Re-visiting the Airport Hotel Budapest

On 25/07/2011, in On the go..., by steve

Although it is high-Summer in Europe and most people are enjoying their well deserved holidays, there are others who work hard to make sure that those holidays become the wonderful event everyone was hoping for. Our visit to Budapest this time around was only 5 days and it combined business with a little relaxation. It also gave me a chance to re-visit the Airport Hotel Budapest which we had recommended to our readers in the past. My previous stays at the hotel were mainly in the business season and I was looking forward to seeing how they were coping with the mad holiday rush.

We arrived pretty late on a Friday evening but the ladies at the reception were crisp and friendly in spite of the late hour. Not that I expected anything less! Everything was also squeaky clean as if this was early morning rather than the evening after what must have been a busy day. You may wonder why I mention cleanliness but take the trouble and go to any of the hotel reservation sites and read the customer comments. Complaints about the LACK of cleanliness abound. Obviously, many a house around the world tries to save on the cleaning bill. But this is not something Airport Hotel Budapest is doing and they deserve to be noted for this.

The reception where you are always greeted with a smile.

Five days means five breakfasts and I am always looking forward to breakfasts in Budapest. The breakfast menu tends to offer also fare that I remember from our childhood and which is not available even for gold in the rest of the world. Airport Hotel Budapest offers a complimentary US style breakfast and it has everything any guest could ever want. They also include my childhood favorites!

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Budapest’s SkyCourt – will the security check point hold up?

On 06/04/2011, in On the go..., by steve

Budapest Ferihegy Airport has recently opened an impressive passenger hall between Terminal 2A and 2B. It is something truly attractive with an inner space that seems to be even bigger than it actually is… and it is huge by any measure. The architects have really excelled with this steel and glass building which embraces you with light whether it is day or night. You can eat and shop or just sit around while you wait for your flight.

 

A cute idea picked right from Las Vegas casinos… when you enter the SkyCourt after security control, you must walk through the booze store to reach the rest of the facility. The stores are not particularly impressive though, they are the usual collection of brand names selling stuff at exorbitant prices. But this is not the biggest problem of SkyCourt.

Its biggest problem is the security check point.

I do not know what the experts had in mind when they allocated the ridiculously cramped area for the security lanes… may be they wanted to maximize the commercial space and cut the rest just a little too small. This will be a killer when traffic picks up. Last night there were only about 20 of us and with two lanes operating, we stood in line for almost 5 minutes!

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Screwing up the boarding process the Brussels Airlines way

On 11/12/2010, in On the go..., by steve

It is so much fun flying these days! Getting to the airport, struggling through security, navigating the intricate web of shops and eateries while waiting for the gate to be posted are just the small pleasures you get for the exorbitant service fees you are charged over and above the “cheap” airline ticket.

But fly Brussels Airlines from their home base in Brussels and you are treated to some extra fun. And not one either. On every trip if you are lucky (read more about this here and here).

On the morning of 7 December 2010 the scene at the gate allocated to SN flight 2901 was quite normal. Passengers to Vienna were gathering and the two gate agents (one male one female) were busy getting ready for the boarding process.

Of course one hidden mine was already there, firmly embedded in SN operations. In case you are not aware of this, Brussels Airlines flies a collection of Avro RJ (85 and 100)/Bae 146-200 and Boeing 737s on their European network. Flights to Vienna see both the 737s and the others and of course the boarding process of the 737 is (or should be) different from that of the much smaller RJs. SN seems to use the same procedure for both and in particular, they have the famous priority entry, reserved for business class and B Flex Economy+ passengers who are boarded first… The only problem is, business and the B Flex sections are in the first part of the cabin and the priority boarders create a mighty traffic jam in the aisle while they stow their gear. When the rest of the herd arrives, they are blocked from reaching the back of the plane, a situation that results in a messy scene and creates a totally unnecessary delay in completing the process. If only they would first call the last few rows like so many other airlines do…

But this morning they did one better, earning one of the employees (of SN???) the less than endearing title “asshole” from most of the English-speaking passengers on the flight. Here is what happened.

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Via bends and kinks to Honolulu

On 04/10/2010, in On the go..., by steve

The shortest route to HNL

There are many ways of flying from Brussels to Honolulu and the travel time is in excess of twenty hours in all cases. You might say that it does not matter since no sane person would want to do a trip like that in one stretch but in case you do, the best option is Continental Airlines from Brussels to Newark (EWR) and then again Continental Airlines Newark to Honolulu (HNL) non-stop. CO is the only airline offering a non-stop connection from the US East Coast to HNL. It is a flight of 10 hours and 30 minutes though very often 10 to 15 minutes are shaved from the schedule time. The only uncertain aspect of such a routing is the 90 minute transfer time in Newark. Although clearing immigration, picking up your bag, rechecking it and going through security can be done under an hour, leaving you 30 minutes to find your gate, if the flight from Brussels is late, things can get tight and you may end up waving good-by to the departing 767… However, we have done this route twice now and made the connection each time so may be there is less to worry about than I imagined. Continental knows whet they are doing when they allow this connection.

Five years ago we flew to Honolulu with Delta just a few days after Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans. We had to change planes in Atlanta and the fuel situation was so bad there that we had to land in Dallas to fuel the 767 for the long leg to HNL. In early September this year it was Hurricane Earl inching up the East Coast that was threatening to disrupt air traffic in the New York area and hence make a joke of our 90 minute connection time (proving that I was not worrying over nothing). As it happened, Earl was slower than forecast and it arrived a day after us even then staying well clear of the coast, sparing New York and the various connections.

Boarding in Brussels

Misty morning in Zaventem...

The 767-400 was docked at terminal B in Zaventem and when the pre-boarding announcement came, there was a mad rush towards the gate as if each and every passenger on that place was travelling in first class, had multiple disabilities, was accompanied by five kids or all three… The gate agents tried to organize a boarding-by-rows process but they were facing a mission impossible. For one, the announcements could barely be heard so no one was really sure which rows were being called so they all pushed forward, blocking the way of those who knew that they had been called… There were several American families who remained seated as instructed, patiently waiting their number to come up while they watched the multilingual, undisciplined crowd milling about, making a joke of the whole boarding process.

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Work hard, fly right, the motto of Continental Airlines.

On 27/09/2010, in On the go..., by steve

The case of an overbooked flight – the two sides of a coin

It was the last day of our holidays and travel plans called for taking a Continental 737-800 from San Francisco to Newark where we would change to a Continental 767-400 bound for Brussels. The flight from SFO was uneventful and the five hours 20 minutes passed quickly. By the time we got to the gate of the Brussels flight in EWR, most of the passengers were already there and you could see that the gate agents were extremely busy although boarding was still more than an hour away.

We soon found out what the commotion was all about. The flight was overbooked and the people with confirmed seats on paper but none in the aircraft were obviously less than pleased with their predicament. As I ambled over to the gate desk to have our boarding pass and passports verified, I heard a guy with a German accent loudly proclaim to the young lady handling his case: THIS COULD NEVER HAPPEN ON LUFTHANSA!

Obviously, an overbooked flight is not something any airline likes to have on their hands but it does happen also at Lufthansa. In fact, no company is immune to this phenomenon but in this particular case a storm in New York the day before had left schedules in tatters and a lot of rearrangements had to be put in to keep things and people moving. OK the German guy was not expected to know this and he was of course entitled to love Lufthansa more than Continental but facts are facts and I told him saw. He was obviously surprised to find a fellow passenger (and possible overbooking victim like himself) side with the enemy… But after hearing me out, he had the grace to apologize to the Continental girls for his outburst.

Work hard, fly right!

Next thing, I heard the announcement asking for volunteers to give up their seat for appropriate compensation and travel at a later date. I have heard this kind of announcement before but each time my schedule was very tight and there was no question of volunteering. Not this time however. I was curious… what exactly were they offering?

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Staying at the Airport Hotel – Budapest

On 30/08/2010, in On the go..., by admin

For long drives, nothing beats the Grand Voyager

Our latest business opportunities call for an increasing amount of travel, among them to Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is special in more ways than one, including the fact that it is my birth city and coming back even if for a short time is always a pleasure. Last week’s trip was a combined business/holiday affair and we drove “home” in the company Chrysler Grand Voyager. You may look on that car with a disapproving eye from an environmental point of view but in terms of comfort and the ease when you need to haul people and gear, it has no equal in its category.It was of course only natural that we should be staying at the Airport Hotel near Ferihegy. BluSky Services, my company, has a corporate arrangement with the hotel and so we get a great rate but even if you have to pay the normal price, you get excellent value for your money.

It was very late evening when I pulled into their spacious parking lot which has slots also for cars hauling a caravan or which are themselves longer than your usual passenger vehicle. Plenty of parking space there so you will never end up having to find a slot on the street even in the busiest months.

A welcome sight after the long drive...

Our room was also spacious and well appointed and there was no problem at all with finding space for our gear. The beds were very inviting but I know from experience that after having driven 13 hours it is best to take some time to relax before trying to sleep. We were also hungry so we went down to the restaurant that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter how late or how early you walk in there, a friendly crew and a full menu card awaits you. The kitchen is a nice combination of international and Hungarian and the food is excellent. Not at all the kind of characterless stuff so many hotels offer you at exorbitant prices. The Airport Hotel in Budapest serves you great food at moderate prices any hour of the day or night.

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