"The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the other fellow of a dull one"
Sid Ceasar, American comic actor

Laudable or ludicrous? ANA's latest fuselage fandango?
posted by Richard Green on 29/10/2019

Can you see what it is yet? Well it's an airborne interpretation of the humanoid robot 'C-3PO' from Star Wars of course. And I reckon if you are going to adopt a fun livery, you may as well go the whole hog and execute it well, as All Nippon Airways (ANA) have done.

ANA is a Japanese airline with a 5-star rating (as per the Skytrax) that has long had a tie-in with the Star Wars franchise. The particular paintjob above first flew in March 2017, and to mark The Rise of Skywalker's release (the latest of the Star Wars slew), ANA has published the flights that the big yellow C-3PO Boeing 777-200 will operate to, plus some extra treats for its passengers.

Looking at the details, the large swirls represent the 'primary power coupler outlet' (the circle on C-3PO's chest), the black lines are the external wiring, the gold colour echo's the metal plates, and the black section is the battery pack - I think.

Lest anyone forget, C-3PO is a humanoid robot who made his first appearance back in the 1977 original Star Wars film. The likeable metal 'man' is the protocol droid with a frightfully pleasant demeanour, designed to assist with customs, etiquette and translation - it's fluent in six million 'languages' apparently.

And ANA has modified the interior too - in this case to reflect the human-like robots's gold coloured 'skin' and visible circuitry. Surely George Lucas at his most visionary couldn't have foreseen a 136-ton aircraft sporting a C-3PO themed livery complete with golden pinnys and antimacassars in the cabin.

The ANA treatment follows in a long line of creative paintjobs; some of which are on MyBathroomWall, like Nok's brill bird beaks, Icelandair's Aurora Borealis, Kulula's playing a livery for laughs, and Braniff's wonderful jelly bean liveries of old.

Back to ANA's C-3PO though - if anyone happens to be travelling between Tokyo and Itami or Fukuoka on certain dates in December passengers will receive branded boarding certificates and the chance to win 'a variety of prizes' - pin badges and pens yes, but also a plane model autographed by Anthony Daniels - the chap who has played C-3PO from the first film onwards.

And with impressive thoroughness, ANA has even gone so far as to C-3PO brand safety cards, pens, model planes, though perhaps not sick bags. Passengers even get credit card sized commemorative boarding 'certificates' too.








For more information, crank up the volume and visit ANA Star Wars Project


How can ANA work for you?

Getting to Japan: ANA has its hubs at Tokyo's Narita and Osaka's Kansai International airports, and operates flights across Japan, and to Japan from Europe, Asia and the USA. It's largely a business focussed airline, with the exception of its Hawaii flights and a few other holiday destinations. 

Pro's: ANA was awarded five stars for the fourth consecutive year by the world's leading Airline and Airport review site, SKYTRAX, and was also the launch customer and current biggest operator of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. On board service is very good indeed, and the airline has an especially good business class product, not least with dining on demand. My whim to have a lobsters curry from the menu a little before a morning landing was a tad eccentric, but it was as delicious and memorable an in-flight meal as I've ever had.

& Cons: It's not so easy to find cheap fare deals on ANA, as the carrier is gunning for the higher yielding business passenger, rather than holidaymakers.

The frequent flyer club: the ANA Mileage Club has more than 26 million members and thanks to ANA's membership of the Star Alliance, has a large number of airline and other travel partners on which to collect and spend points.

A few facts: ANA was founded in 1952 as a helicopter operator, and has grown into the largest airline in Japan, carrying 47 million passengers in 2017. A big boost came in 1986 when the government of Japan lifted the condition that state owned Japan Air Lines (JAL) be the only carrier allowed to operate international flights.

ANA now flies to 87 international routes and 116 domestic routes with a fleet of around 250 aircraft, with an average age of about 10 years. It also owns the regional airline ANA Wings, the low cost carrier Vanilla Air, and it's also a majority stakeholder in naffly named Peach and wait for it - Air Do.

For further information see ANA

All you need to know about connecting flights...
posted by Richard Green on 22/10/2019

Glancing hurriedly at the departure's board can eat up a few minutes at the world's biggest airport hubs

Making a transfer between two flights can be a great way of getting somewhere cheaply, but it can prove stressful too, and especially so if the first flight is delayed, or if the connection is tight.

Happily, every airport has an MCT (minimum connecting time), which is a semi-scientific calculation of the time needed to change planes there. It takes into account the amount or walking involved for passengers to get from one gate to another, and how quickly the airport is able to move hold luggage from one plane to another.

The MCT is different for each airport. Vienna airport’s MCT is just 30 minutes, but Heathrow - between terminals 1 and 4 say – is an hour and a half.  

The good news is that airlines, web booking sites, and travel agents, will only book connecting flights that are equal to or more than the MCT for the transit airport on your journey.  

However, things don't always go to plan, so here are some tips on how to make a smooth connection...

When booking: save stress and book flights that are a decent time apart - 90 minutes is a sensible blanket minimum. It makes sense to have some leeway, just in case, plus I (like many people) prefer to stretch my legs, browse of the shops, and as likely as not have a beer in the bar. 

If you are worried at the booking stage and find that your only available option is a fairlytight connection, then consider choosing an aisle seat towards the front of the aircraft - it could save you a good 10 minutes when you are trying to disembark from a packed flight.

When packing: it's vital to know what's happening with your hold luggage. If you are transiting an airport like Dubai or Singapore on the way to your final destination, then you won't need to collect your luggage as it will be checked all the way through. However the rule is that you need to clear customs at your first point of entry to a country, so if you are flying from London to Baton Rouge via Atlanta, then you will need to collect your luggage in Atlanta, check in and make your way to the next flight's gate.

Try to keep your hand luggage to a minimum as you will have to lug this between gates when you change planes.

Airport signage can resemble a challenge from the Crystal Maze. An airport map can save time

In flight: the departure gate of your connecting flight may be printed on your boarding pass, but if your flights are long haul it is unlikely the airline will know so many hours in advance.

some airlines have real time flight connections information on the in-flight entertainment menu, or sometimes this is shown on the overhead screens just before landing. You can save valuable time if you already know the gate number your next flight leaves from before you land. To stay ahead of the game you should download a flight status app onto your smart phone or tablet - handy for airlines with in-flight wi-fi.

Once you know the gate number of your next flight, you'll probably find a gate map of the airline's hub airport in the in-flight magazine. If not, look for one on the airport's website using wi-fi, or look at the airport map that you printed out before you left home.

Some terminals are vast and have bewilderingly complicated signage - especially confusing if you are in a hurry with little time to spare - as you can't always afford to make a mistake. If you don't know the gate, look at the first departure screen you see, or ask a member of airport staff so they can point you in the right direction.

If your first flight is delayed: any decent airline will help out – possibly by delaying the second flight, or by escorting you to the next plane. And if you miss the second flight altogether, and through no fault of your own, the airline will book you onto the next available option, at no extra cost.

Don't suffer in silence; the sooner you let the airline staff know, the better. Tell the cabin crew, as they can help with terminal directions, seat you towards the front on landing so you can get off quicker, or if you are very late, get someone to escort you to your next gate, or even drive you across the tarmac to your next flight.

Low cost airline connections: none of the above applies if your flights are on two different bookings, even if they are with the same airline. If so you are on your own I'm afraid.

The same goes for connecting on low cost airlines like Wizz, EasyJet, Ryanair and so on. The latter suggests allowing at least 150 minutes between connecting flights. If you have done this and your first Ryanair flight is delayed so badly as to make you miss the second planned Ryanair flight then the airline will help you by rebooking you onto the next available flight to your final destination. 

Air Baltic is a low cost carrier based in Riga, Latvia, which already operates a booking and baggage system that handles connecting flights, so that passengers flying from London to Tbilisi say, will have their bags checked through.

As airports grow ever larger, walking distances between gates balloon too

Cities with multiple airports: like Paris, New York, Tokyo or Buenos Aeries, can be especially tricky. It makes sense to keep life simply by only booking flights that connect through the one airport. London has six airports for example, and schlepping from one to another is a big hassles. You'll have to cart all of your luggage (including any checked into the hold) to the next airport, plus there's the extra expense of taxis or public transport in between.

At first glance you might think that using the Underground or Metro system is the best option, but you'll have your hold luggage with you, which is irksome at the best of times, but becomes unmanageable in a rush hour. Best if you can to book a direct bus link between the two airports.

Do you need a transit visa? Travel agents should tell you if you need a transit visa to make a connection in another country, but this won't be the case for online bookings. So it's best to investigate this via your own countries passport agency.

Moscow honours Peter the Great with a 98m statue...of Christopher Columbus?
posted by Richard Green on 08/10/2019

Moscow's controversial Peter the Great Statue is a 98-metre-high structure that looks something from Terry Guilliam's 'Adventures of Baron Munchausen' film. It sits on a promontory at the western confluence of the Moskva River and the Vodootvodny Canal in the centre of the city. Muscovites hate it as much as the real Peter the Great hated their city - so much so that it was the 2m tall Tzar who moved the country's capital to St Petersberg.

It weighs around a thousand tons and was erected in 1997 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's founding of the Russian Navy by the Georgian-Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli (born January 4, 1934).

Peter at the helm of one of the world's worst statues. Photo My Bathroom Wall

It's not just Muscovites who loathe the statue - most tourists are left non-plussed too, and several times it's awfulness has been highlighted in various polls - being voted the tenth ugliest building in the world by Virtual Tourist in 2008, and it was included in a list of the world's ugliest statues by Foreign Policy magazine in 2010. 

I know that I don't have to live with it on my horizon, but walking from Red Square, over the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, and coming to the momument unexpectedly, and through the buzzing Park iskusstv Muzeon, I rather liked it. Putting the controversy to one side, in a city as heavy with dourness and brutish symbolism as Moscow, it felt like finding some whimsey, even if it is a gigantic twice-the-height-of-the-Staue-of-Liberty whimsey.    

The artist Zurab Tsereteli is a pal of Moscow's former Mayor Yury Luzhkov, and has received several plum commissions under his patronage. But that mayor left office in 2010 and rumour has it that the current authorities lost little time in offering their dog's dinner of a statue to Saint Petersburg and other cities, but the offers were turned down. 

The statue is across the water from the excellent Park Iskusstv. Photo My Bathroom Wall

Adding to its unloved status is the fact that many people are convinced that the statue is actually based on a design intended to commemorate Christopher Columbus. It's said that it was designed in 1992 to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage, but even that powerful peg seems to have left an entire continent unmoved. Once it was clear that an American home couldn't be found for it, it was tweaked by the artist and repurposed as Peter the Great.

Peter the Great, Christopher Columbus, or even Peter the Columbus; you be the judge? 

Tsereteli denies the story, but my guide in the city pointed out that the ships piled under Peter are nothing like Russian ships of Peter's period, and instead look like 19th Century Spanish Caravel of the type contemporary with Columbus. Funny that eh?

Seventeenth century European naval ships, or 19th century Spanish galleons? Photo My Bathroom Wall

Two more things...

Zurab Tsereteli's Columbus statue in Puerto Rico. This similarly colossal statue is about twice the height of New York's Statue of Liberty or Rio's Christ the Redeemer, and was also designed by Tsereteli, who began the work in 1991. It was gifted to the people of Columbus, Ohio (who awkwardly said no thanks, it's too ugly), Cleveland (likewise), and then it was snubbed by Baltimore, Boston, Ft Lauderdale, Miami, and New York.

Arecibo's Columbus statue was dubbed 'Chris Kong' owing to its perceived ugliness

At least this time the controversy wasn't over the statue's central character, which does appear to be Christopher Columbus - it was completed in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' landfall in the new world. But the 60-metre tall creation, known as Birth of the New World, was touted all over the USA until the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico finally gave in and ended the statue's 20 years in the wilderness by agreeing to stump up the $12m needed to build a plinth and assemble its 2,750 pieces of bronze and steel. 

Since 14 June 2016 Tsereteli's Columbus has stood by Highway 681 outside the coastal town of Arecibo, 70 kilometres west of San Juan, but only after a petition by the Taino people objecting to anything that commemorates Columbus arrival in the new world - as for Puerto Rico, like elsewhere in the region, it lead directly to a genocide of native peoples.

Observers hate the small head, the over-long arms and the flippant raised-hand greeting most, plus sticklers have noted that the steering wheel being clutched by Columbus wasn't invented until 200 years after Columbus' voyage.

As if more evidence were needed as a litmus test in taste, presidential nominee Donald Trump likes it - “It’s got forty million dollars worth of bronze in it...” he told the New Yorker magazine in 1997, adding that “The mayor of Moscow has written a letter to Rudy Giuliani stating that they would like to make a gift of this great work....I am absolutely favorably disposed toward [the statue]". 

Peter the Great in Deptford, London. There is a curious statue of Peter the Great in Deptford, London too. It pays tribute to the fact that Peter made a three-month visit the city in 1698, on a reconnaissance trip to help create Russia's navy. Despite being the first Tzar to venture abroad for over a hundred years, mystery surrounds aspects of the visit, but it seems he travelled disguised as one Peter Mikhailov. He met the King and several other movers and shakers, but informally and without the pomp of a state visit, and eventually relocated to Sayes Court in Deptford, so as to be closer to the shipyards. 

The house in Deptford - long since demolished - belonged the the English writer and diarist, John Evelyn. Peter seems to have trashed the place, leaving over 50 chair damaged or broken up for firewood, 300 windows broken and 25 paintings damaged. The property eventually became a workhouse, and these days is a development of flats. 

The surreal ensemble includes a pin-headed Peter, a dwarf and an empty chair. The dwarf is apparently reference to Peter's fascination with human exotica, as perceived in 17th Century Europe anyway, and this chap was his favourite court dwarf. The chair is his travelling throne.  

The curious Peter the Great ensemble in Deptford, London. Photo diamond geezer/Flickr


puzzle Moscow seems to be underrated as a city break destination, largely because of the hassle and expense of getting a visa, plus owing to the relative distance from much of western Europe. The visa cost does make it tempting to visit St Petersburg in the same trip, or even to tour the famous Golden Ring of ancient Russian cities to the northeast of Moscow. 
31 Moscow has several airports, the largest of which are Sheremetyevo Airport, which is 29 kilometres northwest of Moscow, and handled 31m passengers in 2015, and Domodedovo, which is 42 kilometres southeast of the city and handled 30m passengers in 2015. There are flights to Moscow from all across Europe, plus from Asia, Africa and the Americas. See Aeroflot, S7 Airlines.  
weather The best time to visit Moscow is probably in the Spring, when temperatures reach the 50s and 60s, the sun shines for much of the days, and hotel prices are manageable. Summer are great too, with late evenings and warm temperatures - though it can get hot and gritty at times, plus very busy with tourists, and there is a spike in hotel prices. Winter has its special atmosphere in the city, but it can get extremely cold. 
35 I travelled to Moscow as a guest of Political Tours, which specialises in running politically focussed tours in a number of the world's more contentious regions. Or try the Russia Experience or Cox & Kings. See the Russian National Tourist Office

Kulula's comedy fuselage has arrows pointing to the 'Nose Cone', 'Engine' and 'Black Box'...
posted by Richard Green on 04/10/2019

Kulula is a South Africa low cost carrier that wears its sense of humour on its fuselage. On the face of it, jibing about the captain being the 'big cheese', numbering the wings 'wing #1' and 'wing#2', and jokingly showing where the black box is kept (with brackets saying 'which is actually orange'), could be a high risk strategy, given the serious nature of flying.

But Kulula's irreverence and jocularity is a long established part of the airline's corporate personality, and as such it gets away with it. There is even a dotted outline of a toilet at the rear of the fuselage with a large arrow saying 'Loo (or mile-high club initiation chamber)'.

The tongue-in-cheek 'Flying 100' concept was dreamt up by the airline's in-house design team; a result of a 2010 initiative to 'demystify air travel for our fans'. The airline has encouraged mirth on board too, with lines uttered by cabin crew that include; "Kulula Airlines is pleased to announced that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"; "People, people, we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it."; and "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”

Kulula has an admirable no-nonsense style and uses clear and simple English throughout. The Website for example, has 'Flying 101' sections that explain in splendidly clear and simple terms, issues such as lost luggage, what taxes and fees make up the ticket price, and why never ever - even in jest - to josh about having a bomb in your bag. Trust me, I've worked at enough airports to know that this happens. Kulula gives a recent example at George airport where the check-in agent asked 'Do you have any sharp objects in your possession? 'No, just a bomb.' replied the passenger, which landed him in isolation, questioning and court, all on the same day.

But a decent sense of humour is the company's trademark. It calls its passengers 'fans' throughout its Website, majors on jokes in its advertising campaigns, and encourages its crews to make humorous passenger announcements. Another quirky addition to Kulula's livery line-up is an aircraft with 'THIS WAY UP' in huge letters on the side of the fuselage, complete with arrows as though on a packing crate containing fragile goods.

The regular Kulula livery is predominantly green, with large letter 'K' on the engines and tailplane, and the addition of a blue dot next to the 'K' at the rear of the fuselage.

How can Kulula work for you?

Getting around South Africa: Kulula flies to Cape Town, George, East London, Durban and Johannesburg. The airline uses both Jo'Burg's OR Tambo International and Lanseria airports.   

A few facts: the airline is South Africa's first low cost carrier and was formed in 2001. It's actually part of Comair, which has been flying in and around South Africa as a British Airways franchise carrier - meaning that it offers the BA product from BA liveried aircraft and BA uniformed crews, but is a separate airline from BA. Kulula has a fleet of 10 planes, nine of which are new Boeing 737-800s and one is a 737-400.

In 2010 Kulula fell foul of FIFA's mighty lack of a sense of humour when it was forced to pull an advertising campaign. At the time the World Cup was being hosted by South Africa, Kulula had described itself as the 'Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What', which takes place 'Not next year, not last year, but somewhere in between'. Of course this was referring to the FIFA Football World Cup. Another advert announced 'affordable flights to everybody except Sepp Blatter' (the then FIFA president), who was offered a free seat 'for the duration of that thing that is happening right now'.

Below is a silly Top Gun spoof Kalula TV ad.

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