Friday, February 29, 2008

More follow-ups

Happy Leap Day! I wanted to end the month by following up on a few previous posts.

• The office relocation ordeal is over, and, with two full weeks at the new office complete, things are about what I had expected. Which is to say, no me gusta.

As it turns out, I don't even get a cubicle at this new office: a "cubicle" would imply partitions on at least three sides of my work area. Instead, I've been assigned to a "workstation" - that is, a desk that's open on both sides. I can look to my left or my right and see what the folks at the workstations next to me are doing, and they, likewise, can see what I'm doing. I get to listen to everybody else's telephone conversations. They get to listen to mine. I'm not expecting complete privacy at my work, but this arrangement is distracting. Needless to say, my iPod has become an important work accessory.

The traffic situation, likewise, is about what I expected. It's horrible. Not just during the morning or afternoon rush, either. San Felipe, the West Loop, and even the side streets are congested all day. The traffic is so bad that simply getting into and out of the parking garage is an ordeal in and of itself. I've been leaving the office at 3:30 in order to avoid the worst of the afternoon rush just to make sure I can get to Kirby's daycare to pick him up at 5.

On the bright side, the "original" inhabitants of the office have been welcoming and friendly. Lunch options also appear to be better at this location, due to the large number of eating establishments in the area. All things considered, however, from now on I'll probably be working from home a lot more often. Considering that my boss is in Dallas, most of the people I work with are in other parts of the country, and my laptop and company VPN setup allows me to do just about anything from home that I could do at the office, there just isn't a need to be there on a daily basis.

• The British citizen who was detained at Dubai's airport last September and who was later sentenced to four years in prison because 0.003 of a gram of marijuana - a speck smaller than a grain of sugar - was found on his shoe has been pardoned. Common sense finally prevails in this case. While I certainly understand with the UAE's desire to keep drugs out of their country, and while I don't have a great deal of sympathy for DJs who "forget" about that joint in their pocket when they arrive in Dubai, when it comes to enforcement there's a difference between what is sensible and prudent and what is simply draconian.

That being said, travelers to Dubai need to be aware of the UAE's strict drug laws and obey them accordingly. Excuses like "I forgot it was in my pocket" or "but it was for my personal use" don't even fly here in the States, so there's no way they'll work over there. Don't be stupid.

• Speaking of travel to Dubai, it looks like it just might finally happen for me. I was originally slated to fly out there last fall to help with a project for the massive Dubailand development, but that assignment kept getting delayed and eventually disappeared. However, over the past week I've been informed that my help will likely be needed for a new project beginning in mid-March. Nothing is completely certain yet - tasks, schedules and travel arrangements have yet to be finalized - but this looks promising. It's been over a year since my last trip to Dubai, and I'd love to see how things have progressed at the World's Biggest Construction Site since my last visit, so I'm hoping this turns out to be for real. I'll keep everyone informed.

• If I do get sent back to Dubai, I hope I'll be able to fly Emirates nonstop this time. The service that began last December has been so successful that at the beginning of this month Emirates expanded their service from flights three days a week to daily flights.

How successful has the air connection been so far? Consider this: the IAH-DXB service operated three times a week during the month of January for a total of 26 take-offs and landings, and the Boeing 777-200LR aircraft used by Emirates for the IAH-DXB service seats 266 passengers, so the total number of inbound and outbound seats on this service for the month of January was 6,916. According to January statistics posted on Houston Airport System's website, a total of 6,918 passengers were enplaned to and deplaned from Emirates flights during that month. In other words: these flights were all completely full. Little wonder, then, that Emirates went to daily service so quickly.

Based on my own personal experience flying from Houston to Dubai in the past - I noticed that a lot of people on my KLM flights from Houston to Amsterdam were also on my flights from Amsterdam to Dubai, and vice versa - I had a feeling that this service was going to be successful. Although it remains to be seen how the addition of so many new seats created by daily service will affect the equation, and although there might be a novelty associated with this new service that will wear off after time, so far it appears that I was right.

• Unfortunately, not all of the international service news out of Intercontinental has been good. China Airlines discontinued their Houston-to-Taipei service in January, and Mexican carrier Aviacsa pulled out of the Houston market as well. The China Airlines service made a stop in Seattle between Houston and Taipei, and the fact that the foreign airline couldn't carry passengers between Houston and Seattle meant that this leg of the trip was not economical for them in the face of rising fuel costs. Aviacsa claims that their decision to exit the Houston market is the result of temporary restructuring and that they plan to resume service to Mexico in March or April. Whether that actually happens, however, remains to be seen.

And remember that interesting all-business-class service concept between Houston and Aberdeen, Scotland that City Star Airlines was supposed to begin this year? Not gonna happen. After announcing a delay in the proposed Houston service last December, City Star ceased all operations at the end of January following an incident at Aberdeen's airport last November.

Not all the news at Intercontinental is bad, however. Singapore Airlines plans to begin service between Houston and Singapore with a stop in Moscow in March, and Qatar Airlines anticipates the inauguration of nonstop service between Houston and Doha later this year.

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