Travelling to America

Posted on Sep 21, 2006

Given my principle employers over the last fifteen years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time sitting in aeroplanes while they fly between the UK and and the US. Whilst doing the SFO to LHR trip last week, I was struck about how the experience has changed both a lot and a little over that time.

The increase in security would be an obvious change, but the truth is that it hasn’t really changed that much - I’m not sure that it took much longer on my last trip than on the first one, even with the supposed “improvements” and increased vigilance.

The amount of space afforded to each passenger is, depressingly, much the same as it always was. There may be even less space, or perhaps I’m just less flexible :-)

It is noticeable how the planes are generally much fuller now than I remember - it’s very rare (on Virgin at least) to have an empty seat next to you. Ten years ago it was not so uncommon and on a couple of occasions I had a full set of three seats to myself (with BA).

Virgin’s policy of requiring passengers to pay for exit row seats is a nuisance. At 6'4" I could really use the ability to stretch my legs, but paying $110 for the privilege seems too much. Given that I can use air miles to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy, why not allow me to use them to get an exit row?

The Virgin entertainment system is good - at least in the case where it’s possible to choose films and start/stop them at will. Better hope that the person in front doesn’t put their seat back though, as that tilts the LCD screen too much and I can’t make out the contents of the bottom third.

Considering Premium Economy, it is definitely more comfortable. The food seems to be the same, but the extra width and leg room makes all of the difference. Strangely, the same didn’t seem to be true of the BA equivalent on a recent flight back from Denver - the seat was a little wider, but the leg room felt much the same.

Food has improved quite a bit, but the end result is nothing to write home about (except perhaps to complain).

In the end, ten hours in a metal tube is still a crap way to travel and, if I didn’t have time pressures (most of which arise from family rather than employer), I’d seriously consider going by boat and train

  • at least it would be possible to get a few days work done during the journey.

Now Playing: Time, by Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon).