A trip to South Africa

What a week… I arrived at Cape Town on Tuesday morning, in the nick of time to present at the launch event for our three new offerings (Notes 8, Connections and Quickr). That evening I flew to Johannesburg with my colleagues (Ross, Uffe and local-boy Hannes) ready for the next event and a meeting with the press on Wednesday. The Joburg event (in the swanky Melrose Arch development) was crammed to capacity with an audience of around 140 attendees. This was followed by dinner at the Butcher Shop in Nelson Mandela Square (I had ostrich – but not a whole one, and not even a leg). An early flight to Durban started the Thursday agenda, and Friday consisted of some customer visits before a late lunch at the Indigo Moon restaurant in Pretoria.

Reaction to the new products was amazing. I’ve already heard that one company in South Africa has already upgraded to Notes / Domino 8, and an attending CEO has taken the decision to move in Notes / Domino 8 in place of Outlook / Exchange in his company. That speaks volumes. And again, just like some recent events in the UK, I had numerous conversations with people very serious about replacing Microsoft Office with the free integrated productivity editors.

I came to one important conclusion while travelling in and out of South Africa… they really need to sort the airports out before the 2010 World Cup. Okay, they have improved the departure gates at Johannesburg, but the check-in area is still absolute bedlam. They seem to think the best way to reduce unemployment is to give everyone a job at the airport (but not assign them any duties… just let them stand around doing nothing).

Cape Town airport isn’t much better – I arrived at 08:20 in the morning and it was the only flight coming in. I got off the plane and got to the luggage carousel within 15 minutes (great)… but it was a further 40 minutes before my case arrived. Acceptable for a large airport with a lot of flights arriving, but not a small airport handling just one flight.

I travelled out in Premium Economy (or ‘World Traveller Plus’ as British Airways call it). Officially I was eligible for Business Class (over 10 hours, overnight, work on arrival) but I find gaining approval too long-winded and tiresome. So I opted for the easy approval option of World Traveller Plus – this worked well as I had the first row with plenty of leg room. However the return journey promised to be a nightmare, in cattle-class shoved in a tiny seat with no leg room or elbow room for 11 hours. Things promised to get worse – even though I checked in fairly early (after battling for 15 minutes to join the end of the queue) there were no aisle seats left (groan). I requested a seat move if at all possible and carried on. After a cuppa and a mooch round the shops I went to the gate to find that they’d found me an aisle seat, 28J. Economy, but an aisle seat, so an improvement. What I didn’t know until I got to 28J was that this newly-allocated seat was in World Traveller Plus… and, double bonus, was on it’s own next to the emergency exit so I had 7 feet of leg room (more than enough) and no-one beside me. Thank you British Airways.

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