Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

With regard to http://www.southwest.com/help/boardingschool/:

I heard on the news this morning that your airline is considering changing their seating policy to not allow travelers with small children to pre-board on flights and instead require them to go through the regular A, B, C seating grab. As a family with a small 9-month old baby who flies at least twice a month, and as a business-traveling father who flies more than once a week, I feel that this is a very bad policy to implement and I urge you to reconsider.

We like Southwest quite a bit. In fact on a flight last weekend we were very happy to learn that some of your newer planes are coming with baby changing stations in the front lavatories. This is a very nice feature that parents appreciate quite a bit. However, because of the way your check-in and boarding process works for families, we will be unable to fly your airline if you implement this newest policy.

Normally, I like the open seating policy. However, if you require families with small children to wait in A-B-C order to get a seat, then there is a high likelihood that we will not be able to find seats together, and that is very a very difficult problem because when flying on a small airplane it usually takes two people to try to manage and keep calm a small baby. While online check-in is a useful tool for normal travelers, we have found that your online check-in system does not work well for family travelers because we still have to have our daughter’s birth certificate verified at the ticket counter, and we have found that if we do that on the outbound leg then whoever she’s attached to will not be able to do online check-in on the return leg. Worse yet, if we are in a location where we can’t do online check-in then it has become impossible to get into an A boarding group even if you arrive 3+ hours early at the airport (I’ve gotten a B pass checking in a mere 6 hours after the online check-in window opened up!)

I also believe that requiring families to board in the proposed order will result in delays and frustrations for the rest of your customers as well. We try to be efficient travelers with our baby, but there are still more items we have to carry and a squirming little child we have to deal with, so I can guarantee that families boarding along with everyone else will slow the process down for the bulk of your travelers that simply want to board, stow, and go.

To a family traveling with small children, the risk of not being able to find seats together is unacceptable. Since we are traveling with our daughter on a predictable schedule, and since there are plenty of other airlines that offer low fares in advance as well as assigned seating with pre-boarding policies, if you chose to eliminate the pre-boarding policy for families then we will likely be choosing another airline for our flights.

Again, I urge you to reconsider this change. Southwest is an excellent airline and has a well-deserved reputation for being customer focused. I truly feel that a change like this will be a detriment to all of your passengers, and result in more frustration and dissatisfied passengers.


Rand Wacker

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Finland/Russia Photos

I posted a selection of pictures I took last month on my school trip to Finland (Helsinki and Tempere) and Russia (St Petersburg and Moscow). This was an international business course where we met usually twice a day with local businesses and attended some very interesting seminars actually. I didn’t know what to expect when I was leaving, but the trip ended up being completely different than anything I could imagine.

Russia was a pretty tough place to travel in. Interesting sites and crazy business environment. People in Finland referred to it as “The WIld West” and as I was plowing through Season 3 of Deadwood during the trip I have to say, Russia is even more insane. Finland was a great contrast, and due to several factors — historical, political, and social — is I think an interesting model for what the US may be facing 20 or 30 years down the line.

Educationally I learned a ton on the trip, and had a very good time working with a lot of the third year students (I was one of four second years lucky enough to get on), plus the summer course has gotten me that much closer to graduation. So now that I’m home I’m happy I went; even though there were times on the expedition that I wasn’t very thrilled.

I’ve posted a selection of the best pictures, all annotated with comments. My recommendation is to use the Slideshow feature of Gallery to go through them to get the full story.

Glad to be home now and after finishing an insane week of worldwide field meetings at the office, looking forward to some sanity and predictability.

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Just got back from a school trip where we spent a week in Finland and a week in Russia. The purpose was to visit different companies and meet with different people and get a feel for the opportunities and challenges of doing business in those two (drastically different) countries.

The trip was very educational, if not trying at times. I’m ludicrously happy to be home, and will see about posting photos sometime soon.

Other than that, school starts up again next week as does our company-wide Sales Training (which I am heavily involved in). Frying pan…fire…such is life. 😉

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Alexis and I just got back from 3 days in Upper Peninsula Michigan; the part of the state that is actually part of Wisconsin; and area that has called itself “The U.P.” for a lot longer than that stupid TV show has been on; an isolated and rural slice of middle America.

We went to attend a friend’s wedding at their family cabin on the shores of Lake Superior. Turned out to be a very small, very informal event, with about half of the event’s 30 or so guests staying in the 500 square foot log cabin. It really was right on the shore though, and very peaceful and relaxing.

Alexis was an attendant for the wedding, and I busied myself hopping around taking photos, filling in for what the pro photographer didn’t catch. After the ceremony, dinner, and tremendous drinking, the family rolled out a $1000 stash of fireworks they had collected for the event. Let me just say, California fireworks suck compared to what you can buy in Michigan…Giant artillery mortars with huge sky-bursts, flat-pack boxes with 350 to 750 to one thousand different explosions that you light once and that go on for over 20 minutes. The brides father and his old army buddy took it upon themselves with a couple of other folks to coordinate the best damn amateur fireworks display I’d ever seen, eclipsing even some of the “professional” displays I’ve seen at various fair grounds and parking lots over the years.

Wednesday we drove an hour back to the small local airport, caught a puddle jumper back to Minneapolis, had a 4 hour layover where we got dinner with a high-school friend of Lex’s at the Mall of America, then finally arrived at SFO about 8:30pm. We were supposed to then be immediately getting on a plane for Sydney for a week and a half of work/vacation in Australia and New Zealand, but due to mounting work piles for some upcoming events my boss asked me to postpone that trip (along with the week in India afterwards), which actually worked out very well because Alexis wasn’t feeling very well by the time we got home and I developed a pretty nasty head cold the next day that kept me sprawled out on the couch.

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Heading back to my hotel in Tokyo tonight, I arrived at a rather large subway station called Tameike-sanno. My co-worker had told me “go to exit 13” (yes, this station had 13 different exits). Underground, with no sense of direction I, could have sworn that exit 13 was absolutely the wrong way, so I decided to pop up and find my way to the hotel.

Never “pop up” out of a subway in Tokyo. You’ll have no sense of direction in the dark and you’ll have no points of reference because there are too many tall buildings to see more than half a block. You’ll see some interesting architecture and odd street-side activities, but you’ll have no idea which way to go.

Knowing I was within one subway stop of my hotel I started an expanding circle search. Of course I picked the wrong direction first and ended up two subway stops away, but then I turned around and found a much more interesting neighborhood than I wandered through the night before.

Eventually I saw a landmark I recognized (a bike shop of course) and guessed a new course. Mostly correct, I only had to make a 45 degree adjustment to end up on the wrong side of an 8 lane surface street across from my hotel. After five minutes waiting for the sole cross light for 5 blocks to change I finally got home.

And just before I went in for the night I checked the number on the subway exit into the hotel…”exit 13″. Time for sleep then. Tonight I have to remember to close the blinds as the sun comes up at 4:30am…what…the…heck…

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Small world (as usual)

Funny. I flew into Hong Kong this afternoon and decided to go for dinner at a Korean restaurant near the hotel (Holiday Inn Express…posh) that I tried last time I was here. Was sitting in on a conversation among a couple of guys at the next table who were talking beer and breweries and what not. Turns out one of the guys worked for Pabst in China (they were until recently the largest foreign beer sold in China) and the other guy owned the brewery that Pabst uses in China. The brewer was on his way to the US for a brewery tour, all over the west including Coors, Anheisser-Busch, and some show in Nevada. Then him and his group were heading north…to Chico…to visit Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada. Hah

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After my finals last year, Alexis had planned a fantastic weekend for us in Mendocino, several hours north on the California coast. We had never been there before, even though we’d been very close on numerous occasions. Soooooooo glad we finally made it all the way, we totally fell in love with that little town! Beautiful views, great food, totally mellow, and no cell reception. We had a fantastic weekend, very relaxing.

This last weekend we went up again, for an early anniversary trip. This trip we ended up sleeping a lot, going for some nice hikes, and enjoying a couple of longer-than-usual road trips. We got some really good pictures out in the forest and I thought they were worth posting:

If you go, we highly recommend the Headlands Inn, in particular the Strauss room with the view of the ocean.

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