Thursday, August 16, 2018

BA Silver Status

Yeah!! I earned Silver status with British Airways.  The British Airways frequent flyer programme is called Executive Club and there are four tiers - Blue, Bronze, Silver, and Gold.  Each level gives you additional perks when flying on BA.

Every time you fly on BA, or one of their Oneworld partners, you earn tier points and Avios.  Tier points are earned from flying.  The tier points awarded are dependent on the cost and class of the ticket purchased.  Flying in business class over economy gets you more points.  The only way to earn tier points is by flying.  You can't purchase your way to a particular status level.

Avios are points that you earn from flying, or from making purchases with airline partners.  You can redeem Avios points for free flights, hotel stays, rental cars, etc.

Each of the Oneworld Alliance airlines have their own frequent flyer programmes.  The top three BA Executive Club levels, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, are equivalent to Oneworld's Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald levels.

Some of the benefits I now get with Silver/Saphire status include:

  • Access to priority Business Class check-in at the airport, even when I fly economy 
  • Priority boarding 
  • Priority standby when on a waitlist
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Extra baggage allowance.  My checked bag gets to be 32 kg instead of the normal 23 kg.
  • Earn an extra 50% bonus Avios points when flying on BA.
  • Free seat selection at purchase.  No more having to wait until checking in to get a free seat; or having to pay for an emergency seat exit for the extra leg room.
  • Free use of the the airport Business Class lounges, even when flying economy.  This one is huge - a quiet place to rest, free Wi-Fi, free snacks, free drinks; and I can even bring a guest. 
It's not listed as a benefit but I've noticed that when flying through London Heathrow, my BA ticket comes with Fast-Track access through airport security.  Love that!

Some of these benefits may not sound like much but for frequent travellers they can make all the difference at the airport.  Fortunately, I actually received Silver status before my trip to India.  I just hadn't received my card.  The Qatar Airways checkin line at Bangalore airport had at least 25 people in queue.  It was so nice to be able to walk right up to the priority checkin and be done in less than five minutes.  And having lounge access prevented at Doha airport gave me the opportunity to take a nap in the business class sleep rooms and I never had to pay exorbitant airport prices for food or drinks.  I so plan on taking advantage of these benefits in November when we fly to Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

You have to keep flying in order to maintain your status.  It takes 600 tier points to maintain Silver.  If I don't earn at least 600 points this year then next year I drop down to Bronze status.  Bronze/Ruby is nice but Silver is way, way better.  Unfortunately, I'll probably never earn Gold/Emerald. which requires 1500 points.  I'd have to fly more than twice what I do now so that's not happening anytime soon.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

2018 Prague Pride

Yesterday was Prague Pride.
This was the largest pride, since the city's first back in 2011, with more than 21 floats and over 40,000 people.  It was awesome!!

I was proud that IBM participated in the parade.  #inclusiveIBM

It didn't take long at all for me to wind up on YouTube again.  This was my first Prague Pride but definitely not my last.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Brno Scavenger Hunt

The gremlins were at it again.  I was out of the office for four days and came back to find my desk switched with Kasia's.

The pitchfork and pink high hells were nice touches.

Oh, the irony of being away at a diversity conference to come back to find pink high heels under your desk.  #cantwaitforpayback

On Thursday night we had a team scavenger hunt in the city centre.

The scavenger hunt was challenging but fun.  We discovered things about Brno that I'd never seen before.

Who knew that there was a samurai statue that overlooks the city?

Like last year, there is another umbrella display in the centre.  This time it celebrates Kometa, Brno's ice hockey team.  In 2017, they won country's top title and they're going for it again this year.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Doha, Qatar

On the way back from Bangalore, I had a ten hour layover in Doha.  I took advantage of a visa on arrival to check out the city.  However, sightseeing in 46℃ (115℉) heat was a bit tough.

Dohaالدوحة, was established in 1825 and it became the capital of Qatar in 1971.  With over 1,3 million people it's the country's biggest city.  More than half of the entire country lives in the greater metro area.

The Corniche is the seven kilometre (4,25 mile) waterfront promenade.  It's the best spot to view the city's skyline.

The Pearl Monument represents the Doha Bay's history of pearl diving and the pearl trade.

The Museum of Islamic Art opened in 2008.  The five-story museum documents 1400 years of Islamic art.

The National Museum of Qatar is currently under construction.  It is scheduled to open in December 2018 and it will replace the Qatar National Museum.

Souq Waqif is more than 100 years old.  This is where Bedouins would trade goods with locals.  In 2006 the government began to restore the souq.  Along with a few restaurants, this is the place to buy traditional garments and spices.

The Qatar National Library opened its new facility in November 2017.  It collection contains over 1 million items.

Katara is the city's cultural village.

Katara amphitheater

It is home to an open amphitheater, an opera house, cinema, mosque, an auction house, a maritime museum, and a beach.

The arches of Interchange 5/6 on the Lusail Expressway opened in December 2017.

The Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre opened in 2008.  It is the tallest mosque in the country and prior to 2009 it used to be the largest mosque in Qatar.

The Amiri Diwan of the State of Qatar is the Emir's palace.  It also serves as a government building and hosts the prime minister.

Imam Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque is the Qatar State Mosque.  It opened in 2011 and can accommodate 30,000 people.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2018 India Trip Summary

Last week was my whirlwind trip to Bangalore.  On Tuesday, I had Qatar Airways flights from Prague to Doha to Bangalore.  I was ready to drop by the time I got to my hotel at 4 am on Wednesday.

Thursday was the Out & Equal LGBTQ India Forum.  The first of its kind event in India.  It was awesome to meet with executives from so many top Indian companies.

On Thursday night, the hotel held a drag show at the roof top bar.  I can't remember the last time I saw a drag show.  The headliners were Maya The Drag Queen, Rimi Heart, DJ Summer Camp, and Lady Bai.  The show was great!

We couldn't make it too of an evening because we had an IBM leadership workshop that started early Friday morning.

Another excellent day with IBMers from all over the world.  It really is a small IBM world sometimes.  For example, one of the participants from who recently transferred from Australia to Singapore is someone that I knew back in Atlanta.  We hadn't seen each other in probably 12 years.  Well, except for on Facebook.

I also got the chance to catch up with Mirek who used to work in Prague but is now in Singapore.  It's kind of funny that the Czech guy came to India to represent IBM in Singapore while I, the American, was here representing Czechia.

We were so busy that our first chance to even leave the hotel was on Friday night.  Several of us headed out for dinner and to get our first sight of India beyond the hotel lobby.

Rather then fly back home on Friday night, I paid for an extra day so that I could fly out Saturday night (actually super early Sunday morning).  This gave me the chance to see some of the sights in Bangalore during the day on Saturday.

On the way back I had a ten hour layover in Qatar which gave me a few hours to check out Doha.  But sightseeing in 46℃ (115℉) heat was a bit extreme though.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Bangalore, India

Bangalore, in southern India, is home to 12,3 million people making it the country's third-largest city.  This city is bigger than the entire Czech Republic.  Since 2014, the city's name is officially Bengaluruಬೆಂಗಳೂರು
Bangalore is the English language version. 

The city was founded in 1537.

The official language is Kannada while English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu are widely spoken.

Bangalore has one of the world's most highly-educated workforces and the city is considered India's Silicon Valley.

ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple is one of the most famous temples in Bangalore with thousands of visitors daily.  The temple was completed in 1997.

Just don't wear shorts or you'll be walking around with a sheet wrapped around your waist.

Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace was completed in 1791.  Today it is a museum.

Dodda Basavana Gudi, also known as the Nandhi Temple, was built in 1537.  The current tower was built in the early 20th century.

The temple is home to one of the largest bull statues in the world.

Not sure if it was a coincidence, or not, but there was a decorated bull not far away from the temple.

Lalbagh Botanical Gardens dates back to around 1889.  It is home to the country's largest collection of tropical plants.  I was fortunate to catch part of the Independence Day Horticultural Show.

Vidhan Soudha is one of the largest legislative buildings in the city.  It is home to 22 government departments.

Attara Kacheri is the High Court of the Karnataka State of which Bangalore is the state capital.

The Sir Seshadri Iyer Memorial Library is the State Central Library.  It is over 100 years and has a collection of more than 3 million books.

Bangalore Palace was completed in 1862.  It was built to look like a smaller version of Windsor Castle.

Due to the conference, I only had a single day to explore Bangalore so these are just the highlights that I was able to squeeze in.  The thing that stood out the most was the insane traffic.  There is no way that I would ever drive here.

Here's a video I found out on YouTube about the traffic.

©Wild Films India

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

2018 Out & Equal LGBTQ India Forum

The Out & Equal LGBTQ India Forum was last Thursday in Bengaluru, India.  This was the first time the event has ever been held in Asia Pacific and I was proud to see IBM there as the presenting sponsor.

This was an amazing event with 150 people from over 100 different companies coming together to champion diversity and workplace inclusion.

India has a law called Section 377, which the British introduced in the 1860s, and it carries a life's prison sentence for gay sex.  India's Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of 377 and people are hopeful that the law will be overturned soon.

This made me truly appreciate the the Czech Republic is one of the most liberal countries in Central Europe.  In 2006, the country legalised registered partnerships, registrované partnerství, for same-sex couples.  However, this is not the same thing as equal marriage. Currently registered partners have no right to joint property and widow's or widower's pensions.  A bill will be debated in Parliament this Autumn that, if passed, will make Czech Republic the first post-communist country to legalise same-sex marriage.

IBM has a history of being out front when it comes to inclusion.  As of 1.1.2017, IBM is one of the first companies in the country to recognise registered LGBT partnerships in the area of paid time off. So even though the labour law doesn't require a company here to provide paid time off for the following scenarios, IBM does it because it is the right thing to do.

  • marriage/registered partnership ceremony
  • child birth
  • death/burial
  • accompany a family member to the health-care facility for examination or treatment in emergency illness or injury and for the planned examination, treatment, or cure.
This type of forward thinking comes from leaders who recognise the value of diversity and inclusion, and who understand that ultimately it's good for business.

On Friday there was a leadership workshop for IBMers from across the world.  It really is a small world and a few people I met before in 2016 at a European LGBT leadership workshop in Amsterdam.

IBMers from Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, UK, and USA

Update:  India's Supreme Court overturned parts of Section 377 on 6.9.2018.  Consensual homosexual sex between adults is no longer illegal.  I'm so happy for all of my Indian colleagues.