Category Archives: Flying Long Haul

Common Myths About Flying

Everyone probably already knows that air travel is the safest way to get around. For those afraid of flying though, statistics are generally of no help. Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of some common dangerous flying myths and how to overcome them.

Statistics

First, let’s start off with some air travel safety statistics. A study conducted in 1975 through 1994 shed some light on how safe air travel actually is. The odds of being in a fatal plane crash are about 1 in seven million. That means that if seven million people were picked randomly around the globe, only one of them would die in a fatal plane crash. Secondly, it’s also probably worth noting that if you were to fly on at least one flight every day of your life, it would take approximately nineteen thousand years for you to die in a plane crash. That’s more lifetimes than most people can count.

Lukla, Nepal 4/90
Lukla Nepal, not all runways are flat …

Still not convinced? How about we compare driving statistics to flying stats. Every year over 45,000 people die in car crashes. That’s about 150 people killed every single day because of wreckless driving. To give you an idea of how many plane crashes that is, a Boeing 727 full of people would have to crash every single day of the year and kill its entire passenger load to match the number of driving deaths there are each year.

According to the study conducted, you are approximately 20 times safer in an aircraft than you are in an automobile.

Turbulence

When people fly, one of the most common fears they have is rough air. When turbulence strikes, many often feel as though the plane is falling out of the sky. In all of recorded history of air travel, not once has a plane every crashed because of turbulence or rough air. While it may be uncomfortable, rough air isn’t enough to make a plane fall out of the sky.

Control

Another common fear that people have is that while cars may be more unsafe than planes, in a vehicle people are more in control of their fate. In an aircraft, it’s generally two or three strangers at the helm who are controlling the fate of everyone on board. While it may not mean much to say it, in many cases the pilots in the cockpit are only there as a safety measure. Modern aircraft are capable of flying themselves from takeoff to landing. The computers within aircraft are so sophisticated that they are able to make perfect takeoffs and landings without any help from a pilot. That means if the pilots pass out or are unable to control the plane, the aircraft will automatically take the safety precautions necessary to land itself safely on the ground.

To recap, you are almost 20 times safer in an aircraft than in a car. And who doesn’t drive? About 3 deaths occur for every 10 billion miles travelled in the air. That’s a long way.

Independent Travel – Being Your Own Travel Agent

Living in New Zealand I have always booked long haul (i.e. further than Australia) – flights via travel agents – until this trip. After being quoted over US$2100 (NZ$3100) for return airfares to Europe via Asia in what should be low season (November) and also had problems getting the return dates I wanted in January I decided to do it myself instead.

I looked a bit further into budget airlines. After several days of research, double checking dates I ended up with an itinerary which looks like this:

Wellington-Melbourne Qantas on air miles
Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur- Langkawi Air Asia
Krabi – Kuala Lumpur Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur – London (Stansted) Air Asia
Munich – London (Gatwick) EasyJet
London – Cork Ryan Air
Cork London Air Lingus
London – Kuala Lumpur Air Asia
Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne Air Asia
Melbourne – Wellington Qantas on air miles

Waitangi Park, Wellington, New Zealand

All of saved me US$700 on the trip. There are  few tricks you need to know though before you attempt this.

Other options out of this part of the world are Tiger Air (ex Australia) and JetStar (ex Australia, ex New Zealand from 2011).

Flight Booking Order
Once you have decided to book flights – have all the information lined up – each traveller’s passport and the dates you want to travel on. Be very cautious of flights that arrive at midnight and make sure you know which day they are on.

Do some dummy runs – to check prices – you will have to go right the way through to (but not including) entering your credit card details to confirm the prices.  Check dates on either side to see if there is a significant difference.

Once you are ready to book – double check everything – use the agent’s trick of reading aloud the information on the screen before you click confirm. Get a friend to listen to you preferably. Book the most expensive or longest sectors first and work out from there.

Credit Card Fraud Alert
All three off shore airlines (Air Asia, EasyJet and Ryan Air) alerted my credit card company to possible fraud, the company called me – fortunately I was answering the phone and all was OK. It would not have been OK if I had been doing this away from my contact numbers though – so advise your credit card company before you try to book flights – particularly those that don’t originate in the country you are booking from (the airlines know where in the world you are booking from).

Cheap Tickets Don’t Guarantee Connections
If you have an expensive ticket with a full-service airline and the connecting flight from say New Zealand is 6 hours late and you miss the connection – no problem the airline will put you up and rebook you at no extra cost. This is not the case with cheap fares – if you miss the second flight you will lose the ticket and have to buy another (more expensive) one.

The exception is that Air Asia now guarantees connections through KL for Australia to London flights. Otherwise I’d suggest you incorporate a stop over.

No Travel Agent To Hold Your Hand
Travel agents can be helpful – good ones will remind you to:

  • ensure that you leave the airport’s minimum transit time between flights (though see above I’d recommend much more) – usually 2 to 4 hours
  • advise what visas you will require
  • tell you to buy travel insurance
  • leave plenty of time to get to the airport – and sometimes to check in over the web to avoid extra charges and delays at the airport (Ryan Air, Air Asia)
  • check which vaccinations are recommended for the countries you are travelling to

So if you have never travelled independently before, especially internationally then agents can be quite useful.

One thing they do is monitor the flights you have booked and tell you when flight times change (as they do from time to time). With cheap flights you will need to be onto any potential changes and keep an eye on your on-line booking (usually via the airline’s website).

And travel may be ticketless these days – but its not paperless. You will need to print out copies of your e-tickets for almost all flights – certainly all international ones. Telling the immigration officer that your proof of onward travel is on your netbook or iPhone isn’t going to cut it.

Air Asia – Cheap Long Haul From New Zealand

I found out about Air Asia while living in Australia – but have just booked it while living in New Zealand – why? Because I am getting a return airfare to Europe for around NZ$1000 (US$700) less than the equivalent airfare on a full service airline. However it was an interesting process booking long haul airfares  – and along the way I learnt a few  pointers.

First you will need a few things to start with:

  • some idea of what dates you want to travel and how flexible you can be
  • Air Asia route map: essentially from Australia they fly ex Perth, Gold Coast or Melbourne all to Kuala Lumpur. From KL there are regular flights to Stansted (near London, UK).
  • an exchange rate calculator – I like xe.com
  • if you are flying from New Zealand you will need to have your frequent flyer  points or other airfare options to Australia sorted out.
  • some thoughts on what extras you are going to pay for these include:
    • luggage
    • allocated seating – both extra room but also just to seat your party together
    • meals
    • comfort kit (blanket, eye mask etc – you get to keep this so you can buy once and reuse)

Working Out Whether Air Asia Is Cheaper

To find the acutal cost on any day – you will need to work your way through the booking system – this will include having to add passenger names and passport details – yes it will take a few hours. Finally though you will get to the “pay now” screen – and that is the real cost of the ticket.

Recently Air Asia has stated that  Australia -UK flights can be booked as connection flights ie you can transit Malaysia rather than enter and leave immediately – and if the first flight is delayed you will be re-booked on a later flight. In general though – if you are making connections I’d leave at least 12 hours to be on the safe side.  We are overnighting  in both Melbourne and KL in both directions.

You should probably look at buying travel insurance – though I’d avoid Air Asia’s upsell of travel insurance (be careful – its very easily to inadvertently accept it!). Though in general Air Asia’s flights will allow you to reschedule up until 48 hours prior to flying.

Air Asia - Cheapest Flight New Zealand UK

Connecting Flights with Long Haul Budget Airlines

In general flights with airlines such as Air Asia are point to point. That means if, for example your connection to Melbourne is 5 hours late – and you miss your flight to Kuala Lumpur – tough luck – no one will be paying you for the extra costs involved – which include having to buy a new ticket to KL. (Not even your travel insurance from what I can tell).

Where Do You Arrive in KL

There is only one airport in KL – but the two main terminals are about 20km apart! Air Asia uses LCCT – the “low cost carrier” terminal. This is not the one connected to the super-fast train into KL. Instead you might as well take the upsell of the Air Asia bus to town for a few ringitt.

Luggage and Cheap Flights

Is a nightmare to be honest. Air Asia will allow you to buy between 15kg and 30kg – which is straightforward – but many of the European budget airlines only allow you one piece of luggage – 2 bags even if less than 20kg will mean you have to pay more (often more than the original airfare).  So if you intend to fly at your destinati0n as well- double check  the luggage requirements on ALL of your carriers – you certainly won’t get a waiver because you just flew into the country!

Non-Stop Auckland Ireland – I Love JetLag!

Smooth flight out of Wellington at noon heading to Auckland – though a little late leaving not a good start. AirNZ flight to connect with Emirates in Auckland. 2.5 hours in Auckland International Airport to check out the duty free and not do much else. Had to check in for the Emirates flights here – but the luggage was already tagged through to Cork – yeah right! I’m flying solo as my partner has to b et work until Good Friday (and has less leave than me). He’d pulled an all nighter so I had to wake him to get me to the airport on time.

Flying Emirates for the first time – they fly primarily to Australia but heavily discount the Auckland/Australia leg just to fill the planes. I’ve never stopped over in the MIddle East before so I am looking forward to that on the way back and I like how it will break up that killer 12 hour Europe-Asia long haul leg. On the way over its a milk run flight with only abut an hour on the ground in Brisbane, Singapore, Dubai and 2.5 hours to sprint between Heathrow terminals to make the Air Lingus flight to Cork. Leaving Auckland at 5:45pm we leave Singapore at 6:45pm and Dubai at noon so I am hoping to sleep the Singapore – Dubai leg.

Emirates stewardesses are in flash 50’s style pill box hats and mini-veils – their skirts are shorter than Air NZ’s hosties. They were generous on the checkin weight as I have a bag of stuff for the kids in Ireland – 21.5kg to be exact. The extra bag will come in handy though because we will leave it in Asia with the winter clothes we won’t need in Malaysia – packing for two distinct climates its a good idea to have a third bag to leave a hotel and collect at the end of the trip.

Plane was 1/2 to 1 hour late leaving Brisbane and we never caught up the time. Only then had about 1/2 hour on the ground at Singapore’s Changi airport – still one my favourite airports in the world – free email can’t argue with that in the middle of the night. Nice inboard flight entertainment system though – especially if you need to improve your Tetris score!

With only 20 minutes on the ground in Dubai -I didn’t see much of the super-modern airport as I was sprinting for the gate (and another security check). I would have made it (just) but the flight was delayed 1 hour anyways. It was at this point that my bag didn’t sprint fast enough and didn’t make the connection – but I would discover that much later.

Arriving in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 – was a mess I had an hour to navigate the renovation mess, find the transit route, catch a bus, do security, check in, hike 15 minutes to the Air Lingus gate (why are they always the furthest away?) Did it in 50 minutes but I wouldn’t recommend it! The flight was on last call – but was late again as well. The luggage took another day to get to Cork – but was delivered to my door – by a taxi driver who called me for directions! Finally arrived Cork at 4:30 pm 4 April – which happens to be my birthday so I did get a birthday cake!