Thursday, April 05, 2012

i have the power (of USB)

Lufthansa has gone back to their summer flight schedule. This brings two welcome changes. The first is it means four flights a week between Frankfurt and Ashgabat instead of three. More options means more flexibility on what days I fly. Compared to last summer's schedule, they have changed which days of the week they fly on. Going from Frankfurt to Ashgabat, they now fly on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Last summer, they flew on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. (This is why I left a day earlier than I had expected because the Thursday flight is now gone.) The new schedule has a strange stagger to it because instead of 101101, it is now 0110011 wherein days they fly are "1" and days they do not fly are "0". It makes me wonder what they do with the flight crew on the Wednesday flight. Unless they catch a ride back on the turnaround trip the next morning (which they cannot operate since they are not rested), then they have to wait clear until Sunday morning for the next Lufthansa flight. Of course, if they catch a ride back on the turnaround trip, then where does the crew for that Sunday return come from? (Return trips from Ashgabat to Frankfurt lag a day because the flight into Turkmenistan comes in just before midnight, then they turn the plane around and depart a couple hours later after midnight and now a new day.) This is one of those things that falls squarely in the realm of "not my problem" but is exactly the kind of curiosity that I think about while in the shower.

The second welcome change affects the other leg of my journey. Lufthansa is once again flying one of their A380s on their daily San Francisco to Frankfurt flight. It's not that there is anything inherently wrong with the 747-400s they use during the winter schedule, but some of the older planes have not had an interior retrofit and lack individual monitors and instead only have the overhead monitors that the entire cabin must watch. And this is how I came to watch Cars 2, also known as the shame of Pixar. The real benefit of the A380, aside from the assurance of an individual monitor is the USB outlet along the bottom of the armrest. Tucked out of sight and probably totally unknown to most travelers is a USB outlet beneath each armrest. It means hitting your destination with a fully charged phone or iWhatever and not having to scrounge around for an outlet in the Frankfurt airport to recharge while waiting between flights. For me, I was able to watch the copy of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that I had ripped from my DVD onto my computer and then put on my phone, without having to worry about having enough battery life. I bring my own movies now because I have flown enough to have seen almost all the movies available and that includes breaking down and watching New Year's Eve at the behest of a colleague. (Spoiler: It was terrible. Also, Vader is Luke's father.)

Perhaps because it is not yet peak season and they just switched from the winter to summer schedule which means a bump in available seats from 416 seats on the 747-400 to 526 seats on the A380, but the plane was not even close to full. It was only about 70% full and possibly even less, but I never went upstairs to rub elbows with the first and business class folks and check how many were aboard. The benefit was that I was able to put my backpack under the seat next to me instead of in front of my own seat. I try to never put my backpack in the overhead compartment since I like to get stuff from it quite often and modern day seat back compartments where they stash the magazine and safety instructions don't have much room to hold anything. Also, I have a weird distrust of people that my bag will be tampered with while I am asleep if I put it in the overhead bin. Now, what has never made much sense to me is that during those pre-flight safety briefings, they say all bags need to be in overhead bins or under the seat in front of you and there is usually a comment about heavy ideas going on the floor under the seat. Heavy items are normally big items and big items do not fit under the seat. I know because my backpack barely fits under the seat in front of me and it's because of the pocket for life vests under the seat. The A380 has a fixed hard pocket so it does not move and it extends a couple inches down and several inches back from the front of the seat. This means that while there is room for your feet under the seat in front of you because they are on the floor, there is not much room for a bag which needs height and depth and will almost always run into the life vest pouch. Yes, this is a weird and esoteric rant, but again, this is the kind of thing I notice and wonder how it can be improved. I should take a shower and ponder this some more.

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