Southwest Airlines sure has that Southern hospitality

My first encounter with Southwest Airlines left me a little dubious on the services that was to come. However, the service, the plane and the experience all rather surprised me and left me with a smile.

The check in was very lackadaisical and seats were not assigned. When we got to the lounge it was quite cramped and there wasn’t much space – when the boarding began people were pushing around and stepping over one another to get in line to get a good seat. I don’t like free for all seating for this reason. The space thing could be more to do with New Orleans Airport.

 

Once on, the plane was quite small and with leather (pleather) seats. However, the seats were comfortable and I settled in well. The staff were relaxed and chatty and it turns out I was actually sitting next to a flight crew member on reserve being flown to Houston for his next shift. We ended up talking, Aron and I, the entire flight. He was a lovely man originally from Austin and now living in Houston, Texas. He gave me great advice for Austin (namely that there isn’t much to do right now due to holidays) and talked to me about travel in USA.

 

It was lovely to hear the perspective of an airline worker in the USA and someone who lives there. We talked about a lot of travel related things and the differences in our countries. I’ve hopefully inspired him to carry on his travels down to Australia as he’s always wanted to go but never had the push to actually get there. It always helps when you know someone or have a friend in a new place.

 

During the 2 flights (New Orleans – Houston – Austin) the flight attendants were attentive offering nuts and drinks and were helpful to those around me.

 

We had good landings, a smooth ride and we were comfortable all the way.

 

So SouthWest, well done! You’ve certainly done more to impress me then your counterparts in recent years, American Airlines and Delta Airways whose service leads much to be desired.

Tips from Guatemala – Miguel from Mexico

My dear friend Miguel from Mexico is currently travelling in North and Central America on Business. He has written some tips and interesting facts about Guatemala! Also he has shown an interesting contrast between Mexican and Guatemalan way of life.

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FROM MIHU:
This message is not about my experience so far but what happened in Guatemala and some things that I can share with you that I found interesting and unique in this country.
Note for my English speaking friends: Some words and phrases are in Spanish so sorry if you don’t get those points.

• When you ask someone for something they reply “Que manda?”, in Mexico we usually say “mande”.
• In the bank were I worked they used open software such as open office and thundbird for handling their email accounts. It might sound pretty cool since they are saving money because of that but it’s a pain in the ass since what you can do compared to Excel is limited.
• The banks in Guatemala didn’t get that affected because of the financial crisis. Most of the banks have an old business model (basically saving and lending money, no future contracts, derivatives, etc). They only got affected because the big international banks cut their credit lines so it was harder for them to lend money to local companies.
• In Monterrey people go to McAllen, Texas to buy clothes, computers, etc because it’s cheaper to buy there than in Mexico. Guatemalans go to Tapachula, Chiapas. (in Mexico)


• There is a thing called “boleto de ornato” (ornate ticket) which is a tax that you have to pay in order to get your license and pay taxes. This tax is used to mantain public areas. I think this is a good idea since the local government doesn’t have to pay for the maintenance and they can focus that budget to other areas. Oh yeah, you can buy this “boleto de ornato” pretty much everywhere, the bank had a bunch of them.
• They have “tenencia” too. Tenencia is a tax where the Mexican and Guatemalan governments charge you for having a car.
• Only 30% of the population have bank accounts and/or credit/debit cards. This shows you how young is this market but how much room of improvement you have.
• Regarding the last figure I told you, most of the banks used to be niche banks (either they only operated with an specific economic sector, like coffee, or only to companies or people).
• They have their own fast food chain, it’s called “pollo campero” which is like the local KFC. It’s pretty cheap and the food is good. They have free wifi and in the same restaurant you had the common counter where you can order to-go or they have a huge salon where you can order and eat there.
• They say “nitido” (sharp) instead of “cool”.
• Pepsi is the most drinked beverage. You can’t practically see Coca Cola ads, it’s one of the few markets where Pepsi is the number 1 soda.
• Guatemala produces one of the best rums in the world, it’s called Zacapa and you drink it only with ice. I thought it was crazy since rum is know to be produced in the Caribbean and Guatemala produces one of the best rums. Crazy

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• If you go to Antigua you have to check out Antigua. It’s like the Latin American Pompey, the attractive of the city comes from the tragedies that have happened over there. 2 earthquakes destroyed the city and they have rebuilt part of it but most of the churches are semi-destroyed. Check out the pics that I uploaded.
• The cuisine is pretty similar to the Mexican cuisine. I found interesting and crazy a dessert which is bananas with mole (chilli chocolate like sauce), that’s is wack.
• There is a huge crime rate. Most of the people told you that they were talking on their cellphone and someone ran and took it. They told me that, supposedly, gangs were charging bus drivers some amount of money so they could keep their route, those who refused where murdered while working. The modus operandi was that a bike with two people would approach them and shoot. Several bus drivers were murdered with a few passengers. Recently the government prohibited that two people could ride a bike at the same time and that bike drivers had to wear a vest and a helmet with their plates number on them.
• In the bank’s entry there were lockers so you could leave your gun, I uploaded a pic of it.
• People told me not to take street taxis so I had to call to the “yellow cab” company. They are a pain in the ass since they over charge you and you have to be on time when they arrive. Sometimes you have to wait over one hour to get a cab.
• Oh yeah, the Starbucks coffee that you drink is Guatemalan but there are no Starbucks in Guatemala.
• Zona 10 is the clubs zone. These clubs are like bars and in that zone you can find the bar that best fits you. There are no cover.
• In Guatemala you feel like if you are still in Mexico. The main avenue it’s called Reforma (like in Mexico City), they have TV Azteca Guatemala, Banco Azteca, Mabe, Televisa, Bimbo, etc etc. Actually, most of Guatemalan know several things about Mexico and the Mexican soccer league.
• La Academia is HUGE. Oh yeah, a lot of people support Puebla because their best player, Pescadito Ruiz, plays for that Mexican team.

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I think those were the most important things. Hopefully these things are interesting enough. At the moment I’m in Mexico City’s airport waiting for my flight (which is delayed for an hour). I am going to Dominican Republic to the chocolate factory where I had my first assignment. I will be in charge of the project because of “my excellent performance” (yeah sure) so let’s see how it turns.
Anyway, more from me soon

Miguel

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Looking forward to reading more of Miguels wonderful adventures in Central America as he travels for business.

USA – Unbelievable, Surprising and A…. whole lot more!

This was an extended visit in the USA which came about due to the Swine flu somewhat interrupting my plans. 

 

We pick up here as I am leaving my beloved Mexico where I was doing a 5 month exchange, and we arrive in Houston, Texas….. The adventure continues…

 

26th April 2009 

 

So the plans changed a little towards the end as could be expected when A KILLER VIRUS unleashes its wrath on the country you are staying in and you decided to GET THE HELL OUT. Ok…. Perhaps a little melodramatic, especially as we were running around having water fights in our face masks, but still a serious time. From the Sunday morning to the Sunday night 26th April, my whole little Monterrey El Tec De Monterrey bubble had been popped and we were left with killer virus, a closed school and no idea of our plans.
 

Honestly, this was a scary and sad time. We had our jokes and our fun but I really didn’t wanna stick around to see whether borders closes and any more deaths occurred- so after more than a few tears we headed for THE BORDER! Into the safety… wait “safety”, of the United States of America! Yeehah! First stop HOUSTON, TEXAS.

 

HOUSTON TEXAS 

 I stayed here with a friend from Tec de Monterrey and the 2 Columbian boys at their sisters house. We had lunches, dinners ( so good to order a salad and get a salad) shopping in enormous malls, driving on enormous roads and browsing enormous museums. Everything in Texas is BIG it’s true. And if they can stick a flag on something, they will.

I was in Houston for 5 days with my friends and we took it very easy, catching up on sleep, meeting some new friends, laying in the parks, watching latino Americano films and going to a few night clubs and a day dance festival. But I was still mourning the loss of my semester in Mexico and missing my family, so it was time to head to Roscoe, Illinois to meet up with my cousin and my big brother.