Archive for June, 2007

Cube, capsule, cabana, box or what?

June 19th, 2007

Yo brother! A style that swept Japan* in the 1970s is back with a vengeance and about to land at airports. It’s called capsule sleeping Jim, but not as we know it ….

Yotel has announced that online bookings open next month for its new cabin capsule accommodation at Gatwick airport outside London. Just like flying, you can choose your sleeping class, the difference being between a 10 sq metre or 7 square metre cube, both with “internal rather than external windows”, which doesn’t sound very appealing.

A Yotel Heathrow is due to open in September and a third is planned for central London in 2008. The brains behind this new/old style sleepover is the man who spread the Yo! sushi train concept around London.

Simon Woodroffe explains the cabin window conundrum thus: “Windows face onto a corridor. Of course, guests can have total light and sound privacy by just closing the shutters if they wish.”

This total lack of natural light makes Yotel sound like the airport cousin of those cheap and windowless easyHotel rooms in central London, Budapest and Basl. But Woodroffe reckons Yotel’s improved comforts will win over fatigued business travellers.

A night in a standard Yotel capsule will cost $130 but, if faced with sudden delays or lengthy lay-overs, you can book a minimum initial four-hour block ($58 standard, $94 premium) then stay on by the hour (from $11.50 an hour, standard cube).

Yotel Gatwick is located in Gatwick’s South Terminal. Each air-conditioned cabin has a sofa that converts to a bed, a work desk, en-suite bathroom with shower, free Internet connection and flat-screen TV. Food can be ordered from an on-screen cabin service menu or eaten in a 24-hour galley.

Expect the concept to spread worldwide. Does it sound like your kind of place? Or does it leave you lukewarm, like those unwanted dishes on a Yo! sushi train?

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* In 1972 Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa ushered in a cubic revolution with his Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo’s Ginza district. This world first had 140 fully-furnished, box-shaped replaceable living units suspended from a central core. Kurokawa’s ideas for the high life didn’t catch on but stripped to its bare bones the cube concept was a runaway success – the Japanese capsule hotel. Kurokawa later designed Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.

The Jonah Complex

June 8th, 2007

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The length of time it now takes to get on or off a Boeing 747 or Airbus 340 is already a fractious and tedious element of flying, particularly at some airports. Now we face the imminent introduction of the double-decker Airbus 380 (above) into our travelling lives.

Imagine the queues to board this new behemoth. How long will take to discharge 555 passengers at the end of a flight? That’s 35% more passengers than on a Boeing 747. Maybe airlines will stuff booklets on patience management into each seat pocket?

It could be worse. The Airbus 380 passenger count could be 666, the number of the beast. Packed to capacity in a one class configuration, the superjumbo is capable of carrying as many as 853 passengers. But no airline would ever do that, would it?

And consider, also, the announced comfort advantages to be offered by the world’s biggest-ever passenger aircraft. An extra inch of shoulder room in economy class! Did I detect a Gallic shrug of indifference?

When, eventually, you do find your seat on your first superjumbo flight, take a look around and consider this: it would take 35 million ping pong balls to fill the aircraft – or 4.5 million tennis balls! But will sporty comparisons like this make you feel more comfortable, less like the proverbial sardine? And talking of fish, from nose-to-tail the plane measures 72.6 metres, slightly longer than two blue whales. Consider yourself Jonah. Gulp!

One of these big birds flew in and out of Sydney this week to rev up interest and provide a quick free promotional flip to selected Qantas corporate mates, premium frequent flyers and a gaggle of local aviation scribes. But it will be Singapore Airlines that’s first off the block with commercial passenger flights. It takes delivery of its first commercial superjumbo in October. That aircraft has already been decked out in the airline’s livery and will carry 555 passengers in a typical three class configuration.

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Airbus 380 delivery has been extensively delayed by problems with the aircraft’s electrical systems. Qantas won’t get its first superjumbo until August next year. It’s said it will limit the number of passengers to 525.


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