Mile High Club: The High-Flyer

Where’s home today?

Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels

How many times do you travel each year? What proportion is work and play? 

I travel globally roughly 20 to 30 times per year, on trips ranging from 500 t0 14,000km – total distance upwards of  250,000km per year.

Biggest travel pet hate?

Discourteous people and delays! Especially ones that aren’t communicated until the last possible moment.  I understand delays are a part of travel, but please give me honest and accurate information so I can make my own decisions about how to manage my time.

Favourite airline?

Cathay Pacific, which is also my least favourite.  I fly Cathay 95% of the time as I’m locked into the Marco Polo membership.

Favourite airport?

Hong Kong…haven’t found anywhere yet that beats it .

Who has Asia-Pacific’s best business class product? 

Garuda Indonesia

Tell us about your most recent flight.

Red-eye from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Hong Kong in Cathay business.  I slept, so mostly forgettable.  More appropriate to discuss in this forum is my flight from NY (JFK) to Hong Kong on Cathay business class last month.  I make this trip four to six times per year and, as usual, it was fine, but left me feeling like they could do so much more to improve the experience.  First and foremost, it’s time for Cathay to update their fleet or at least the business class cabin.  I’d really like to be able to plug in a comfortable set of head phones, but that’s impossible with Cathay’s archaic and arcane interface panel.  Next, do we really need every announcement repeated in three languages?  There must be a more efficient and less intrusive way to satisfy the statutory and regulatory safety obligations.  Service…well, I don’t want to get bogged down here…let’s just say there is room for improvement.

“Service…well, I don’t want to get bogged down here…let’s just say there is room for improvement.”

How can we be better air travellers?

Courtesy, courtesy, courtesy…please think about what’s going on around you and be kind to fellow travellers and the cabin crew.  If you can’t manage your massive array of hand-carry baggage then please check something.  Please utilize the overhead bin space provided for your seat (see previous point if that is problematic for you).

Which loyalty programs do you belong to? 

Marco Polo (Diamond)

How important are loyalty programs when it comes to making travel decisions? 

Very important.  I fly enough that achieving status in a loyalty program means a much more comfortable experience overall with regards to efficient and fast check-in, a nice lounge with good food and business services and being able to reduce transit and waiting times to the least possible amount.

How do you feel loyalty programs are changing and what should they be doing to maintain top tier customers? 

They seem to be striving for inclusivity, meaning more things to more people, which I think is a mistake.  For example, when travelling during busy hours (weekday mornings and evenings) it’s often difficult to get a seat in the first class lounge for a meal.  Either there are many more top tier fliers than I thought, or the airlines are making “status” more achievable.  For me, this simply dilutes the product and makes me less likely to remain “loyal.”  I think the airlines should make the top tiers more difficult to achieve, and once you achieve status, have tiers within the tier based on total flights and miles flown with the ability to keep status for different periods of time, including lifetime.  Alternatively, provide a meaningful (read, not cheap) payment option to achieve status levels.

“Either there are many more top tier fliers than I thought, or the airlines are making “status” more achievable.”

What’s your favourite hotel? 

In Hong Kong the original Mandarin Oriental. Elsewhere in Asia, I’ll say the Shilla in Seoul.

What’s the last hotel you stayed in? How would you rate it?

The Conrad in Yeouido (Seoul), Korea…always a great experience.

What’s your worst ever hotel experience? 

There are so many… I’ll go with the Ritz Carlton in Seoul.  My non-smoking room reeked and the power kicked off about every hour.

Tell us some of your travel rituals.

I don’t drink on flights and always have a bag of peanut M&Ms.

What are we likely to find in your carry on? 

The bare essentials…plus camera gear, my kindle and mints.

How important is technology when you travel? How do you use it?  

I try to minimize technology in my life and I’ve succeeded to a degree.  I don’t fly with a laptop, but now use the Microsoft Surface 4 Pro as it’s a tablet that runs the full Windows operating system, which is ideal as you don’t have any additional security screening issues yet your “tablet” functions like a laptop.  I’m waiting for Apple to create a similar product…an iPad that runs the full Mac OS.  Otherwise, a smartphone and a kindle and I’m set.

What’s your secret for handling jetlag? 

On long intercontinental flights I sleep very little, preferring to have one miserable 24- or 30-hour day and then go to sleep wherever I am, on the local timetable, get 6 or 8 solid hours and I’m good to go.  When that fails, the melatonin pills that dissolve under your tongue.

What’s your favourite city in Asia Pacific?

Tokyo, Seoul and Bangkok.

How do you like to get around in a foreign city? Do you use car apps like Uber or do you prefer to go with taxis or public transport?  

I use them all from bespoke car service to Uber…my only concern is keeping my schedule as tight and efficient as possible.  I’ll usually arrange a pickup at the airport to avoid taxi queues, but after that whatever option is the quickest wins.

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