An Airline, Two Bags, and An Airport

Virgin Atlantic

 

Here’s an odd one for you. Even though I mostly write about gaming stuff, this time I’m giving you a little something different. I’m going to review an airline, a travel bag (or 2), and an airport.

For those of you that don’t know, my wife is from New Zealand. Every year we try and make the trip back to see her family in the home country. Since I’ve made this trip multiple times now, I kind of consider myself an expert on the subject of traveling, at least traveling internationally on long trips. So I was thinking to myself what better time to throw in some reviews and relate it all together somehow into the gaming world, as I have just returned from another such trip.

If you’re unfamiliar with air travel these days then there is a lot to learn. Price, while usually a factor in your choice of airline, shouldn’t be the determining factor (unless you can’t avoid it). The first time I flew to New Zealand was on a Qantas 747 and it was a miserable flight of a trip. I stand around 6 foot 2 tall and the seats were probably the most cramped thing I have ever had the displeasure to be stuck in for a 14 hour flight. The in-flight entertainment was pretty awful as well. We had 3 movies (that I don’t recall, except for one being about some guy who carved wood) and there was only one screen for each aisle, at the front of each aisle. Needless to say I have flown everything from Qantas to United and they have all been pretty crap.

Last year I found out that Virgin Airlines had started a Pacific Ocean division called VAustralia. My wife had flown Virgin Atlantic before to the U.K. and had nothing but good things to say about them. I checked into VAustralia and booked our flights to New Zealand with a layover in Sydney, Australia. The added bonus was that they had the lowest airfare on the market. This time around was no different with the exception that our layover would be in Brisbane, Australia as VAustralia doesn’t fly direct to New Zealand, yet.

The flight. Oh my god this is the best airline I have ever flown. From the get go these guys are hands down number one. The staff is all incredibly friendly, the seats are nice, and there is a ton of leg room for a cattle car (read economy) class seat. The entertainment is first class at every seat; you get your own monitor and a choice of about 20 or 30 movies with over half of them being new releases. You also get a game system built into it with an actual controller. Granted it’s closer to an SNES controller, but hey, it’s an airline. Games ranged from Poker and Pacman to Sudoku and a rally racing game. Graphics and gameplay were average at best, but for an airline it was a great addition to carve away the hours until you can fall asleep.

Virgin has also thought up something that just makes sense. I used to tell people to bring a big bottle of water on your flight as you should drink a lot and you don’t want to wait on a stewardess. With 9-11 and the ensuing security measures, I changed it to bring an empty water bottle through the checkpoint and fill it at a drinking fountain before boarding the plane. With VAustralia you can ditch the empty bottle because they give you a bottle of water at every seat AND they tell you to keep it because they have a number of refill stations on the plane where you can refill your bottle at any time. One less thing to carry on the plane, thank you.

That brings me to another subject that been a bit of a pet peeve for me. All the dumbasses that think they need to carry on every damn thing they have. Seriously people check your damn bags! It’s a long flight; it’s not going to hurt you to wait an extra 10 minutes at the baggage carousel after the flight, if even that long once you clear customs. The stuff I take on the plane anymore is minimal, a book, my phone/ipod, headphones, my glasses/ contacts supply (for longer flights), my toothbrush (again on longer flights, which I consider over 8 hours a longer flight), and a sweatshirt if it’s cold out. I don’t know why people think they need to take the biggest bag they can squeeze through the door or why the ground crew even lets it in the cabin, but it’s annoying as hell when I can’t put my small backpack in the overhead by my seat because some jackass has his 2 massive bags, his backpack, and his giant bag of duty free crap in the overhead by my seat when he is sitting 2 rows away. You sir, I call an asshole. Anyways enough rant. If you’re flying anywhere in the world, Virgin is worth checking in to.

Next up on my list is your travel bag.  Gamers, writers, whatever you are, if you have a hobby, odds are it has a convention somewhere and odds are you want to go. You’re going to need a bag to get all your crap there, and guess what. At conventions they give a lot of shit away. Enter Ogio and their line of bags. Ogio makes backpacks, travel bags, carry on bags, even golf bags. I have a couple of their bags. The big 9800 bag and a smaller bag called the Layover. For short trips I take the Layover. Its compact size is regulation for airline carry on bags and fits in perfectly in the overhead storage compartment. The bag is well built with wheels and an extendable handle to make pulling it around a breeze. Also if you get more crap than you came with it has a zipper you can undo to expand the bag to make it bigger. I took this bag with me to PAX Prime this year and ended up checking it in on my way home because I had put so much swag in it.

While I love the little Ogio bag I have, my pride and joy for traveling is my Ogio 9800 bag in Mothwing camo. Seriously this is the bag all other bags aspire to. First off its Mothwing camo, which makes it super easy to find in the baggage claim, secondly it’s got industrial heavy duty wheels and a hard plastic skid plate on the entire bottom. Technically this bag was made for motocross riders to travel with all their gear, which doesn’t mean it’s without its use for the non moto crowd. It’s got plenty of divided sections, an expandable lid, a heavy duty pull handle and is just so overbuilt that I don’t think any baggage handler could ever damage this thing. Hit a curb while pulling it along behind you? No problem, the skid plate slides over it until the wheels hook back up and roll. And it protects everything like nobodys business for a soft bag; I can’t say I’ve ever had anything break inside it. It’s a little pricey for a bag (retail is almost $280) but if you travel a lot, or just want a really cool and tough bag this is more than worth it. Not to mention it will hold 2 weeks of clothes and ton of other crap in it without breaking a sweat.

How many times have you ever read an airport review? Never? Me either, so here’s some quick words on the subject. When I fly internationally, I have to fly out of Los Angeles International, or LAX for short. Never mind that there are two other “International” airports closer to me, everything around here goes through LAX, regardless.  So anyways, LAX is not the easiest airport to get around. Being the veteran traveler that I am I have no problems, as I’ve been through there countless times, but I can see how new people can easily get lost. Back in 1984 when Los Angeles held the summer Olympics, LAX made a bunch of cosmetic changes to help out travelers, they used a bunch of pictures and colors to designate things, which is fine if you’re not color blind. Still LAX isn’t the worst to get around in, I found Chicago-O’Hare International a ton more confusing.

But what I wanted to praise here was Brisbane International Airport over in Australia. I’ve visited Brisbane airport 3 times now and the only thing that sucks is the lack of a McDonalds in the airport, which just seems weird to me. Inside the layout of the airport is really well done and makes for finding your gate incredibly easy. It is seriously hard to get lost in here. But one of the best things about this airport is that the train is literally right outside the terminal. I mean it’s like a 2 minute walk to get on the train. Not like Seattle’s light rail, that you have to walk through a bunch of parking structures, this is seriously walk out the door, take a few steps and get on the train. And from there it’s just a few minutes into the city. If you have a layover of more than a couple hours I highly recommend you take a short trip into the city and have a look around. If you have an 8 hour or more layover and the time is right, then stop at the help desk in the airport and get the koala sanctuary tour package. You get a train ride into Brisbane city, where you get onto a boat and travel down the Brisbane river to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is a pretty cool trip down to see some kangaroos and Koalas. And you pay for the entire thing right in the airport. More airports should be so helpful.

So there you go. I talked about an airline, a couple bags, and an airport.