during the last years, including rain, snow and even sand from trips to the beach, my laptop backpack started showing its age. Some wholes here and there, disintegration of its internal cover which led to water coming in and numerous bits of this annoying black plastic in each one of the items I took out of my bag; it was obvious that it needed replacement as soon as possible and probably before my next business trip. What I needed was at least space for a 15,6′ laptop (I usually carry around my 11,6′ netbook), at least two main compartments (one for the laptop and one for my documents/folders/printouts, snacks etc.) and a smaller one for all small items, like keys, external hard disk, , cables, wallet, ID etc. Mesh pockets would be appreciated, in order to hold my reusable water bottle and umbrella.

During one of my last flights, I saw the Deuter Giga available through the Lufthansa Worldshop for 60 euros (other online prices were much higher). It looked pretty convenient, spacious and full of pockets for all the small stuff I am usually carrying around (especially during business trips). More or less it was what I was looking for. Unfortunately it was not available when I managed to visit the Lufthansa Worldshop in Frankfurt, so I had to look for an alternative…. and it didn’t took me really long!

Right in front of me I saw a really similar laptop backpack but in different color and with different branding; it was the Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Collection Backpack. It was large (fitting a 17′ laptop), light and looked durable. All pockets and compartments I needed were available plus some more inner pockets. The price was right (59 euros) so I decided to take it back home with me.

Lufthansa_laptop_backpack1 Lufthansa_laptop_backpack2

Next step is the migration of all the stuff currently available in my previous laptop backpack to the new one, just to see how things will be organized in this new bag. Have I mentioned that I love this process? 🙂

Turkish Airlines…flying many years back

To make a long story short:

1. We were supposed to take the Turkish Airlines flight of 13.00 from Izmir to Istanbul, so we reached the airport before 12.00. The flight was cancelled for reasons unknown to us. After that, we had booked a connection flight (Turkish Airlines again) to Athens at 17.00 from Istanbul to Athens.

2. We had our ticket changed to the flight of 15.00, and assured by the Turkish Airlines representative in the Izmir airport that we would have no problem catching the connection flight to Athens.

3. We had a really hard time trying to communicate in English with the Turkish Airlines employees at Izmir airport… only the basics and then we needed the intervention of someone more fluent.

4. The flight of 15.00 was delayed for 1.30 hour. In order for us not to miss the flight to Athens, we changed these tickets to the flight of 22.40 from Istanbul to Athens. No discussion about compensation (e.g. food/drink coupons).

5. We finally managed to fly from Izmir at 17.00 (2 hours of delay). We reached Istanbul at about 18.00 and at about 18.30 we realized that the flight to Athens was delayed by two hours!

6. We reached the desk of Turkish Airlines and asked to have our tickets changed to the delayed flight. We were told that the passengers’ list was closed, so we couldn’t be transferred to this flight.

7. We contacted the appropriate desk of Turkish Airlines in order to ask for some kind of compensation (we have been on the road for 6 hours and had already spent some money on food and coffees while waiting for their flights to take off). They refused any kind of compensation.

8. Now the time is 21.00, we are at the Istanbul airport and we are waiting to get on the flight of 22.45 to Athens. We hope that there will be no more delays.

9. Due to the cancellation/delays of the Turkish Airlines flights, we will not be able to use any mean of public transportation (they stop operating at 23.15). Instead, we will be forced to take a taxi, increasing the amount of expenses that we were forced to make due to the delays of the Turkish airlines flights.

I personally consider the approach of the Turkish Airlines totally unacceptable and in no way appropriate for a large airline boasting about its quality and position in the market. I am going to send a complain form (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/passengers/air/doc/complain_form/eu_complaint_form_en.pdf) and see what the official reaction of Turkish Airlines will be.

UPDATE 14/10/2011: Our flight was set for 03.00 and we reached Athens at about 04.00, after almost 16 hours on the road. We were informed that the problem was caused by the strike of the air traffic controllers in Greece. However, this does not explain the lack of information from the Turkish airlines as well as the cancellation of the flight from Izmir to Istanbul as well as the delay of the next flight by 2 hours… the only compensation we received was a sandwich and a refreshment at about 01.30, after many hours of waiting at the Istanbul airport and a significant amount of money spend on coffees and snacks…

How can a trip go bad…

  1. For once more, I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my participation in the project meeting. There were so many tasks ongoing and my participation to the Training Course during the previous week did not leave me any free time to work on the preparations for my trip to Izmir. I only slept 4 hours before the flight.
  2. Even though I live just 10-15 mins from the Athens airport, I still had to wake up at 05.00 in order to get a taxi that would lead me to the airport and catch the morning flight to Istanbul . There is no public mean of transportation operating before 07.00
  3. It was the first time I was scared during a flight: The plane from Istanbul to Izmir was shaking so heavily that I almost fell off my seat.
  4. When we reached Izmir, there was a heavy rain. It was raining so much that we couldn’t even walk at the sidewalk.
  5. We arrived so late, that we only had time to check in at the hotel and leave our staff before going to the Yasar University for the project meeting.
  6. Nothing was covered by the project meeting organizers (e.g. coffee and lunch breaks) so we had to organize and pay things on our own.
  7. I had to make a really big presentation the next day, which I had not prepared, and my colleague provided me with feedback/revisions at 23.30 so I had to work overnight to finish it. Another 4 hours of sleep.
  8. The schedule of the next day’s agenda was so changed, that I lost track… lack of sleep contributed to it as well.
  9. During the 2nd night at Izmir I collapsed, so I slept from 22.00 to 06.30. I missed the chance to go outside but at least I got some sleep! 
  10. . I was supposed to present a paper on Wednesday evening but there was not enough time so my presentation was moved to Thursday morning. I had planned to get some sleep on Thursday morning and probably see anything of Izmir (it would be my first time to go out of the hotel/university campus and see how Izmir looks like.
  11. . My presentation sucked big time: There was no way to see my slides apart from turning to the wall, while the microphone was located in front of me. A light was blinding me while I was trying to see the audience. Soon I lost the sequence of my presentation and I started saying nonsense. I wondered if anyone was paying attention to what I was saying.
  12. . The taxi driver that took us from the university to the airport apparently ripped us off, since we had to pay 68 Turkish liras for the trip.  I think he made a circle outside the city, only to enter it again after some kilometers. You cannot avoid such things if you are not a local. Taxi drivers did not speak English at all…
  13. . When we arrived at Izmir airport we were informed that our flight was cancelled and  we would be assigned to another one 2 hours later… damn, we forgot to check in last night from the hotel.
  14. . On the last morning at Izmir, I changed 50 euros to Turkish liras in order to have money for the taxi and the duty free (I dreamed of buying something for my wife). Unfortunately, for the flight from Izmir to Istanbul there are no duty free shop (domestic flight) and there will be no time to visit the duty free shops at Istanbul due to the change of the flight. My current chances to visit Turkey in the near future are less than zero so I will be stuck with some 50 liras in my pocket.
  15. . Izmir airport smells of smoke and some kitchen/cooking odor. I feel sick already.
  16. . The public means of transportation in Athens are on a general strike, so I had to call my wife to come and pick me up with my sick son. UPDATE: I will arrive in Athens so late (after 00:00) that my wife will not be able to pick me up.
  17.   The 17.00 flight from Istanbul to Athens was 2 hours delayed, so if we hadn’t changed the tickets we might have been able to catch the flight to Athens… who would have thought about that…

In Izmir

Third day in Izmir, my first trip to Turkey. Things look like in Greece more or less but rather cheaper, but this is not strange. I didn’t even needed a passport to enter the country: My new ID with latin characters was enough – the Turkish people know how to attract people/tourists by removing burdens.

I am not a tourist here and I didn’t have the chance to see anything else apart from the Yasar University (a really impressive private university) hosting the project meeting/conference but I cannot complain. Damn, now that I think about it, I missed both dinners and never had the chance to shoot a single photo of the surrounding… at least I got to sleep more than 4 hours last night, so it worth staying in instead of going out. In the past I could compromise my sleep in order to go sightseeing, now after all these trips it looks like I prefer to cover my basic needs (e.g. sleep) before doing anything else. Maybe I am getting really used in seeing new places or just getting old…

I like to use the metro, get mixed with local people, see things and smell the air. Being one of the locals is not easy but some things help, like walking in the city and using public transport instead of taxi. Today I expect more free time in the evening so I hope that I will have the chance to go around and see things.

View from the Movenpick breakfast lounge
I am staying in Movenpick hotel, one of the best hotels that I have seen during my (numerous) trips around Europe: The room is really classy but with no eccentricities, well-designed and really comfortable. The bed is really nice, with comfortable pillows and mattress, full of amenities, such as free bottled water, a leather armchair with leg-resting support, even a speaker in the bathroom for listening what is currently played in TV while taking a shower! Breakfast buffet is also one of the richest and more tasty that I have ever tasted, demanding for sufficient time to be spent there. It is really strange that the room was not really expensive, at least compared to other European hotels of the same class…

I hope that it will not rain again today. I am keeping my fingers crossed.