Archive for August, 2007

August 24th, 2007

How not to handle flight delays

In my past travelogues, I’ve written that the flight was eventless. The latest flight with SAS from London City airport to Stockholm Arlanda was everything except eventless.

The trip started well, I got through check-in and security in less than ten minutes and then spend time in the busy lounge reading a good book. The plane left London about in time and the first two hours were all ok.

Then we started landing and I was first thinking that we are a bit ahead of the schedule — but instead we were landing on Malmö. Something was broken in the plane and they had to land on the nearest airport.

Malmö airport was empty. There were no other passangers, just us in a secluded gate area. As we had left from London, we were outside of Schengen area and could not leave the gate. They were nobody to check passports.

After waiting a while, the captain informed us that they need to replace a window on the plane and it will about three hours. Quite a feat to be honest, seemingly they had replacement window somewhere.

In the meanwhile, we just sat there. There were no drinks or sandwiches until the ground personnel looted the plane. After four hours, the plane was ready but there was not enough fuel to fly to Stockholm.

Malmö airport had no-one around to fuel the plane, so we flew to Copenhagen. This was ironic in sense, as the flight took only 15 minutes and if they would have flew there in the first place, I could have caught a flight to Helsinki on that night.

I dosed off while flying to Stockholm. We were there at four o’clock in the morning. There were nobody from SAS waiting us on the gate, so we had to go through the passport control and finally through the baggage claim, customs and ticketing. There were no signs for transit — maybe there is a route inside the checked-in area.

If I hadn’t asked for my flight information, nobody would have told it to me. Someone had booked me to the first morning flight to Helsinki, but informing the passenger seemed not to be on high on SAS’ list.

After check-in and security control (where I lost my drink — this would have been avoided with proper transit signs), there were nobody from SAS around. All gates were unmanned and both transit desks were deserted.

EU has made regulations that in case of delays, airline needs to provide certain items promptly and without charge to the customers: free calls, free emails, and food and drink. None of them were offered in Malmö (before looting the plane) and none of them were offered in Stockholm.

The regulations paper should be available in the airport, too. Didn’t see it anywhere. Finally someone arrived to the neighbour gate, and he kindly called to the service desk.

After 15 minutes of waiting, a lady came and offered a breakfast coupon that is valid for 90 days in Stockholm only. The flight was almost boarding, and I tried from now onwards to avoid Stockholm airport, so the coupon was no value for me. Instead, I asked to be upgraded to business and after some general hassling on their part, got a economy extra ticket.

So, all in all I was eight hours late, and nobody cared to say that SAS is sorry or provide anything for me. Every single item needed to be requested.

Now I’ve got a bitter taste in my mouth. This would have been avoided with three simple steps:

  • Someone waiting at the arrival gate and taking care of transiting customers.
  • That same person giving out breakfast coupons and providing telephone calls and emails.
  • Automatic upgrade to business, no questions asked.

Affordable design

Diesel is one of the more affordable brands having their “concept store” in the centre of Milan. The shop is located on the prime location on Via Venezia, a few blocks from Duomo and the golden triangle of fashion.

Diesel store in Milan, Italy
The shop is not the biggest Diesel store I’ve visited, but there is still plenty of stuff to buy. The ground floor is for men, and the first floor is dedicated to the ladies. The selection varies from shoes to garments to accessories, including bags, shades and other paraphernalia. Prices are okay, but not bargains.

www.diesel.com, Corso Venezia 7/1, Milan, Italy, +39 02 7600 6233

Sleek fashion from the States

Milan is not just high-end shopping — there are ample of ways buy clothes, shoes and accessories with medium and low prices. Just avoid the golden triangle of fashion, and the world is your oyster even with smaller budgets.

Guess store in Milan, Italy
Guess store, located on Piazza San Babila, is a good balancing act between style and money; the garments are fashionable, trendy and well-designed, but the price tags are lower than in the high-end stores. The store is not a bargain, however, and you can spend several hundreds easily.

The store caters for both men and women, and the lower level showroom more than doubles the square meters — in other words, the selection is very good.

www.guess.com, Piazza San Babila 4/B, Milan, Italy, +39 02 7639 2070

August 18th, 2007

London calling, sixth trip this year

Once again, London is calling my name — I’m going to spend two busy business days in London early next week. This is now the sixth trip to the Big Smoke this year, and there still might be one or two left for autumn.

I’m flying with SAS, as they seem to have the most competitive pricing for flights to London — maybe that’s way they are at the edge of bankruptcy, too…

The return flight is from London City Airport that I’ve never tried before. I’ve heard only good things about it, so I’m expecting a swift airport experience.

Besided business, there’s not that much time for anything else. I’ll probably visit my favourite snack chain Pret A Manger a few times, and then spend rest of the time shifting through emails at the hotel.

Swiss style

If you are (like I am) fond of Bally shoes and clothes, it is advisable to visit their store on Via Montenapoleone. The dark looking store has a lot of good stuff on sale for those of us blessed with thick wallets.

Bally store in Milan, Italy
The Bally style is very subtle, and the logos can be really hard to spot on some of their bags. Only the owner (and of course other Bally owners) know the value of the bag. I somehow consider this more elegant than the screaming logos of Louis Vuitton and alikes.

The shop is especially strong on shoes and bags.

Phone: www.bally.com, 8, Via Montenapoleone, Milan, Italy, +39 02 7600 8406

Comfortable Spanish shoes

Camper is thinking differently in Milan; almost every single brand shop has been designed and executed to the smallest possible detail and they show stuff that is probably too small, expensive or painful for you. Camper invited people passing by their shop during build-up phase to write on the walls, and has a number of shoes that look stylish and still feel nice on your feet. Their price is high, but mostly nothing compared to the shops around it.

Funky Camper store in Milan, Italy
The variety is surprisingly big, and there are shoes for both men and women. Children are not forgotten either, as some of the shoes are available in children sizes, too.

www.camper.com, 6, Via Monte Napoleone, Milan, Italy, +39 02 799 015

August 14th, 2007

Tallinn post-travelogue

As I stated here last week, we visited Tallinn during the weekend. We had a blast, weather was really nice and the hotel absolute superb.

The “business” class in Linda Line was not that swanky — the boat had old Lufthansa seats, made of grey leather, and also a pair of old Lufthansa sofas. Fortunately we entered the ship early, so we could claim one of the sofas for us.

The trip to Tallinn was overbooked, and people were swarming in the business class area. There simply were not enough seats for everyone, and some had to go to the rear of the ship. The stewardess had a typical Estonian service approach: “this is not my fault, it’s fault of the ticketing”. Everyone knows that, but still being a bit sorry for the situation would make wonders.

Otherwise the trip was swift and we were in Tallinn after 90 minutes after leaving Helsinki shore. Got a taxi from the pier to Hotel Telegraaf in the Tallinn old town.

The hotel was really, really nice. The front desk found out that our room was not yet ready, so she upgraded us. Maybe the little charming boy played some role here…

The hotel room was excellent, all amenities top-notch and the bed was large and comfortable. The service was above anything we’ve encountered in a couple years. Really friendly and attentive to the smallest details.

We didn’t spend that much time there, but went to see some views from Toompea hill. There were no clouds in the sky, so vistas were magnificent.

Toompea is not a big place, so we had a plenty of time for shopping in the new part of the city. Sanna had booked a spa treatment for the evening, so we had an early dinner in a fancy old town restaurant. It had been voted as one of the best restaurants in Tallinn, but our food was nondescript. The portions were small, too.

After dinner, I and Aapo went to sauna and pool in the hotel spa. The sauna was hot as hell and the pool water was below my comfort level; thus things were well on average…

The spa was so relaxing experience that Aapo fell asleep while we were hunting for some food for the evening.

On Sunday, we woke up too early. This happens too easily with small children. The breakfast was sumptuous, and once again the service was swift and pleasant. We visited also the spa again and then checked out to visit the new art museum KuMu.

The art was mostly Estonian and I didn’t know any of the artists. There were paintings and sculptures from late 19th century to current years. The contrast between independence and communist era were really striking.

The museum is located a few kilometers east from the city centre, so we used taxis both ways — about or less than eight euros one way, not that bad compared to prices in Finland. We also visited some shops and bought nothing.

Before going to the ship, we ate a simple Italian fare in a restaurant close to our hotel. Food was good, but really salty.

The trip back to Helsinki was uneventful, except that I had eaten something bad during the day and had some stomach troubles. Fortunately nothing major.

In Helsinki, we hopped in a tram and arrived to the train station just in time to buy a carton of milk and get into train to Espoo.

All in all, the trip was excellent — a lot of good time with the family.

Fashion finds in the middle of the city

If you don’t have enough money to buy all the stuff you crave for on the high-end boutiques, outlets are an viable alternative to get the clothes, shoes and accessories with far lesser prices.

Dmagazine Outlet store in Milan, Italy
Milan is surrounded by outlets, but most of them are so far away that you practically need a car to go there. If you aren’t interested in driving among Italians (I surely understand you), your choices are somewhat limited.

Oddly enough, Dmagazine Outlet is located at the very heart of city’s fashion district and thus it is very easily accessible with metro. The outlet is not very big, but at least it is packed — both garments and people.

I’ve visited the outlet twice and haven’t found anything worth buying, but there have been a lot of tantalising items that have missed my size.

Dmagazine Outlet, Via Montenapoleone 26, Milan, Italy, +39 02 7600 6027