Just another fight

A let off steam kind of post…

Things go wrong. It happens.
Sometimes it’s someone’s fault, sometimes it’s bad luck or bad planning, and sometimes there doesn’t appear to be any good reason for it.

Things go wrong. It’s how you put them right that matters.

Companies can make things better is by handing the situation promptly, efficiently and politely. An apology for the thing that has gone wrong is nearly always a really good starting point.

I’m a member of a international courier scheme. When I put it like that, it sounds quite nefarious, but it’s really not. It gives me access to addresses in several (or more) countries around the world. I can then buy stuff online in those countries, get them delivered to that local address and from there, they get forwarded to me in Cape Town. It costs a bit to join (a one-off fee) and then you pay a certain amount for each shipment. It still works out cheaper than direct delivery, and it’s via a courier, so it’s trackable and (ahem) more reliable.

I used this system to ship some goods in from the UAE. My Emirates airmiles were about to expire, so I cashed them in online here and got myself a pair of headphones and Mrs 6000 got some cosmetics. They were then shipped to my address in the UAE (just down the road from Emirates), I paid a handsome fee to the courier and then the goods should fly through Johannesbeagle to me in the Mother City.

All was going well. The package from Emirates arrived at my virtual address in Umm Ramool, Dubai on the 18th November. From there, 8 hours later, it went to the courier company’s “Dubai Express Hub” and then was shipped (ironically almost certainly via Emirates) to Johannesburg, where the record says it arrived at 13:20 on 20th November – only about 40 hours after they first got hold of it.

This is impressive. This is how it’s meant to work.

Then there came a long delay in Customs. This happens sometimes, and you can keep nudging the courier, but it’s often out of their control. However, I nudged several times, and then once more forcefully, and suddenly like a plunger in a blocked toilet, a mere 16 days (eish!) after it arrived in Johannesburg, my package was Cleared from Customs:

And lo, there was much celebration and joyfulness and singing and dancing and making of merriment in the streets of Cape Town.

Sadly though, nothing happened after that, despite my repeated phone calls to the Johannesburg office. I was assured, time and again, that they would chase it up and call me back, that it just needed to get to their office and then they would have it in Cape Town the following day. But no-one ever called me back. It still hasn’t reached their office.

It took until today – and my 12th phone call to the courier company regarding this shipment – for someone to tell me that the package had likely never arrived in Joburg. That it was part of a “courier bag” which had gone missing on or around the 19th. That shipments from Dubai “usually take a day” to get here and this one had (already) taken over three weeks. Throughout the previous 11 phone calls though, no-one had bothered (or dared?) to tell me that my package was missing. No-one could be bothered to take responsibility.

Half of me is pissed off at the apparent deceitfulness, the other half is pissed off that no-one is willing to try and make things right. I, as the client, am the one doing all the hard work to sort out the mess caused by something going wrong with something that is very much their bit of our agreement.

But customer service in South Africa is so very poor, and it’s cases like this that are not just an illustration of how bad it is, but also an example of why it can be so bad – because the bar is set so very low. I could be having this problem with any one of 10 other local courier companies as well, or any one of 4 local cellphone companies, or any one of 1 local online shopping companies – not one of them stands out from the crowd.
And precisely because of that, not one of them has to.

I’ve aired my displeasure on Twitter now (my last resort and something I really hate to do), and finally (surprise surprise when you go public) someone has actually called me for the first time. There may even have been a mumbled apology. They’re looking into what’s gone wrong and they are going to update me tomorrow.

Fair enough – I’ll give them that chance.
Only now, it’s not just how they put things right that matters, but how they put not putting things right in the first place right.

I’ll keep you updated.

Faster wifi on planes

The future is now.

To be honest, the future was actually already then, when I was on a flight over Turkey, tracking my flight over Turkey en route to nearly kill my Mum by walking into her kitchen while she thought I was 6000 miles… away.

Wi-fi on planes is incredible. Not just because it’s useful as a communication, productivity and time-passing tool, but also because of the way it works. From your device to the on-board router, then pinged from the top of the plane moving at close on 1,000kph to a satellite about 35,786km up (which itself is moving at 18,000kph) and then down to earth and then – obviously – back again.

Like, I said: Incredible.

In fact, the only issue with the wi-fi on planes is that it’s not very fast. So sending photos or anything larger than a Whatsapp message takes ages or doesn’t really work at all. Especially just after dinner.

But now it’s about to get better:

Emirates has partnered with Thales to bring 50Mbps connectivity to its Boeing 777X fleet in 2020.

That’s five times faster than I get at home. Five.

And look, I know I’m very lucky to have a generally stable internet connection at home. But my house stays where it is and is attached by a long cable to the place where the internet comes from (which also stays where it is). It’s relatively simple to get internet to go back and forth along that cable. But they still can’t do it at more than 10Mbps.

I think the potential solutions here are fairly obvious: move my house to an Emirates 777 (clearly not an option), or park an Emirates 777 in my back garden (it could be a contemporary sculpture).

The neighbours might not be happy, but at least they’d have really speedy internet.

The DXB connection

We have returned to real life, work and 6am wake-up calls. The kids went back to school this morning (yes, I know everywhere else is off this week – don’t @ me), but I very much doubt that they’ll make it successfully through to second break without dozing off. It was 25 hours and 25 minutes from door to door. It would have been a bit quicker, but for the Cape Town flight being delayed by an individual being removed from the plane (no idea why) and their luggage being difficult to find.

And it would have been so much more pleasant at DXB if only we could have bent the rules a bit. Let me explain:

We had about 1 hour and 40 minutes from first plane landing to second one taking off – just security to get through in between. Tight, but manageable. I’ve done it before in under an hour, and in fact, as an example, this same process only took us about 25 minutes on the way out (albeit that we got lucky in that the arrival and departure gates were very close together).

Pretty exhausted after an overnight flight from the UK, we were rather annoyed when our A380 from Manchester didn’t go to the terminal, instead parking right down at the bottom end of the runway, well away from all the airport buildings and meaning that we had to bus to the terminal. Even just after dawn, the air in Dubai is sticky and in the mid-30s. You’d rather be inside.

So it was a bit irritating, but these things happen (though not very often with A380s, to be honest). And with 500+ passengers to unload, followed by a long journey across the airport, it meant that it took 50 minutes from touchdown to actually getting to the terminal. Crazy.
However, when we did get there, we were met at gate by an Emirates guy holding a very reassuring ‘CAPE TOWN EK770’ board to personally take us to our flight, so there were no worries about missing it from that moment forward.
A very rudimentary x-ray of our bags, then another 15 minutes through the terminal on foot to gate C43 – just about as far from where we’d parked up as you can be.
And then – guess what? Back on a bus to get to our 777. Another 20-something minute journey back to the aircraft parking lot.
And when we got there, while we queued to get up the steps, I took this quick and dirty phone pic…

There, in the foreground, our 777 for the Cape Town flight. And in the background, all of about 100m away, the very same A380 that we disembarked from well over an hour earlier.

Nooooooooooooooooo!

Travel Saver rates do not apply

Hello. I’m somewhere over Iran. And I’ve just got this message on my cellphone:

Network On Air (Aerospace) is a satellite. Travel Saver rates do not apply. We encourage you to make calls at R23/min for int’l calls rather than receive calls at R150/min, R2.75/SMS & R128.00/MB for data. For T&Cs and rates visit www.vodacom.co.za/roam

I’ve already checked that my mobile data is switched off, but if you could all avoid calling me for the foreseeable future, that would be just great. Thanks.

Flying things on flying things

I’m travelling again in a few weeks time. And it will be the first international flight I will have done since I got Florence, my little Mavic.

It’s been a wonderful few months together. I can’t imagine being without her, and so, obviously, she must come with us in September.

The rules for carrying drones on planes are pretty much universal. The danger here (such as it is) comes from the lithium ion batteries. Because of its compact size, the Mavic’s batteries are only 43.6Wh a piece. But you still need to follow the protocols, so you discharge them, you cover their terminals and you take them on in your cabin baggage.

Easy.

But we are (thankfully) flying Emirates. And their rules are slightly different.

Now, Emirates are the only airline I have heard of that have this policy. I don’t understand why they need to be different, but (and I am saying this in hushed tones) I’ve never really worked out how you were allowed to take a drone on a flight anyway, given that it could be easily used as a dangerous weapon (those propellers can get up to 8000rpm). Eina.

Still, having checked with other drone owners online, there are various anecdotes about getting through DXB and not getting through DXB with a drone in your cabin and/or hold luggage. And I’m not massively happy about Florence being gooied around in a suitcase. I’ll give the airline a shout.

One thing we won’t be taking with us is the beagle. Three reasons here:

1. A week apart is good for everyone concerned (most especially me).
2. The beagle is not a falcon.
3. We’re not going to certain destinations in Pakistan.

Wow.

Presumably, this isn’t just any falcon. You can’t just turn up with a falcon you snatched from your local National Park the previous day. Or with a beagle disguised as a falcon.

So majestic – see how it soars on the breeze! Such effortless grace!
[crashing sound, frantic barking, further crashing sounds]

I can’t believe you can take a falcon into the cabin, but not a Mavic.
It can even go in a cage if it needs to.

I’ll give the airline a shout.