05 April 2008

United Economy Section not so good for laptops users...

Thankfully I don't have to travel too much on business - there are plenty of things to do right here in the office most of the time. However, I do get a chance to escape the office now and again, and the Hadoop Summit in California a couple weeks ago was one such opportunity.

The summit was awesome, you can see some of the notes I took in earlier postings here. I talked to a lot of people, heard a lot of good presentations, and got tons of good information about the Hadoop roadmap, future directions, etc. All very good stuff.

The point of this post, however, is not to heap praises on the Yahoo! folks for such a great meeting, it's to chat a bit about Economy Class on United Airlines. When I did the on-line check-in thing for the flight from BOS to SFO, United offered me the chance to upgrade to "Economy Plus" for an extra $60 to get more legroom. "No thanks", I clicked and thought nothing further about it. Then I got on the airplane (wasn't it George Carlin who said "Let Evil Kneivel get ON the plane, I am getting IN the plane...", but I digress...). As we reached the altitude "at which it is safe for portable electronic devices to be used", I reach for my laptop...just as the guy ahead of me reclined for what turned out to be a 6 hour snooze across the country. Hmmm, uhhhhh......not enough room between seats to uhhh open the lid on my Lenovo T60. Ugh. So I broke out the pad of paper and pen to jot down some notes and uhhhhhhh not enough room to even write comfortably.

Fortunately, the guy sitting next to me turned out to be an interesting fellow starting up a hedge fund, and so I spent the rest of the trip happilly chatting away about everything from technology to politics.

On the return flight I'm nobody's fool. I really really want to get a good 5 hours of work done on the plane (or should that be "in the plane"...) and so I pony up the extra $60 for the Economy Plus seat. It was a night-and-day difference. I flipped open the laptop, stretched out, and used up both batteries writing code.

Now I'm not gonna gripe too much about the Welcome-To-Economy-Sorry-About-The-Laptop seat on the flight out...the ticket was cheap enough, particulary for a non-stop flight ($339, BOS->SFO), but I would like to:

A. Recommend the hell out of Economy Plus if you have to fly United and you want to work
B. Encourage the airlines to think about the impact such narrow seating has on business travelers
C. Remind myself to get to the gym a little more often...maybe if I skinny up enough the Econony section won't be so bad...

Given the State of the Airline Industry I am pessimistic about anything happening with respect to (B) above, but I sure do feel better getting this rant off my chest....

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