» Archive for November, 2005

The Road Warrior’s European Fly/Drive Sojourn

Friday, November 25th, 2005 by Jonathan Spira

Friday, November 11, 2005, Munich Germany
Last week, we left off with success (insofar as Internet connectivity was concerned) in the Confetti Suite; this after two other suites had no connectivity.  Prior to my departure from the hotel (today’s plans called for a drive from Munich to Italy via Innsbruck across the Brennerpaß as far as Sferzing, and looping back to Berchtesgaden), I passed by the front desk just in time to hear another guest complaining about problems with Net connectivity.  He was quite upset (apparently, his room had no connectivity) and was simultaneously speaking with one of the hotel managers and someone on a customer service line.  His complaint: had he known he would not have Internet access, he would have stayed elsewhere.  Apparently, I was lucky to be in the Confetti Suite.

As Net access in hotels becomes as ubiquitous as television, hotels (such as the one I was staying in) catering to business travellers need to ensure a more seamless experience.  Almost all hotels work with third-party providers; unfortunately, when that partner becomes unreliable, the hotel guest sees only the hotel brand and such unreliability tarnishes that brand.  Unhappy guests seldom return, regardless of who was at fault.

Friday, November 11, 2005, Berchtesgaden, Germany
630 kilometers later and at an altitude of 950 m, I found myself comfortably ensconced in a suite at the recently-opened InterContinental Resort Berchtesgaden.  No Confetti Suite here; I was online within minutes.  The biggest problem I had was finding an electrical outlet for the computer (the outlets were concealed behind a wood panel).  Berchtesgaden was to be my base for the remainder of my trip.

During the balance of my stay, I visited Dürnstein (the town where Richard the Lionhearted was held captive), Lienz, Kitzbühel, and Sopron (Hungary) – in all, driving 2426 km.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005, Munich, Germany
I drove ca. 175 km to the town of Garching, outside of Munich, to turn the car over to the shipping agent.  From Garching, it was a 15-minute ride to Munich’s ultra-modern Franz Josef Strauss Airport.  As mentioned last week, I had been looking forward to trying Lufthansa’s FlyNet onboard Internet service, but on the trip over, the service was unfortunately kaput.  I was pressing my thumbs together (German/Austrian equivalent of “fingers crossed”) for good luck for the flight home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005, 11,000 m over Europe
As soon as we reached cruising altitude, my computer detected Wi-Fi and I logged into FlyNet.  Seat power outlets are conveniently located and I had a choice of U.S. or the European Schuko connection systems.  I started off with simple chores, such as checking the news (I decided NOT to grab a handful of newspapers as I boarded, opting – hoping – to see the more current online versions).

With Lotus Notes replicating my mail and other databases in the background, I started receiving Sametime instant messages from colleagues.  Briefly put, my initial experience (discounting last week’s flight) with FlyNet was very positive.  Granted, it was relatively slow (I did several speed tests and it was marginally faster than GPRS) but we WERE, after all, at 11,000 m cruising along at 860 km/h.

After reading some e-mail, I called home using Skype (quality was decent), checked my voicemail, upgraded iTunes, did some online banking – in short, nothing extraordinary, absent the venue.

My neighbor in seat 3J, Frau Frowein, lives in Munich and was visiting New York for the first time.  She had some questions for me about things to do, so I suggested we look online at some information about events for the upcoming week in New York – another good use for FlyNet.  I also recommended a concert at Carnegie Hall, so we looked at the program and she and I booked a ticket for her for a concert with Hilary Hahn.  We also e-mailed her daughter (Frau Frowein had never used e-mail before).

About 3 hours into the flight, I briefly lost the connection but the service was flawless from that point forward.

Last Tuesday’s flight took place entirely during business hours in the United States.  We departed at 15:15 local time, which is 09:15 in New York.  We landed at 18:25 New York time.  This represents an entire day – and given the pace at which the knowledge economy moves – missing one day is more than many can afford.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

The Internet is in the Hands of the Lawyers

Thursday, November 10th, 2005 by Jonathan Spira

Wednesday, 9 November 2005, New York City
I start writing this column in Lufthansa’s Senator lounge.  I’m about to depart on a flight from New York (JFK) to Munich (MUC).  First things first: Lufthansa has the best beer; perhaps I shouldn’t mention this, but they have Spaten Oktoberfest on tap.

But I digress.

I’m going to Munich for several reasons, including client meetings and to participate in BMW’s European Delivery program.  The trip also presents an opportunity for me to finally test the Lufthansa FlyNet service (powered by Connexion by Boeing).  Earlier this year, Lufthansa added the service to New York flights; it had been available on the Los Angeles – Munich route for over a year now.

Before boarding the aircraft, I stop in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a snack and a drink.  For a variety of reasons (see further down), I am glad I do.   I open my laptop, briefly scan some news and e-mail messages, and board the flight.

By the time I board, we are already 30 minutes delayed due to thunderstorms in the area.  After boarding, we wait almost two hours for takeoff due to a backlog of 60 aircraft.  I’m glad I had that snack as it is 22:30 before we take off and the flight crew doesn’t start the meal service until almost an hour later.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 11,000 m and 860 km/h
I plug my laptop into the convenient seat outlet (the outlet accepts American and European Schuko connection systems) and – nothing.  No Wi-Fi.  No signal.  I ask the purser as she happens by, and her response is simple and to the point: “es ist kaput.”

Given the late hour, and the fact that I have fairly early meetings scheduled, I must confess, that I am not too distressed.

Lufthansa’s flat beds are quite comfy and I am able to get in about 4 hours of sleep before breakfast.  When I awake, I assume we only have one hour of flight left as we had definitely made up lost time in flight.  Unfortunately, just as we finish breakfast, the captain announces that, due to a dense fog (something not uncommon this time of year in Munich), we have to circle.  We do this for ca. 45 additional minutes, making our arrival time 11:45.

Thursday, 10 November 2005, Munich, Germany
The original plan called for me to proceed to BMW’s Freimann Delivery Center for my car (for the curious reader, I will be happy to provide greater detail; however, since this is not a column for Motor Trend, I am limiting my comments to explaining that the car is a BMW 330xi, in Sparkling Graphite, and yes, it has Bluetooth).  A driver was waiting for me at the airport, and we arrive quickly enough, but by then, my schedule is off by 90 minutes.

One of my scheduled meetings was with Herrn Helmut Pöschl and a few colleagues of his who are working on the BMW Welt program.  Herr Thomas Roller, the director of BMW’s delivery center, offers to take me to my meeting first and we speed off in a very fast 130i.  We don’t make it back until 17:30 (more on BMW Welt in an upcoming column) and the Center is empty.  Herr Roller himself does the delivery and off I go to my “Stammhotel” on the Leopoldstraße.

Met at the door by the manager, Herr Klein, who is very happy to see me and wants to give me an Internet report; specifically, he wants to accompany me to my room to ensure that my room has a working Net connection.  “How has the Internet connectivity been working?” I enquire.  His reply: “It is now in the hands of our lawyers, as we are unable to get the service provider (Swisscom) to keep the system up and running.”

First room, nothing.  Second room, the “Hunting Suite” (hunting lodge decor, no dead animals on the wall, happily), nothing.  Third room, the Confetti Suite (please don’t ask) – we have connectivity.


Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.