The Internet is in the Hands of the Lawyers

By Jonathan Spira on 10 November 2005
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Wednesday, 9 November 2005, New York City
I start writing this column in Lufthansa’s Senator lounge.  I’m about to depart on a flight from New York (JFK) to Munich (MUC).  First things first: Lufthansa has the best beer; perhaps I shouldn’t mention this, but they have Spaten Oktoberfest on tap.

But I digress.

I’m going to Munich for several reasons, including client meetings and to participate in BMW’s European Delivery program.  The trip also presents an opportunity for me to finally test the Lufthansa FlyNet service (powered by Connexion by Boeing).  Earlier this year, Lufthansa added the service to New York flights; it had been available on the Los Angeles – Munich route for over a year now.

Before boarding the aircraft, I stop in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge for a snack and a drink.  For a variety of reasons (see further down), I am glad I do.   I open my laptop, briefly scan some news and e-mail messages, and board the flight.

By the time I board, we are already 30 minutes delayed due to thunderstorms in the area.  After boarding, we wait almost two hours for takeoff due to a backlog of 60 aircraft.  I’m glad I had that snack as it is 22:30 before we take off and the flight crew doesn’t start the meal service until almost an hour later.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 11,000 m and 860 km/h
I plug my laptop into the convenient seat outlet (the outlet accepts American and European Schuko connection systems) and – nothing.  No Wi-Fi.  No signal.  I ask the purser as she happens by, and her response is simple and to the point: “es ist kaput.”

Given the late hour, and the fact that I have fairly early meetings scheduled, I must confess, that I am not too distressed.

Lufthansa’s flat beds are quite comfy and I am able to get in about 4 hours of sleep before breakfast.  When I awake, I assume we only have one hour of flight left as we had definitely made up lost time in flight.  Unfortunately, just as we finish breakfast, the captain announces that, due to a dense fog (something not uncommon this time of year in Munich), we have to circle.  We do this for ca. 45 additional minutes, making our arrival time 11:45.

Thursday, 10 November 2005, Munich, Germany
The original plan called for me to proceed to BMW’s Freimann Delivery Center for my car (for the curious reader, I will be happy to provide greater detail; however, since this is not a column for Motor Trend, I am limiting my comments to explaining that the car is a BMW 330xi, in Sparkling Graphite, and yes, it has Bluetooth).  A driver was waiting for me at the airport, and we arrive quickly enough, but by then, my schedule is off by 90 minutes.

One of my scheduled meetings was with Herrn Helmut Pöschl and a few colleagues of his who are working on the BMW Welt program.  Herr Thomas Roller, the director of BMW’s delivery center, offers to take me to my meeting first and we speed off in a very fast 130i.  We don’t make it back until 17:30 (more on BMW Welt in an upcoming column) and the Center is empty.  Herr Roller himself does the delivery and off I go to my “Stammhotel” – the Holiday Inn – on the Leopoldstraße.

Met at the door by the manager, Herr Klein, who is very happy to see me and wants to give me an Internet report; specifically, he wants to accompany me to my room to ensure that my room has a working Net connection.  “How has the Internet connectivity been working?” I enquire.  His reply: “It is now in the hands of our lawyers, as we are unable to get the service provider (Swisscom) to keep the system up and running.”

First room, nothing.  Second room, the “Hunting Suite” (hunting lodge decor, no dead animals on the wall, happily), nothing.  Third room, the Confetti Suite (please don’t ask) – we have connectivity.


–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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