A Travellerspoint blog

Traveling in the You Are Special Class

Time Travel: Calgary to Athens in a Blink

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If you are a seasoned traveler of wealth or great luck (in being upgraded for free) then skip the first sections here which are about the joys of travelling in business class. No wait, I mean You Are Special class.

The trouble with flying in the You Are Special class (YAS) is that it ruins any future travel plans you may have had to fly in the You Are Cattle (YAC) class (economy) or even in the You Are Special Cattle class (premium economy).

The overall experiences are night and day. It starts from the first moments at the airport departure all the way through to baggage retrieval on the other side. For a start, you get to go through the YAS baggage queue and checkin.

And it’s all about the arithmetic. On a 400 seat plane there are maybe 20 YAS seats. So already you are only competing for the resources within a group of 20, not 400. You are in the 5% percentile special group, and you have dedicated resources there to make sure you are happy.

Here is a partial list of the specific differences for a YAS passenger, before you even get off the ground:

- All queues are shorter, from baggage checkin to onboarding
- You do not pay for checked in luggage, usually at least 2 full-size bags are allowed
- Your bags will be tagged “Priority” (which is not just for show, it turns out, even your bags actually do seem to receive YAS treatment.)
- While waiting for your plane you can hang out in a Premium Lounge which will at least offer comfortable uncrowded seating, free food and drinks, including alcohol and sometimes showers
- You do not have to anxiously pre-queue prior to the boarding announcements, hoping to get onboard sooner, thus ensuring your carry-on luggage has a place on the plane
- No one suggests they might take away your carry on to check it in, and no one seems to be counting the number of carry-on items you have
- Your boarding announcement is only preempted by those for mothers with infants or passengers in wheelchairs
- You get to board first / early and there are so few of you it is unhurried - you will not be jostled by the cattle
- Everyone in ground and on-plane crew are friendlier and in particular are not trying to hurry you up - your onboarding is calm and humane
- Your seat of course will vary form large to huge, and if an overnight flight will invariably be a “pod” style seat
- The overhead locker will be HUGE compared to those in the cattle sections of the aircraft - you will not fight for space for your carryons
- You will be greeted and tended to by plane crew with what seems genuine friendliness and helpfulness
- You will be offered a beverage almost immediately you are seated and almost always the offering will include “Sparkling Wine”
- You will receive a bundle of blankets, pillows, an overnight toiletries kit and ... full size headphones
- You will receive the menu of the day, from which to select your meal choices, including wine pairings
- The ratio of flight attendants to passengers will amazing - even if Special class is full, it is likely to be something like 1 attendant to 5 passengers

I am sure there is more I have not remembered, but the summary is that flying in the YAS class is unhurried, calm, uncrowded - and uncompetitive (you are not fighting fellow passengers for waiting area seats, overhead bin space or any other resource.)

I won’t go into great detail about the in-flight advantages of YAS class, but these include the better food, the constant supply of beverages, the big screen video display, and of course, on longer flights, the lie-flat seat that becomes a bed. And yes, you will likely have your own Special toilets too, which are forbidden to the cattle.

And oh, yes, when you land, your luggage with it’s Priority sticker really does get unloaded first.

Ok, back to the actual travel bits ...

There is not a lot to say here - the Calgary to Heathrow leg of the trip was uneventful - I watched “Overlord” (Nazis make Zombies) and “Unsane” (She’ s sane, not sane, sane, maybe still insane?) and ate the meals and drank the wine and had a little brandy and slept ok-ish on the lie-flat seat and then had an omelette with sausage and croissant for breakfast (this is YAS c lass, remember)

We only had a couple of hours to wait in Heathrow but found the Lufthansa lounge (who handle Aegean airlines YAS passengers) and had some food and drink and then boarded the plane for Athens.

Another uneventful flight with more food and wine. The priority-tagged baggage came off first which meant we were early at the passport control where a man stamped passports and whee ... we were finally free in Athens ... well, in Athens airport, but still with miles to go.

Next step: From Athens to Methana.

Posted by greece2019 05:05 Archived in Greece Tagged flying greece plane businessclass Comments (0)

Escaping Victoria’s Bikelanes and Roadworks

Whee! It’s Calgary (airport)!

sunny 27 °C
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So this is really it - Saturday morning. Awake at 6:30am to be ready for the taxi (ordered last night) at 8:30am.

8:30am chosen as a “failsafe” time - if the taxi does not arrive by 9am, there is always the option of driving to the airport and parking the car in long term parking.

Though the parking fees for being away over 3 weeks will likely be at least $300. So the taxi (about $70 each way) is a cheaper option. But I have had misadventures with non-arriving taxis before. Thus the safety net.

The taxi arrived on time. The driver was pleasant and talkative. The trip to the airport was fast (he had a “secret route” which shaved 3 1/2 minutes off the trip. I guess if you make your living by driving and that by taking as many fares as you can manage, those 3 /12 minutes add up across the days and weeks.)

The entire conversation in the taxi consisted of mutually enraging each other over the bikelanes and the roadworks in Victoria. I find myself in borderline road rage just driving the short trips I do in downtown Victoria - I cannot imagine how hard it would be to remain calm if I drove through it for a living, all day every day.

Arrived safe and sound (and early) at the airport, said goodbye to the co-anarchic anti-roadwork driver and then lugged all the luggage into the self checkin area where boarding passes and luggage tags were printed.

Travel does have a lot of waiting in it.

Waited in the airport to board.

Since we are traveling business class and even though the short-hop Dash-8 does not have a business class section as such, was at least able to board as “Zone 1” and then take the forward seats on the starboard side, which means oodles of leg room. Yay.

Then we waited quite a while to take off. We were shut in and the pilots locked down and various sounds of flight prep happening (propellers spinning up) but then there was a long pause as the flight attendant talked animatedly into the in-house telephone device, and then went to the back of the plane to confer with someone. While she was away, there was a knocking on the (closed) front door, and eventually it was manually opened from the outside by a uniformed man (with a comedy moustache and a sad face) who poked his head around the corner and then stage-whispered back to attendant that he needed to talk to her. I have learned from some amount of flying that the re-opening of the door and especially by a man with a sad face and a comic moustache, is almost never good news. He was also holding in his hand a loose strip of baggage tag - the kind that normally would have been peeled and affixed to an actual bag. He too went to the back of the aircraft.

Then the pilot unlocked himself and appeared. In addition to sad faced men poking their heads around re-opened doors, pilots emerging from cockpits is almost certainly bad news. I steeled myself for the announcement that we were all to deplane and they would fix the flashing light or other issue that caused all the kerfuffle.

But! Yay! The pilot (after some comedic activity of his own - trying to latch the cockpit door several times so as to not have it lock itself on him) returned and apologizing for the delay, said we would be underway in minutes. And we were! Yay! Straight out to the runway, a no delay taxi, and whoosh, the throttles went back and up we went.

I once read that the most dangerous time in a plane flight was the first minute after take off. So over the years I have taken to counting ... one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand ... all the way to sixty-one-thousand, before I relax and allow myself to believe that my death in a fiery crash is not imminent, this time.

A short hour and fifteen minutes later there was some fuss unloading the plane as the delay had made some passengers’ had imminent connections to catch. Flight attendant asked us to sit tight so that that “handful” of said nearly-late fully-panicked fliers were deplaned first.

I swear half the plane suddenly had to be on that imminent flight list. Certainly a whole lot more than a “handful” were crowding and crushing into the aisle. I do not understand why people are always so anxious to get off a plane. Civility pretty much dies in the aisles of a newly landed plane. Someone should do a study. Is it the oxygen, the pressure, some underlying claustrophobia in all of us?

There were some sharp words spoken when a passenger who had been asked to move up front so someone else could sit with some travelling partner, but who still had his carry-on luggage at the original seat in the back, who was apparently also late for his connection, was trying to move back to get his bag while a young woman in tears was trying to get forward (Although through the tears I gathered she had already missed it). Several Good Samaritan passengers rooting for the tearful woman were scathingly cut down by the man who pointed out that he too was about to miss his connection. Those castigating him did not know he had been generous in giving up his seat and is it turned out, had hurt his own chances of connection by having his luggage still way back. Context is all.

Ok, the upside of business class travel is not just the leg room or the better meals or the slightly faster on boarding / deplaning. It is also very definitely the lounge access.

So here I am in the Aspire Lounge in Calgary, sipping a decent Pinot Grigio, having had a Terryaki chicken with saffron rice lunch plus some selected deserts plus a flat white coffee, all complimentary. I hate to have to state it so bluntly - economy class travel is very dehumanizing - and business or firsts class at least restores some semblances of dignity.

I am about to wind up and wander to the gate where I will board the flight to London. See you there!!

Posted by greece2019 15:20 Archived in Canada Tagged victoria flight calgary lounge businessclass Comments (0)

The Day Before - Mad Packing Panic

So much to pack - so few suitcases

sunny 17 °C

This is the moment when you realize that you have no real clue as to what "packing light" means.

Or rather, it's too late to read the 793,000 (seven hundred and ninety-three thousand!) sites that are returned by Google in a search for "how to pack light". Having a looked at a few of these sites, none of these people are normal humans. They are super-travelers. I do not have a vacu-suck packer or multi-stage collapsible luggage set.

The only trick I know is to stuff my shoes with my socks (3 pairs, per) and thus save that wasted space. But these super-packers never take an extra pair of shoes. Probably most of them do not wear socks with their kelvar-moulded-self-drying-mountain-scaling-floatation-device sandals.

So, how is it even remotely possible to pack for 3+weeks away in a foreign country? I have no clue.

Tomorrow at 11:28am we board the first of three flights: Victoria to Calgary to London to Athens.

When booked, the first outbound flight was scheduled for 1:25pm, lulling me into a false calm, that there was still plenty I could do (last minute purchase of floating sandals, say) before that flight. Hah!

I have to rush back to the washing and the drying and the picking and the culling and the despair of packing right now … more soon!

Posted by greece2019 12:16 Archived in Canada Tagged greece packing peloponnese Comments (0)

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