Dec 092004

As I sit down to jot some notes for the blog, I have to chuckle a bit as I make a small discovery about my own blogging patterns: More often than not, these blog entries are written on the road, in the quiet moments between gate change announcements and powered device curfew on board. “white lights lead to red lights which indicate the exit” “even though oxygen is flowing, the bag will not inflate”

On better days (and in better airports), blogging occurs curled up in a large cushy chair in a quiet corner, shoes kicked off, sipping tomato juice from the snack bar while surfing the wifi web from my obscenely thin Sony x505 notebook.

Today’s Kodak moment: two sides of the lounge are wrapped in floor to ceiling glass, framing a famously dreary, drizzly, dwindling Seattle day. The weather does little to diminish the absurd collision of perspective in the room; the nose of a 737-400 looks over my shoulder just an arm’s length beyond the glass. If it were a horse I’d have to give it a carrot to keep it from nibbling on my notebook or shirt collar.

In less enlightened ports of call, one may have to resort to “outlet squatting”: camping out on cold concrete floors in the middle of drafty hallways to tap into the only power outlet visible for miles, outlets that were clearly placed for the convenience of the floor waxer, not the power-hungry fare-paying passenger. The worst offenders in my recent memory are the Memphis and DFW airports. Speaking from personal experience, you can find better power and wifi coverage in Antarctica than in some US airports. (Hint for DFW: seek out the shoeshine stand niches. There’s always power where a kiosk was intended. Most of the niches are now empty, but the outlets are usually still “hot”)

The true masochists set out kiosks with internet enabled terminals (sometimes for a fee, sometimes free), but keep the power strip under lock and key.

Atlanta’s Hartfield airport seems to be waking up to passenger demand for power. New banks of “recharge stations” have been added to the B and C concourses, offering a simple shelf, stool, and 120 beautiful volts to savor. SFO hasn’t made direct homage to the voltage vampires, but at least there’s an outlet at the foot of every pillar in the seating areas.

One of the nicest perks of the recently consummated codeshare alliance between Alaska and Delta airlines is sharing of lounge facilities. Delta doesn’t fly enough traffic through Seattle to justify the cost of building their own lounge, whereas Seattle is Alaska’s largest hub city, and thus largest lounge as well. A big surprise on this my first visit to the Alaska passenger lounge is that wireless access is free (more accurately: included in the lounge membership fee). Delta provides wireless in their lounges, but at an additional fee (TMobile hotspots).

Granted, access to the airlines’ private passenger lounges does not come cheap. But for anyone who needs to finish presentation slides (or software!) while en route to the client, check email, or VPN into the office network to remote desktop into their office machine to finish debugging a tricky problem app, passenger lounges and wifi in transit are well worth the price of admission.