Bit windy out! Using social media for good…

Unless you’ve been living below ground for the last 24 hours, those of you in the UK can’t have helped notice it’s a bit windy out.

This sort of severe weather inevitably brings disruption, but I’ve been heartened to see a number of organisations using social media to spread the word quickly.

The social media folks @VirginTrains, Amy & Ste, have been doing a great job of relaying information out via Twitter, especially regarding heavily disrupted services into Scotland. Behind the scenes Virgin has been leading the UK rail industry on a project to improve the flow of information to passengers during disruption, and from what I’ve seen today, it seems to be working really well.

They are clearly providing a bi-directional conduit for information – they are getting their info from regular incident update calls (which should happen every 20 minutes, apparently), and direct from their route control, which means the information is very fresh, rather than out of date, which has classically been the normal complaint if you were to phone National Rail Enquiries.

What is missing is a copy of the Twitter feed on the Virgin Trains website – there’s currently no realtime information about the state of their service today provided on their website, no banner saying, “It is windy. Stuff is broken. Please check before you travel.” It is relatively trivial to embed an “alert bar” and/or a Twitter feed into a webpage, and would help those who happen to not use Twitter.

Also worthy mentions to @HeathrowAirport and @LondonCityAir(port) who have been using The Force for good today, providing regular updates about issues with travel to LHR due to a fallen tree on the Piccadilly Line, and to LCY due to an earlier meltdown on the DLR and the high winds making landing and taking off a challenge for the pilots on the smaller planes which fly to London City.

The main thing I think the LCY Twitter folks could do better right now is actually give more info about what is/isn’t cancelled – rather than “contact your airline” which sort of smacks of “not our problem”, even if that’s not the sentiment.

Ah well, wind has picked up again and the sideways rain has returned. I’ll see if I can spy an ark coming down the street.

A comfy Economy seat? Surely not!

Okay, did that get your attention?

I’m currently in Vienna for a meeting, and to get here, rather than trek from home to Heathrow (about 75-90 mins) for a direct flight, I went LCY-ZRH-VIE on Swiss, given I only live 20 minutes on public transport from London City.

The flight from Zurich to Vienna was on a fairly new looking A320, which had a new style of seat that I hadn’t come across before. Like the last Swiss short-haul “space saver” seats, they were made by Recaro, still gave the impression of plenty of room, but definitely addressed one of the niggles on the older seat, which was the crap seat-back storage net.

One thing I noticed very quickly was how firm and thin-looking the seat bottom cushioning was, but at the same time, that it was quite comfortable.

I then realised that underneath the leather covering, it was a mesh-type “suspension” seat, like you might expect to find in an office or work chair, rather than the traditional foam padding. It was only a short flight, but I found it much more comfortable and supportive than a foam cushion. With a normal foam cushion, once it’s compressed, that’s it, it somewhat ceases to be supportive. The mesh doesn’t give way like this, and provided comfortable support behind the knees as well.

Not sure about what it’s like on a longer flight, but I know people who spend hours sat in Aeron chairs, so maybe I’ll ask them. Or does anyone know if Swiss have tried these new seat bottom cushions on their longhaul fleet?

Of course, it probably also weighs less than the equivalent foam padding.

All rather clever really.