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UA 857

UA 858 to SFO, while the KLM to Amsterdam takes off in background

Busy days are here again. That’s the main reason that I didn’t post anything here over the past 10 days or so. My day to day life is now mainly on Facebook, but even there I mainly post late at night or on weekends (my Twitter presence is getting less as well). I had forgotten how busy start-up life can be, especially when you are also talking to investors and still have some other obligations: investments in other companies/projects/real estate, mentor/advisor to several start-ups, media interviews etc. – plus a family… Even my runs are down to 1-2 per week right now, not good at all and something that will have to change very soon.

Last week Xander and I spent a few days in Silicon Valley again, mainly for talks with potential partners. Unitedstyles is actively partnering with fashion sites and communities and we were also selected by Silicon Valley Bank to present to a group of VCs at their SVB Showcase 2012 event.

Xander giving a talk at the SVB Showcase

A good trip, but flying half way around the world for 3 days is not the most healthy thing. For unitedstyles I normally fly cattle class again, meaning that I can’t really sleep (and hardly work because there are no power outlets in economy) on the long transpacific flights. So the 15-hour jet lag hits double hard. I only sleep about 4 hours per night on this kind of trips, which is enough to function normally for me but not enough to push myself to go for an early morning run. Luckily caffeine is readily available at every corner in the US!

I normally fly United from/to California, because that is the only airline with a direct connection from Shanghai to San Francisco. They have the daily UA858 PVG-SFO and UA857 SFO-PVG. Normally uneventful flights that seem to be on time most of the time. Airline staff is pretty strict and not overly friendly (they for example force you to watch the safety video if you sit in the first row, which I where I normally try to sit, even though I see these kind of airline videos about 100 times/year), but I have gotten used to that. I normally bring my own food (and from the US also my own drinks, in China you can’t board with liquids but in the US you still can…) and mostly avoid interaction with staff and other passengers. Flying is a necessity, not something you do for fun.

The only thing I notice is that the lavatories get extremely dirty towards the end of the flight. I had planned to write a post about this, because it seems to be much worse on this route than on other routes that I fly regularly. It probably has to do with the fact that there are only 4 or 5 toilets for the whole economy class, that the flight is normally almost fully booked and that it is quite long (up to 14 hours non-stop from San Francisco). On KLM flights I sometimes see that flight attendants clean the toilets during a long flight, on United I have never seen this (but maybe they do, I just didn’t notice it). Waste bins are so full that the paper is all over the ground, the toilet floor is often completely wet, there are marks from dirty shoes on the toilet seat etc. You probably catch my drift. On Friday the light in at least one the toilets did not work, so the others were even dirtier than usual. For this reason I try to avoid the toilets during the last part of the flight.

UA 858 Shanghai to San Francisco

Well, so far I did not write about it, but the reason that I am doing this now is because of this article about a major UA857 delay that someone tweeted to me. It seems that the Shanghai bound UA857 had to land in Anchorage because of malfunctioning toilets. From there things got from bad to worse with planes breaking down and with most people being stranded for 2 days in Alaska before flying on to China (or before deciding to just fly back). These things happen, and although it’s horrible to be in the middle of it, it’s better to be on the ground (even if in Alaska) when there are problems than somewhere 33,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean.

But the ironic thing is that the lavatories were blamed in the article. The exact same lavatories that I try to avoid during the last part of all of these flights. Coincidence? Probably. But I would not be surprised if this same thing happens on more of their direct flights to and from China. Maybe simple instructions on how to use the toilet in Chinese may help (more than once I have seen people that could not figure how to open the lavatory doors!), or a quick clean up by flight attendants every 2 hours or so.

My next trip from Shanghai to San Francisco is in about 4 weeks. I don’t expect it, but I hope they will implement a few changes until then. Happy flying…

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