Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Monday 12 March 2012

The inconvenience of air travel

What is it with airline (and governments) making air travel inconvenient? I don't travel much compared to some other people I know (never got elite status on any airline, and barely got enough miles to get a cheap flight to France), and I never encountered serious issues when flying. But still.


Over the last few years a new extortion scheme has appeared: luggage check-in fees. Yes you read it: the airline have decided to charge you a fee to check luggage in. What I don't get is why do they charge you for the inconvenience, which benefit them as with less luggage in cabin they have a more streamlined boarding and de-boarding. That I don't get it. This was started with US based airlines to supposedly compensate for their loss of revenue (it got worse after that), and because Air Canada innovates in air travel, they followed suit. Also the policy being inconsistent, code sharing and other stuff make things even more confusing.

Now I plan cabin luggage only. Not always easy, but utterly more convenient and there is no risk to get the suitcase lost (hello Air Canada) or damaged (hello Air France). I end up being able to bring more gear and inconvenience the airlines even more. I get to learn to pack light.

Food and beverage

Not only you now get charged for food in North America on flights (including long one) but airports are inconvenient to bring your own food or get food (not even asking quality at that point). Case in point, my flight to Toronto from Vancouver left from gate C51 in Vancouver. There, there is no food. You have to walk through the whole terminal to get something. And I have seen other instance of that in other airports. Not mentioning the security theater that decided that carrying a bottle of water was dangerous.

Security theater

Simple put I always go through the metal detector in the same "uniform". And 33% of the time (whichever airport, it is not even dependent on the checkpoint) I get to have the machine beep because of my belt. They probably don't get to recalibrate the machines often which does not inspire confidence in them operating the X-Ray body scanner.

Nickel and diming

If you are tall like me, you have to suck it up or pay. No more emergency exit row, front row and so on. Yep, they charge you for legroom: Air Canada used to be nice with that and Air France being dicks. Now they are just equal opportunities. I'm sure airlines would charge extra for accessibility if they legally could, like they have try to do for overweight people.

The only thing I get is Air Canada charging 3$ for the headphones. Bring your own, that's fair, as they are standard.

Saturday 20 September 2008

In France

I arrived yesterday in Paris. I'll be there for a little bit more than a week, on vacation. I have been told that their will be a beer BOF with local GNOME people :-)

Sunday 6 July 2008

In Istanbul

I'm in Istanbul since yesterday. The weather is hot.

We have drunk beer on the sidewalk sitting on cushions and carpet: that's what the terraces are in Istanbul. Some North American countries really need some thinking about the alcohol taboo.

I have taken 346 pictures so far. That's a case where I wish I had a GPS to geotag them. I will need to do some sorting though, and that might involve writing code before hand.

More later...

Sunday 8 April 2007

Visiting Prague

Monday I'll fly out to Prague for the week.

If you are there and wish to have some $BEVERAGE, you know the drill.

Sunday 12 November 2006

Ottawa -> YUL -> AMS -> Paris Nord

I'm now in France by way of Amsterdam.

Free software hacking in airports is efficient, but short unless you find an AC plug (even more when you have 20minutes left at 40% of the charge). Fortunately the new international terminal in YUL has lots of them. And in Montréal downtown, the food court at Eaton Center has free wifi as well. Now I'm out of books. I knew two were not enough.

Saturday 19 August 2006

Who are the terrorists?


Flying out of Logan was annoying yesterday. I was grumpy having to fly for a total of 6 hours with no water other than what I could squeeze out of the stewardesses, which wasn't much. I felt like asking the TSA people (and the people on the plane) what the point of tossing out water was - whether they thought it was actually making any of us safer. But I would imagine asking such a question would get me sent to a little room where men would come in and ask me why I hate America and/or ban me from flying.

In that case who are the terrorist? What you describe is a group of people with some power that makes you afraid of doing something you have rights about. America is often described as the country of freedom, but what you describe make it the country of fear.

I had wishes I was traveling more, but recent events made me not be willing to. I'm not afraid that a plane be blown up in the air. I'm afraid that my freedom and rights be violated in the name of a security theater, by a bunch of rent a cops to whom a lot of power have been given. And statistically, I have more chance to be involved in a deadly car accident while commuting to work than in an airplane crash.

Monday 14 August 2006

Fly high again

A comic in Le Devoir, a newspaper in Québec, describe pretty well the paranoia in air transport.


In an airport near you...

The security officer ask:

Have you eaten in the last 24 hrs?

I wished I was travelling more. But clearly what is happening, ie the terror, won't make me enjoy flying.

Tuesday 30 May 2006

Visa waiver

Mark adventures with the US immigration clearly describe why travel to or even through the US is currently a no go for me.

I already explained how my government was dumb when it came to provide passport conform to US regulation. After reading a bit more, here are more details: the USA require an optically readable passport with digitally encoded picture[1]. France was providing said optically readable (but not to me back in 2001) but with that encoded picture. So in order to comply, France has decided to go forward, do that picture encoding, and also add the big brother feature called RFID (reading private ID information insecurely from a distance)[2].

So in order to enter USA I would need to either get a new passport, with RFID, which I'm not even sure I can get it yet, or apply for a visa to enter the USA. The later require giving out personal information that is no matter to them, including information about other people, information I'm not even sure will be protected adequately. In both case I would have to tick the box "have you been declined entry to the USA" and possibly be treated like a criminal (re-read Mark's adventure).

And for those who wonder why I have to check that box? Well, it is simple. I have to go to the Canadian border to get my PR status straightened out. For that I had 2 solution. The expensive solution: fly anywhere I can, the closest being Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, Cuba or French Carribeans, and go back to Canada. I don't know for Cuba[3], but the other two wouldn't be a problem with a French passport as they are French territories. The cheap solution was just to drive 80km to reach the border between USA and Canada. That's what I did. But here is the deal: you can't U-turn before reaching the US border control, so I had to go thru US border control, explain what I came to do, saying that I just wanted to turn back to Canada, wait in line at the immigration office, get mugshot and fingerprinted, get officially rejected because my passport does not meet the required for DHS, and let go back to Canada where everything did go smoothly[4].

Oh to confirm about how they don't track people that leave the country. In september 2001, right before 9/11, I flew to Boston, MA for a job interview. When I left, I didn't get asked for any passport, and I had this green leaflet from the visa waiver program in my passport. In july 2004, when I entered to Canada, the immigration officer took it out and put it in his stack... Off course the other problem is that entering the EU with a EU passport, you don't get stamped, so I never had any proof of my re-entry to France.


[1] I don't know what that last part mean. Reference

[2] some gossips pretend that it is because of lobbying from the official supplier of said RFID chips

[3] whether I need a visa or not

[4] Canada immigration is fine, I can't say that much about customs, I'll probably blog about it next time I re-enter Canada

Tuesday 21 March 2006


No comment:

And my passport does not meet the expectations required by only ONE country.

Update: Since questions were asked, here are the regulations about Visa Waiver Program and where it differs for France and a couple of other countries.

Saturday 11 February 2006

Old friends...

  • 2 Expresso Coffees: 7 EUR
  • 1 Beer: 7.50 EUR
  • 1 Hot chocolate: 5.80 EUR
  • Spending time with old friends priceless.

There are things money can't buy, for the rest, there is still....

So during this trip, I did:

Friday evening, I went to have Guinness with some former coworker, talking shop and al. Right after, I went to met dodji and his s.o. Juliette, toady and his s.o. (whose name I forgot and apologize for that) and teuf, to have diner at "Le père fouettard" where I ended up seeing, by I pure random coincidence, Ol a former Apple co-worker and his s.o, sh from Debian and Videolan fame, and bbp (friend of Videolan). We talked GNOME and other thing around some French platers.

Saturday: met with some old friends, went to have crêpes and cidre breton (Cider, Britany receipe), then off to Pub Saint-Germain on Boulevard Saint-Germain. See the bill above. I also took some nitght shots of Notre Dame that I will post later.

Friday 10 February 2006

Ottawa -> YUL -> CDG

By this beautiful afternoon of February I sit in a VIARail train headed towards Montréal, at the Ottawa train station. (photo from behind the car window)

Going through the snow south-eastern Ontario Country and south-western, I finally reach my final destination, Montréal Pierre-E-Trudeau airport, aka YUL, aka Dorval Airport. The name is funny as Trudeau initiated the creation of an international airport in Mirabel, aimed at replacing Dorval, far north of Montréal, but funnily the Dorval Airport was renamed after Trudeau's name in 2004. I end up waiting in the new internatonal terminal, waiting to board onto AF 347 flight headed to CDG, France.

Things I learned: free electricity for your laptop in the terminal lounge, but expensive wifi service. Neither the seats nor the video system of Air France A340 aircrafts in Tempo (economy) class are suited for tall people like me.

I'm now in Paris for 2 days.

Friday 4 November 2005

Road trip to Ottawa

Drove to Ottawa yesterday for a job interview.

  • Gas is .12$ a liter less in Ottawa than in Quebec. Even in Gatineau, QC, which is just accross across the river, the gas is that expensive compared to Ottawa.
  • Housing is more expensive. Think $200 more a month for a similarly sized 2 bedroom appartment.
  • Obviously a car would be an almost required acquisition

I should post the couple of shots I have had the time to make, but they are still on the camera :-/

Sunday 7 August 2005

Trip to Ottawa, day 3

Wednesday July 20th 2005, Day 3 of my trip to Ottawa.

Dekstop Developer Conference is finished, and I have a few more hours to kill before going home. Time to go downtown shutterbugging. Wait, I'm already downtown as the conference center in inside Centre Rideau, a big downtown shopping mall, a few blocks for the Parliament of Canada.

I went down to the lock on Canal Rideau. These are the last before entering the Outaouais (Ottawa) river the separate Ottawa, Ontario, from Gatineau, Québec. While the Tuesday they were being emptied, this time there were actually a couple of boats going slowly thru to locks:

I went to chit-chat with a couple of boaters, asking them in french where they were coming from or going to. It appears that one of them went thru their 49th lock on their way back to Montréal, while the others came back from 1,000 Islands, Ontario to Laval, Québec, a 10 days trip. I should do that one day, slowly boating to go on vacation.

While walking uphill to the parliament, there was that person who lost is cell phone on the grass somewhere. I offered him to call his number to see if it rings too help locate it, but without chance.

The parliament is a real tourist attraction, probably the main in Ottawa. One of the reason is that the building is gorgeous, the other one is that it is the heart of the federal government. But there was some attractions too. First, the RCMP officer securing the area. Apparently the chinese tourists like to be photographed with a "mountie", even if he does not wear the red uniform (cliché), and actually happy to no because of the heat. I don't rememeber to have seen police officers that friendly in France.

Second, there was a "silent" demonstration against persecutions and tortures in China, exhibiting pictures and giving away flyers. It was not silent because someone with reading in a microphone, but they were still and pacific.

The rest of the walk didn't bring any interesting stories but still some pictures:

The grand finale being the World War memorial: