Category: Aviation

Tripping through Scandinavia: Introduction

In the middle of January 2014, planning for this trip started taking place. I usually plan my travels well in advance, mainly due to cost benefits and the time to plan most trip components to the T. Travel planning is something, which I thoroughly enjoy, and this was going to be no different.

The only difference going to be however was tagging along my parents and convincing them. My mom is relatively easy and I won’t even try to delve on “How I convinced my Dad for this vacation”. I’ll save that for a self-help book later.

Anyways, once all that was finalised, it was time for me to decide on the destinations. I had gone to Switzerland with my friends in 2005 and since then always thought that my parents would love the Swiss sights. So the first city was decided as Zürich, where we made our base for 5 days to explore the neighbouring areas. Next up, I decided to venture up slightly north to Hamburg for 3 days, mainly because of the Airbus Factory Tour. For the remaining 8 days my long pending dream of exploring parts of Scandinavia was realised as Copenhagen and Stockholm were chosen as the last two cities. and That’s where the name of this trip came about to be.

After a through deliberation, I booked Turkish Airlines for our trip. Mom & Dad were booked upfront in the Business Class, and I resigned myself to Economy. Turkish is known for their flat beds in Business and the fantastic cuisine catered by Do & Co, although both my parents don’t drink and are vegetarian, I suspected they would still enjoy the hard product. Plus the opportunity to experience Turkish CIP Lounge at Istanbul was too good to pass.

The Intra-Europe routing was made with the help going through “Man in Seat Sixty-One” extensively (Highly recommended for train travel, especially European). The traveler in me was stoked by trying out three completely different trains, while keeping in mind it would be more comfortable for my parents as well, compared to taking short flights. Train travel in Europe is comfortable, scenic and expensive but if you book out 91 days in advance (62 days for some train companies), advance deals are great value for money.

and if your routing is good enough, you might just get your Train placed on a Ferry too 😉

 

Following was the final routing for the trip

12/07 TK717 New Delhi to Istanbul departing 0605 hrs arriving 1025 hrs

12/07 TK1913 Istanbul to Zurich departing 1145 hrs arriving 1340 hrs

16/07 Deutsche Bahn CNL 478 (City Night Line) Zurich HB to Hamburg Hbf departing 2042 hrs arriving 0828 hrs (+1 day)

19/07 Deutsche Bahn ICE 37 Hamburg Hbf to Copenhagen departing 1528 hrs arriving 2014 hrs

23/07 SJ2000, Train 530 Copenhagen to Stockholm Central departing 0828 hrs arriving 1339 hrs

27/07 TK1794 Stockholm to Istanbul departing 1145 hrs arriving 1615 hrs

27/07 TK 716 Istanbul to New Delhi departing 1955 hrs arriving 0420 hrs (+1 day)

Trip Map

Trip Map

This allowed us to check out the following

 

Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class

I had flown Turkish few years back to Paris, and had liked their service in Economy. However, during this trip I was keen to see how they will serve my parents traveling in Business Class. I was in economy but secured bulkhead seats on both A330 routes. Who minds extra legroom, right?

Turkish Airlines A330-300 - Business Class and Economy

Turkish Airlines A330-300 – Business Class and Economy

 

Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul and SAS Lounge, Arlanda – Stockholm

Let’s admit it, each & every self-respecting aviation geek out there knows about the legendary Turkish Airlines lounge at Istanbul and has read plenty of reviews terming it one of the best Star Alliance Lounge in the world. Therefore, I decided completely skip reviewing this lounge and instead focus on SAS Star Alliance Lounge at Arlanda International. PS: Turkish CIP Lounge is indeed fantastic.

SAS Lounge, Stockholm and Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

SAS Lounge, Stockholm and Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge, Istanbul

 

Swissotel Zürich 

Last time I was in Zürich, I was staying in a Hostel. I figured with family in tow, I had to look at something way more comfortable and convenient. Swissotel Zürich is right next door to Zürich Oerlikon station, has a great breakfast spread, plus every stay at the property gets you 500 JP Miles.

Swissotel Zurich

Swissotel Zürich

 

Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg

At Hamburg I wanted a hotel close to the main Hauptbahnhof station as we were using trains for both arrival and departure into the city. The city centre is also close-by and after extensive research I chose Arcotel Rubin. In fact, while other hotels were finalized more than two months in advance, I confirmed Arcotel Rubin only two weeks out.

Arcotel Rubin Hamburg

Arcotel Rubin, Hamburg

 

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

This was my first visit to Denmark, let alone Copenhagen so I was looking for something striking, modern without breaking the bank. Bella Sky Comwell was perfect in all departments. Apart from being a stunning design hotel from the outside, there were plenty of great details inside which I appreciated. While checking-in, I got a great deal on a paid-upgrade to the top 23rd floor and the views from the room more than paid for it.

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

Bella Sky Comwell Hotel, Copenhagen

 

Hilton Stockholm Slussen Hotel

To end the trip I figured it would be best to do it with some added luxury and I chose Hilton Slussen over Sheraton Stockholm. Besides getting a great deal, I also stood a chance for free breakfast, room upgrades (which happened second day into the stay) and other amenities due to my Hilton Gold status. The views from the room, the proximity to main attractions & the executive lounge access made last four days of our trip memorable.

Hilton Stockholm Slussen

Hilton Stockholm Slussen

 

This trip turned out to be exactly as I imagined it to be and beyond. Liechtenstein, Denmark and Sweden became #29, #30 and #31 in my countries visited list. I also visited two new lounges, three new train services, thirteen different beers, got my Burger King fix for the year and of course visited the Airbus Plant in Hamburg. I’m excited to share my experience in detail with all of you in the days ahead.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any comments or questions.

 

Related Trip Posts:  Train on a Ferry!

Turkish Airlines A330-300 New Delhi to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A320-200 Istanbul to Zurich

SAS Business Lounge, Stockholm Arlanda

Turkish Airlines A321-200 Stockholm to Istanbul

Turkish Airlines A330-300 Istanbul to New Delhi

 

 

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A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3

On Friday, 30th of May 2014, New Delhi’s Terminal 3 became the first airport in India to officially welcome daily scheduled operations of the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. Although T3 has received an Emirates A380 in 2010, that was just a one-off flight to celebrate opening of the terminal.

As part of their celebrations, the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) had invited me to be a part of this historic occasion. It was an overall interesting experience (minus the hardships endured to enter initially, that’s a story for another post). It was also nice to catch up with Marcel Hungerbuehler, the COO of DIAL. One of the interesting things Marcel mentioned was that he does not see Emirates operating a A380 to Delhi in the near future, though he was quite confident of welcoming Lufthansa’s A380 to/from Frankfurt in the coming winter schedule.

I also had a chat with Karma Paljor, from CNN-IBN about the A380 itself during the event and you can watch a clip from that interview on the link below.Airbus A380 Event in New Delhi T3 - Vishal Mehra

If you are keen to check out first landing videos and photographs of the SuperJumbo, I highly recommend Bangalore Aviation’s coverage here.

Related Post: Which Airlines will fly their Airbus A380s in to India?

 

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Which Airlines will fly their Airbus A380s in to India?

An Airbus A380 is greeted at London Heathrow. Image Source: Airbus

An Airbus A380 is greeted at London Heathrow, Picture Courtesy: Airbus

Last week, the Indian aviation community was abuzz with the news that the government had finally permitted operations of the Airbus A380 in to India. In its announcement, the ministry mentioned Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Emirates as potential candidates in operating the aircraft to India, but there are seven other present operators of the giant, all of whom, with the exception of Qantas Airways, operate to India. Three of the Five near future A380 operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Asiana also operate to India.

The question for many aviation enthusiasts is which airline will fly in world’s largest passenger airliner, into one of the world’s most exciting aviation markets, India?

Airline wise A380 cabin configurations

Airline-wise A380 cabin seat configurations, Source: Bangalore Aviation

Airline-wise A380 cabin seat configurations, Source:Bangalore Aviation

Before we proceed, it is important to realise the sheer size of the A380. The aircraft is classified as a VLA (very large aircraft) which includes the venerable Boeing 747 jumbo-jet. While Airbus shows the typical seating of A380 at 555 seats in a three-class configuration, most airlines have configured their aircraft from a low 407 seats at Korean Air to a maximum of 526 at Lufthansa. The info-graphic on the right shows the various cabin configurations of the A380 operators. The size of the aircraft makes it a challenge for any airline to fill.

Potential A380 airports in India

In its order, the ministry of civil aviation allowed the operations of the super-jumbo at the four major Indian gateway airports capable of handling the A380 – New Delhi, the busiest, Mumbai, the second busiest, Bangalore, the third busiest domestic and fourth internationally, and Hyderabad, the sixth. Chennai and Kolkata are excluded since they lack the airside capability to land this huge plane.

Hyderabad. For the foreseeable future (about 36 months), we believe Hyderabad lacks an adequate catchment especially in the premium classes to allow an airline to profitably operate the A380 consistently.

Bangalore. On the face of it, Bangalore is in a similar situation as Hyderabad, but the IT city is very different from the rest of India, driven by business traffic, it has a high business class demand with virtually negligible first class demand. This same business and IT profile drives demand to extreme volumes on weekends with low weekday loads. The hi-tech nature of Bangalore’s economy also ensures it has the highest percentage of air cargo of India, which airlines carry as belly-hold for additional revenues. Both British Airways and Lufthansa operate the Boeing 747 to the IT city. Given the flexibility of the large A380 fleet, there is a small possibility that Emirates may operate an A380 during the high traffic winter months and during the weekends.

Top 20 VLA Airports by 2030. Source: Airbus and Bangalore Aviation

Top 20 VLA Airports by 2030, Source: Airbus and Bangalore Aviation

New Delhi and Mumbai. In its global market forecast (GMF), Airbus rated New Delhi and Mumbai in the list of top 20 VLA (very large aircraft) airports by 2030. These two biggest airports in India have the traffic volumes in all the three classes to sustain regular A380 operations. The issue will be which airlines will choose between these two cities.

Potential airlines to operate the A380 to India

There are currently ten operators of the A380. Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. Five more operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Air Austral, Skymark Airlines and Asiana will join the A380 family soon. Of these 15, Air AustralQantas, and Skymark don’t operate to India, and we will exclude them for now.

We next eliminate those airlines that we are reasonably sure will not operate an A380, at least in the foreseeable future to Indian airports.

Air France, focuses its bigger aircraft on north American and far east routes. It only operates its mid-sized A330s to India. Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways focus their A380s in slot constrained high volume airports like London Heathrow, Paris Charles De Gaulle, and Frankfurt. China SouthernKorean Air, and Asiana have insufficient traffic rights to India and focus their VLAs on north American and European destinations.

Qatar and Etihad are remote possibilities for the near future as they too will initially deploy their A380s to slot congested London, Paris, Frankfurt and possibly New York. Rumours about Etihad giving one of their A380’s to their Indian partner, Jet Airways, appear to be just that for now, rumours.

This leaves us with four possible candidates.

British Airways A380.                             Photo Courtesy: Airbus

British Airways A380, Photo Courtesy: Airbus

British Airways (BA) is the most understated, yet most exciting prospect of bringing A380 to India. The whole universe conspires to make the mechanics work on the routes for BA. The stage lengths of about eight to ten hours are just right. India is an important destination for the airline, and it is demonstrating this by flying its latest aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Hyderabad starting March. London is one of the most visited cities by Indians, not to mention the large Indian origin diaspora living in the United Kingdom, and Heathrow is the A380 capital of the world with virtually every airline flying its A380 to it. Despite a short-sighted transit immigrant visa requirement and ridiculous air passenger fees, Heathrow is a major transit point for passengers between India and North America.

While Mumbai gets the newer 777-300ER featuring the airline’s updated cabin product, New Delhi lags behind having to make do with older 747-400s and 777-200s. The intelligent fleet deployment of British Airways must be noted. During the summers, BA deploys its larger aircraft across the Atlantic catering to massive Trans-Atlantic tourist traffic, while winters sees these aircraft in traditional “home coming” destinations in South Asia, China, and ASEAN.

Despite the airline officially saying

We welcome the decision of the Indian government to allow A380s to operate in India. Our customers can already enjoy the comfort and luxury of our A380s on flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong and we will be starting A380 services to Johannesburg in February and Washington in September. “We currently have four A380s and another four will join our fleet this year. We are assessing a range of routes for the aircraft but at this stage it is too early to speculate which cities we will add to its network.

we are fairly confident of seeing a Union Jack liveried A380 at New Delhi in 2015, if not in the winter schedule.

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380 Aircraft. Picture Courtesy:

Emirates has the largest fleet of A380 Aircraft, Picture Courtesy: Emirates

Emirates (EK) is the world’s largest operator of the A380, and is also the biggest foreign airline operating in India, with some calling it the unofficial national airline of India. The airline operates four daily flights to New Delhi and five dailies to Mumbai, almost all of them using the 777s.

Though on the surface, the short distances from Mumbai and Delhi to Dubai may not justify the A380 which is primarily designed for longer distances, Emirates has been using its A380 ingeniously on shorter routes and we feel, will be able to make Dubai to Mumbai and Delhi work.

Emirates has suffered an image of inconsistent cabin product on its India flights, and the A380 will allow the airline to repair this perception.

With over 44 A380s already in its fleet it is all but certain, the airline will commence an A380 service to both Mumbai and New Delhi. However, since the existing bi-lateral air services agreement (ASA) cap being long exhausted, Emirates will have to consolidate its flights to accommodate the large behemoth. We expect EK to steal the thunder and be the first to operate an A380 to India.

A Lufthansa A380 parked at Frankfurt Airport. Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

A Lufthansa A380 parked at Frankfurt Airport, Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Lufthansa (LH) has always declared its intentions to operate the A380 to India. It was forced to bring its other VLA, the Boeing 747-8i, to New Delhi when the government held firm in its short-sighted denial of A380 operations. This past week saw Lufthansa become the first airline to publicly declare their intentions of bringing Airbus A380 to “major Indian markets”, and most likely from the winter schedule which starts in end October.

The carrier operates an A330-300 featuring its new business class product (which is not on its A380) to both Mumbai and Delhi, with Chennai starting in March 2014. The 747-8i to Delhi also has the new business class and the new first class product (which is also on their A380), while the 747-400 to Mumbai is two generations behind, which as per few trip reports on Flyer Talk, does not even have personal IFE screens in Economy, is a sure shot recipe for customer dissatisfaction, especially on Intercontinental routes.

We expect Lufthansa to operate one A380 to India. It may upgrade Delhi to an A380 and move the 747-8i to replace the 747-400 at Mumbai, or it might directly upgrade Mumbai to an A380. The Indo-German bi-lateral ASA has to be amended to include the A380. It’s an interesting possibility, one that the industry, especially Lufthansa’s MEB3 friends will be watching closely.

Singapore Airlines A380 takes off from Kingsford Smith, Sydney Airport. Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Singapore Airlines A380 takes off from Kingsford Smith – Sydney Airport, Picture Courtesy: Airliners.net

Singapore Airlines (SIA) was the launch customer of the A380, has 19 aircraft in their fleet, and they have just ordered another five. SIA is also in partnership with the Tatas to commence a full service airline in India.

The airline has a strategy of offering its best products to the political and commercial capitals of Asian countries. Following this, SIA has been aggressively expanding at Mumbai where it offers triple daily flights to Singapore, while Delhi is at 19 weekly flights currently and will become triple-daily from the summer schedule, all on Boeing 777s. At both cities, the pattern is a morning flight on a smaller 777-200 with two night/mid-night flights being scheduled within three hours of each other.

Delhi though still does not receive the airline’s 777-300ER flagship which features their newest cabin product, so it is very likely the airline will choose to club the two night/mid-night flights and offer Delhi the airline’s best cabin product which includes the SQ Suites. No on-board frolicking please, the airline’s rules clearly prohibit joining the ‘mile high club’.

The dilemma the airline faces is that its current A380 fleet is fully deployed. The additional five orders are relatively recent and delivery is not expected any time soon. The airline will have to sacrifice one flight from another destination to service India in the short-term, or may choose to deploy A380s later.

This piece originally appeared on Bangalore Aviation, and was co-authored with Devesh Agarwal

Related Post: A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Arun Rajagopal

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

“I’m crazy about planes. And mad about trains”. That’s how Arun Rajagopal explains himself as simple as possible. I have been in touch with Arun on twitter for as long as I remember and have had some fascinating conversations with him both online and offline.

Arun has been a top-notch marketer for over 8 years now and for the past 16 months or so he has been at Emirates, carving and executing their social media strategy and loving his dream job, where the worlds of marketing and aviation meet.

Inviting Arun to be a part of the GlobeTrotter series was one of the easiest decisions I have made, partly because he is a passionate globetrotter for real and partly because I selfishly wanted to understand his mindset about travelling. Arun has been on the pages of this blog in the past, we had a great conversation for this series and I hope you all enjoy reading it as well:

777 fanboy to the dough

777 fanboy to the dough

  • What is your greatest motivation to travel? I vividly remember reading one of your tweets few weeks back where you couldn’t hop on a BOM flight but you still flew, albeit on some other flight. That is astounding enthusiasm. Tell me your motivation for that?

Arun – I love the sheer joy that comes with getting on a plane. I belong to the school of thought that the journey is as important as the destination, sometimes more important than the destination. In this particular instance, I was supposed to fly to Mumbai, but I couldn’t get on my flight. As I walked out of the airport, I realised that it was not me to not get on a plane when I had made my mind to do so. As luck would have it, I just remembered that there was a flight to Ahmedabad, which was leaving 10 minutes later. I walked back, got myself on that plane and eventually reached Mumbai. When I want to get on a plane, I always manage to get on it because I really, really want to. It’s also a mix of karma, luck and persistence.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Of all the hundreds of flights that you may have taken, any particularly memorable experience you would like to share?

Arun – I love the flying part more. I have two very memorable experiences topping the list. One is the Emirates inaugural flight to Seattle in March 2012. I’m a huge Boeing 777 fan (Vishal’s note: See the cake in the picture above) and it was a dream come true

for me to be on that first flight (a 77W) to the home of Boeing. I bit the bullet one day before the trip, deciding that the high-fares wouldn’t stand in my way. The dream turned even better when I got to see A6-EGO, the 1000th 777 with its paint coat fresh on a Boeing factory tour, right before its delivery ceremony.

A6-EGO

Emirates A6-EGO, Photo credit: Mark Harky

The other one has to be celebrating my 30th on an A380 upper deck, which was another big dream come true. On the B-day, all Emirates A380 flights were full, but I scored a seat to Hong Kong, and then did a turn-around to Dubai via Bangkok. My flight touched down at Suvarnabhumi exactly when the clock struck midnight and I got my first birthday call. The crew even had a special birthday surprise for me. I was away for 30 hours, most of them spent on a plane. I’ll take that day with me to the grave.

  • Which is your favourite airport and airline? And why? (Barring DXB and Emirates)

Arun – My favourite airport has to be Muscat International. I grew up in Muscat and I flew out of MCT for a good part of my life. It’s a not a huge airport, but I’ve some very special memories.

My favourite airline is a very tough question, because I love most airlines out there and some even more such as Emirates. Any airline that makes flying more personal and special always gets my vote.

  • Nicely played there Arun, Tell us about your favourite city, and any memorable experience you had there?

Arun – So many cities, many visited and many more yet to visit. Again hard to pick one, so I will go with New York, Seattle, London and Bangkok. As to a memorable experience, seeing snow for the first time in my life in Seattle was super special. I only had to wait 29 years for it to happen.

  • High five, I haven’t seen a snowfall ever myself. When you travel, is there a particular website, guidebook etc. you consult before making plans? What’s your research like?

Arun – I’m not a Lonely Planet guidebook toting kind of person. Where I stay is massively important for me – so I do my hotel research via TripAdvisor, Hotels.com or Booking.com. I talk to people who have been there before and once I’m at the destination, I try to get local insights. But the most magical moments are spontaneous and happen when you are not expecting them. In many of the cities I travel to, I try to connect with friends or acquaintances I have there, which adds a whole new personal experience to my journey.

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Aerial view of Incheon International, at Seoul                     Photo credit: Wikipedia

  • Talking bit more about the journey part, Is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Arun – Airports play a huge role in enriching your travel experience. I wish more airports had showers. Also, airports are often the first point of contact between a tourist and a foreign country – so smiling; friendly immigration officials would always be welcome. Muscat and Jakarta get my votes there. San Antonio has some amazing rocking chairs where you can lounge on and watch planes. One of my favourite airport experiences has been pausing for a minute to watch a musician perform at Atlanta, in the midst of milling crowds. Give me anything in an airport that makes the travel experience more relaxing and welcoming. I hear Seoul Incheon is amazing and I look forward to a trip soon, only to check out the airport.

  • Spoke like a true #AvGeek there. You have a successful career, what advice would you give to all those who might not be financially sound but still harbour dreams of traveling the world?

Arun – I firmly believe that one can make things happen when you are passionate about something and you give 100% to pursuing your dreams. I was not financially sound when I decided to become a globetrotter. As long as you put your goals ahead of you and work towards them, you can make it even to space.

  • We know you’re a social media expert, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Arun – Social media has not only enabled travel brands to connect better with their customers, but has also fuelled a massive appetite for travel and made the world a smaller place. There is a very active aviation community on Twitter, sharing common passions, interests, knowledge and information.

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your three favourite twitter user accounts to follow?

Arun – Very hard to pick 3, but I’m going to run with

@JonOstrower, @Simpliflying and @RunwayGirl. They, amongst so many others, have made me love aviation more.

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | The Airplane Geeks

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Honest Disclaimer: It may be very hard to better or even equalise the sheer content quality of this chat. So my dear Aviation Geeks, sit back, get a drink and start reading the goodness of the best ever “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”.

Few days back on Twitter I was mulling how to go ahead with this piece, whether I should keep these three great geeks together and risk publishing a large, not-for-everyone piece or divide it in various ways to make it palatable for people at-large. I have clearly gone ahead with the correct and sensible option of keeping these men together, as they belong and are known in the world of Aviation Geeks. The length of this piece might turn some readers off but the quality is deliciously good and I’m proud of this one. Considering all 3 are busy professionals and taking out time from them wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, but their graciousness made this happen.

The Airplane Geeks: David Vanderhoof, Max Flight and Robert Mark. Picture courtesy: Joan Abbey

Airplane Musketeers Geeks: David Vanderhoof, Max Flight & Robert Mark.    Picture courtesy: Joan Abbey

If you’re an #AvGeek, you know Max Flight, Rob Mark and David Vanderhoof. Together they host the best aviation podcast, bar none, every week. And to think they have done this for over 269 weeks now, is quite an achievement.

Max has been in the aviation industry for over 30 years now, Engines are his area of expertise and he takes the mantle of moderating the weekly Airplane Geeks podcast. Max is also the brain behind “Thirty Thousand Feet”, one of the world’s biggest aviation resources, with over 20000 links to different facets of aviation, including commercial, business, military and general aviation.

Rob is a 35 year veteran in the aviation industry, and being a commercial pilot has flown everything from an Aeronca Champ to the humongous Airbus A380 and everything in-between, logging in more than 7000 hours.  He is also the CEO of CommAvia, an aviation focused marcom consultancy. He is the editor of award winning JetWhine blog, and has contributed to leading publications like Forbes, Aviation International News and Business Jet Traveler besides his appearances on CNN, NBC, CBS, PBS and WGN.

With his dad in air force, David grew up around aircraft by default and has since never stopped looking up. He is a graduate in Military history and diplomacy, and his expertise clearly reflects in his thoughts and segments on the podcast. He “code-shares” with the Australian desk of the show, known as Plane Crazy Down Under, for their podcast as well. David blogs regularly at “What Just Flew By”.

David and Max also host a weekly podcast dedicated to unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and systems, called The UAV Digest.

I’m a big fan and keen listener of all these gentlemen, so for me to have the opportunity to talk to all these gentlemen turned out to be terrific. Excerpts from our discussion:

  • Gentlemen what motivates all of you to travel? And to climb on those planes.

Max – Most of my air travel has been business travel, so it really hasn’t been an option. But that works well because I love the adventure of flight. Airports fascinate me, especially large airports, because they are like self-contained cities. The actual flight is magic, with views of the world that are spectacular. And then there is the destination – seeing a place and people that are unlike what you find at home.

Rob – I travel 75% for business and 25% for pleasure. Pleasure might go up a bit though, now that I have a daughter at college in California. I’m based in Chicago.

David – Usually it’s to escape, to get away from the day-to-day reality. Personally the fascination is FLYING and Airplanes, enough said!  It’s not a hassle if you prepare in advance, and do what is expected of you.

  • Do you enjoy the aviation/flying part of your travels or the sightseeing in cities? Any unforgettable occurrence during flight?

Max – I love both the flight and the destination, but one flight stands out in my mind. It was from Narita to Chicago in a United 747-400. The Captain was retiring and it was his last flight. The tail winds were favourable and it became evident that this particular

United Airlines Boeing 747-400

United Airlines Boeing 747-400 (Picture: Wikipedia)

flight could possibly break the record for shortest flight time between the two cities. United gave permission to burn a little extra fuel and Air Traffic Control gave us top priority so we came straight in on a direct approach. We did break the record at 8 hours flat and the passengers all cheered on arrival. What a great last flight for that Captain!

Rob – In general, I like the flying part of travel, probably because I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s happening from the moment we push back from the gate. My old seat used to be in the cockpit and now I’m in the cabin … ah well. At least I get to fly. But as I mentioned with the JetBlue video, the hassles of getting to my seat and waiting for the airplane to push back are a real pain here in the states. I try to ignore the bad parts and focus on what I can see out the windows. I really hate it when the guy at the window seat pulls down the shade.

A memorable experience? That’s a tough one, except perhaps one of my first airline trips as a kid. An American Airlines Boeing 707 Astroliner from ORD to JFK (Actually it was Idlewild airport back then). I still remember the feeling of being pushed back in my seat when they shoved the throttler forward. I always like that part, especially years later when it was I pushing the throttles ahead.

David – I have always said the best IFE is the window next to you!  It is both. I hope in my lifetime neither looses the wonder.

  • We know most American airlines are nowhere near their glory days but if you guys still had to choose, which would be your favourite airline?

Max – United is a favourite airline for sentimental reasons. In business, they have been a great customer of the company I worked for.  In fact, our corporate histories are intertwined, so that helps make them a favourite. I have more miles on United than any other airline. But also I used to love their nuts. Heated nuts in little ceramic cups. Seriously, I looked forward to those nuts.

Rob – I’d have to say Southwest when I’m flying here in the U.S. If I must travel outside the U.S., I’ve been choosing American for 25 years because the only other option out of ORD is really United. I cannot stand flying United. Something always seems to go wrong on the trip for me with that airline. Maybe it’s just bad luck.

David – Personally none of the modern airlines have any personality in my opinion.  Airlines are ugly these days.  American used to

have silver and orange. Pan Am was simple but classy. Eastern Airlines used to have the Falcon. I could go on and on.  Emirates respects their brand by putting it on the bottom of the aircraft? Really? I won’t go into my thoughts on the new American branding. I like QATAR, its understated and great colours. However if you want to get my attention put an aircraft in a retro scheme.

  • So Max likes United but Rob can’t stand them. What about your favourite airports?

Max – Singapore Changi Airport is beautiful with more orchids than you can imagine.

Rob – Might sound crazy, but my favourite airport is the one that has a gate close to the one I get off the airplane from … when I must connect, something I try to avoid at all costs these days. Too much stress when an airplane is late and the people 20 rows ahead will never let people out first that are trying to connect.

David – Can I say the one I am at?  Why would you complain you’re at an airport?

Lockheed Super Constellation at Air 04, Payern...

Lockheed Super Constellation (Picture: Wikipedia)

  • I have been waiting to ask this to you guys for the longest time. Tell us your favourite aircraft and why?

Max – The Lockheed Constellation was the first commercial aircraft I have a memory of as a child. I remember riding in the car one day past the Columbus, Ohio airport and seeing this beautiful, graceful plane with not one but three tails! It’s always been my favourite plane.

Rob – I’m assuming you’re after my favourite airliner, not airplane in general, because my favourite machine overall is still Dassault’s Falcon 7X. Airliner, that’s another interesting question. I’d have to say the airliner would be an A380. I had a chance to fly one for a few hours when I was in France and I think I’m still awed by how easy it was to hand-fly an airplane that weighed in at over a million pounds. My friend’s Bonanza when he picked me up at Toulouse just after the flight.

Pick up for Rob

Pick up for Rob

David – So anyone who has ever read my blog or listened to the podcast knows its the C-130 Hercules but (pauses) If I have to name an airliner it is of course the aircraft the C-130 was designed to replace, the Douglas DC-3/ C-47.  The DST Douglas Sleeper Transport opened the world. The modern airline industry is because the DC-3 made airline flight practical.

  • Which is your most favourite city while traveling, any remarkable experience to share?

Max – Tokyo tops the list. Of all the places I’ve visited, Japan is the one that is more unlike home than any other. When you arrive at Narita for the first time, it’s like stepping off onto another planet. There is no English to guide you. The visual cues are all different. You can’t tell what the signs mean. Cultural behaviour is completely different.  I think that’s pretty fascinating and when you immerse yourself in that kind of environment you learn some significant things about yourself and mankind in general.

Rob – All these tough questions…favourite city is probably where the people I care about the most are at the same time. Other than that, I love Paris, London, New York and Ottawa … oh! and Edinburgh, all very romantic cities to me.

English: A TWA Douglas DC-3 airplane is prepar...

TWA Douglas DC-3 prepares for takeoff from Columbus Ohio Airport. (Photo: Wikipedia)

David – London was amazing.  If anyone has a chance, you need to be in London for Trooping of the Colour. Great Britain does Pomp and Circumstance like no other country.  To have seen Her Majesty the Queen Ride within 10 meters of me was amazing! My tip: have Breakfast or Dinner anywhere, but Lunch a different Pub everyday. You won’t regret it!

  • Pomp and Circumstance? You got to check out the Indian Republic Day Parade, David. Anyways, any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Max – I don’t know if this is an airport issue or an airline issue, but I want to see baggage retrieval times driven down to the point where it’s almost instantaneous. I want the checked bag process to be so efficient that I hand over my entire luggage upon arrival and don’t see any of it until I walk off the plane at my destination. But I want it to be they’re waiting for me so I can continue right away without any delay.

Rob – This one’s easy, power plugs. There’s almost no airport around that seems to have more than a few near the gates. That means 50 people are all fighting for two or three plugs to charge things before we get on the airplane. It can’t really be this hard.

David – I know the gang at NYC Aviation would appreciate this. Airports should recognise the importance of the spotting community. Airports are economic powerhouses but they often do a very poor job communicating that.

  • You guys run successful businesses and have had successful careers, but what advise would you give to all those who might not be financially sound, an average Joe, but who still wants to travel the world?

Max – First, have a formal plan for saving money to fund your travel. Examine where your money goes now and prioritize your life. Then, you should study the people who are good at traveling inexpensively: how to find deals for transportation and deals for food and accommodation at the destination.

Rob – I think I’d tell you that cheaper is not always the best airfare to choose. American for instance will let me fly to Las Vegas for free, but they route me to Seattle where I’d sit for 5 hours before boarding to fly back east to Las Vegas. That’s crazy. Time is worth quite a bit, I think.

David – I am the average Joe. I have a 9 to 5 job that has nothing to do with my passion. That being said, now that I interact with those have the same passions as me, I get opportunities that 5 years ago I never would have thought possible! Do what you love and you’ll find out good things will eventually happen!

  • Is there any website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Max – It’s selfish and irresponsible to just drop into a place with no understanding of the local culture, custom, and language. And if you are there on business, it’s just plain stupid to arrive with no understanding of the business culture. (It amazes me how many people do that.)  If you can’t at least say “thank you” in the local language, you are just another ugly tourist. There is a series of country-specific books called “Culture Shock!” that I find very valuable for both social culture and business culture.  I think they were actually written with expats in mind and are a great source of learning before arriving. Highly recommended.

Rob – I’d probably start with a Google search of a new city or country just to see what pops up. I’m a news junkie so what’s going on in a country is as important to me as the places I might see or stay.

David – Google and a good bookstore. Any travel is an excuse to do research. Research is fun and read everything!

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating aviation geekiness?

Max – Social media has changed the world because it has dramatically increased the communication (both accurate and otherwise) between people with shared interests. It’s so much easier to find information and opinion now, but the challenge is to separate the two.

David – Twitter & Social Media has created a giant sandbox for everyone to play in. It has developed a community where there is something for everyone and all you have to do is to quote Jean-Luc Picard “ENGAGE!”

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Max – I can honestly say I don’t have favorite Twitter accounts. It’s all become so much of a “fire hose” of information for me.

Rob – What is Twitter? OK, just kidding. Favourite three Twitter accounts eh? Sorry but I don’t think I can pin it down to three.

David@airplanegeeks

@NYCAviation

@DMVanderhoof, Why wouldn’t your own twitter account be in your top three?

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Heather Poole

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2 

Since this series is as much about Aviation, as it is about travel, Its only fitting that Heather Poole, one of the most recognized #AvGeek on twitter, makes an appearance. Besides being the first lady, she will also be the first airline employee of the series, giving us a first hand inside look into the industry from her perspective.

Heather Poole has been working for a major US airline for over 18 years as Cabin crew and is a regular globetrotter. Her list of accomplishments also include a NY Times bestseller called “Cruising Altitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 feet”. Apart from that she also writes regularly for Gadling.com with her column called “Galley Gossip” and runs a pretty interesting blog too.

Excerpts from our chat below:Heather Poole - GlobeTrotters on Twitter

  • First things first, what motivated you to travel, and become a flight attendant?

Heather – When I finally realised life was about amazing moments and new experiences, I knew what I wanted to do. I’ve been a flight attendant for almost 18 years now.

  • As a flight attendant you often have a first hand view of people traveling to and back from their trips. What has been some of your most memorable travel and flight experiences?

Heather – My favourite trips tend to be the ones that were totally unplanned. I’ll never forget deciding at the last minute to hit the road with a colleague from work on a Friday afternoon. This was almost twenty years ago when I worked a regular 9-5 job on the ground. We drove from McAllen, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico for the weekend. We ate goat (a first), listened to guitar music under the stars, spent the night in a cottage on a mountain, and woke up early the next morning in the clouds. As a flight attendant, the nicest and most memorable layovers for me have more to do more with the people I meet than anything else. Once we landed late Christmas Eve in Bermuda. The man who picked us up at the airport and drove us to the hotel every week invited the entire crew over to his house on Christmas day for dinner. It was such a nice thing to do. This after having spent many Christmas dinners stuck at an overpriced hotel buffet.

  • We know you work for a major American airline, do you have a favourite airline, if you’re allowed to answer this question 😉

Heather – Can I say my airline? I mean come on, they hired me! (After our competition didn’t.) I can’t tell you which carrier I work for because I’d like to keep my job, but it’s one of the big ones. And with that I’d like to thank all the frequent fliers who’ve helped me keep my secret. It’s got to be the worst best-kept secret in the world.

Also, I hear Cathay is pretty freakin nice. One day I’ll fly on them.

  • Any preferred airport? 

Heather – My favourite airport is Miami.  Not to be confused with my favourite route!  Because the NY-Miami is my least favourite route in the system. But as far as good food and people watching goes, you can’t beat Miami.

  • And what about your favourite aircraft type? I bet it will be a Boeing 😉

Heather – Yep, I’m going to be sad to see the 767 go.  I’ve worked that aircraft more than any of our other wide-body airplanes. I guess you could say I feel most at home on it.

  • And I have read in one of your other interviews, that you’re fond of 777s as well. In all your worldwide travels, which has been your favourite city to travel to?

Heather – Anywhere we have a long layover that’s not at an airport hotel.  All kidding aside, in the US I love spending time in San Francisco and Seattle. I’m based in NY, one of my favourite cities in the world and I live in LA, another pretty good place to be, so I’ve got those two cities covered.  Right now I mostly fly domestic trips. My son is still pretty young so I don’t like to be away from home for too long.

  • What advice would you give to budding travellers; those who are enamoured by it but still feel slightly befuddled with the idea of venturing into alien cultures.

Heather – My advice is to get out of your comfort zone, even if that means driving to a neighbouring city and checking out a new restaurant, park or museum.  It doesn’t matter how far you go, as long as you go.  You don’t have to jump on a plane and fly thousands of miles and spend a ton of money to experience something new.

  • How do you like to prepare for your travel? Do you have a guide that you always turn to?

    English: Part of Positano, Italy.

    Positano, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heather – Frommer’s might be my favourite travel guide.  But I spend WAY more time doing research online and getting advice from friends.  One of my best vacations was a trip to Italy. I met a flight attendant on our flight to Rome who drew me a map of all her favourite places to go after I mentioned we would be staying in Positano.  I visited every place she mentioned and it ended up being a spectacular trip.  So don’t be afraid to talk to the flight crew.  We like to talk.  Plus we’re like cops; we know all the best places – that are cheap and good.

  • What role do you think twitter has played in propagating travel at large?

Heather – I can’t imagine a world without twitter, and I mean that!  You’ve got breaking news, travel advice, travel deals, and millions of people who can answer a question at the last minute about pretty much anything.

  • And Finally, tell us couple of your must follow twitter accounts.

Heather – @PlaneBusiness for airline news

and, @FakeUnitedJeff for fun.

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Rick Ingersoll (Frugal Travel Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Rick Ingersoll, the founder of FrugalTravelGuy explains the mission of the blog quite simply as “helping regular folks see the world at prices one can afford”. And at that very moment I knew that I had to speak to this retired mortgage banker turned global frequent flyer and pick his brains.

Since founding the blog in 2007, Rick and his entire FTG team have helped out regular folks to travel the world upfront and in style. He has also authored a handbook aptly titled “The Frugal Guy Travel Handbook”. Rick and his wife Katy have been on two “Around the World” Rick Ingersoll - The Frugal Travel Guyitineraries in either J (Business) or F (First) class, using points, miles or vouchers. He has collected over five million frequent flyer miles and currently has over 1.5 million of them. The Frugal Travel Guy blog has also been awarded the best budget travel blog over 3  years, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 by tripbase.com.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • Rick, why do you travel?

Rick – The people. We have been blessed to visit over 60 countries and met amazing people. They have made our experiences and shared their world with us. Getting on planes is a requirement to see the world. As long as we have a comfortable seat and can safely get to our destination we’re happy to get on the plane.

  • I know you enjoy and encourage people to travel in style, in the front of the aircraft. Any interesting instances while flying?

Rick – The journey is part of the experience, but our eye is on the prize at the end, the destination. Our memorable experiences have most always been at our destination. I’ve met several readers of the blog on at the airport or on a flight which is always fun. Meeting fellow travellers leads to great conversation. A few years ago I met Dave Winfield in an airport terminal and spoke about travel and our experiences. We’ve kept in touch; he’s a great guy.

  • Do you have a favourite airport?

Rick – Hilton Head and Savannah are our current home airports. Easy in and easy out makes it a plus for us.

  • Talking about airports, what addition/s you would like to see them adopt? (besides Wi-Fi)  

Rick – More quiet spaces. Airport lounges are a fantastic place to relax but in places where there are none, quiet places to read are relaxing

  • Do you have a preferred airline and a favourite aircraft?

Rick – The airline that gets me to my destination safely and comfortably. American has treated me well in the past few years, but I’ve flown just about all of them.

As far as favourite aircraft is concerned, as a big guy every bit of space helps. For those long haul flights any plane with a flat seat so I can sleep is a winner in my book

Kauai 03 007

Kauai (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Which is your destination of choice?

Rick – We love the island of Kauai.  Perfect weather, beautiful scenery and wonderful people. I like to call it FTG west headquarters. Our time with family and friends that we’ve been able to share has been some of the best.

  • This is going to be right up your alley. I know how much you love to help out folks with their travel, what advise would you give to all those who want to travel the world frugally?

Rick – Write down your goals and priorities, and make them tangible. Make sure you hit one of your goals within a year. If you have good credit, use that excess good credit to make it affordable. It has worked for us for years and anyone can do this.

  • Which website, guide book etc. you refer before and while your traveling? What’s your study for a country/city like?

Rick – I talk to my friends and family that may know about the destination and always look through the forums on flyertalk. The US State department has a great site for information on foreign countries as well which I recommend

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Rick – I think it has done some fantastic things for customer service with almost immediate access to people empowered to help solve problems.

  • And finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on Twitter, which are your three must follow accounts on twitter

Rick – @GlobeTrotScott, @DeltaAssist, and of course @FlyerTalk

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Devesh Agarwal (Bangalore Aviation)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

When I asked Devesh what led him to start Bangalore Aviation, his answer was simply because his friends and family increasingly started coming to him for all aviation related advice and discussions, he noticed the absence of an India specific aviation blog, thus the idea of Bangalore Aviation was germinated. When your a global frequent flier with over 4 million miles against your name, all that is naturally supposed to happen.

Devesh posing Inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

Devesh posing inside Boeing 787 Dreamliner Cockpit

My personal view, knowing him for few years now, is that and more. I think it’s a cocktail of what he describes as well as what he doesn’t. You see Devesh loves to share his wealth of knowledge, and those who know him would describe him as a larger than life, social and jovial man who loves his food and flights. Through a blog he found just the right outlet to vent out. Other parts of the puzzle just fit in their places perfectly.

Bangalore Aviation is described by him as “By aviation enthusiasts, for aviation enthusiasts”, started on March 14, 2008, with the intent of being a “no-spin” zone of Indian aviation media.

Like many leading bloggers, managing Bangalore Aviation is not Devesh’s day job.  He is a technology product management expert and has been awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010.

Devesh also has been recognized as one of the must follow aviation pros on twitter in Mashable for good measure.

Enjoy this conversation:

  • Devesh, what has been your personal motivation to travel and to fly?  

Devesh – From childhood I have loved planes, the magic of flight, the physics of flying. I also have a pair of glider pilot wings, and I just love to fly. I still remember my first flight as an eight year old boarding Air India Boeing 747 Emperor Ashoka. It is fascinating that we can travel to countries on the other side of the earth in less than 24 hours, a feat that was fraught with danger less than 60 years ago. It is a pity that air travel over the years has become less glamorous and there are many airlines in the world today, which treat passengers as “self-loading cargo”, but thankfully there are also those that do not.

  • So your not a fan of Ryan Air, I’m actually yet to meet someone who is. I believe you would be the sorts to enjoy your plane ride. Any memorable experience?

    Air hostesses for Singapore Airlines. January ...

    Singapore Girls: Also known as Devesh’s perpetual saviours (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devesh –  I was on the inaugural Los Angeles-Singapore non-stop A340-500 Singapore Airline flight. The inbound flight from Singapore was four hours early due to favourable winds, which meant the winds would be against us while going back. The pilots decided to take an equatorial route, which was longer than the polar route but had less opposing winds and were nearer to major airports should we need to land to re-fuel.

During another of my SIA flights between Frankfurt and JFK. About 25% of the business class seats stopped working, two passengers fell ill midway, and one in fact died from a heart attack. All this while the crew was being audited and inspected by an in-flight quality control auditor. Hats off to that crew for their performance. They were on their feet for the full eight hours and running back and forth the entire length of the B744 and not skipping a beat on their very high service levels while still attending to the passenger emergencies and seat failures.

These are just two of my long list of experiences, by Indian newspaper standards I have had more “miraculous escapes” than the proverbial cat.

  • All that makes my next question redundant, I was going to ask your favourite airline…

Devesh – Yes, it’s Singapore Airlines. The service level is simply unmatched. On a Singapore to JFK flight, my nine year old son spilt a full glass of coke on himself. My wife had forgotten to pack a change of clothes for him. The crew brought a Givenchy pajama suit they give to first class passengers, and altered the pajamas by hand stitching to fit the young boy!!!!! I have never heard of such an experience on any other airline. To top this off, my wife and children were flying, without me, and on an award business class ticket. So no FFP or revenue influences.

English: Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V...

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 (9V-SPP) in Star Alliance livery at Singapore Changi Airport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • That actually sounds quite incredible, which would be your preferred airport?

Devesh – It’s Singapore Changi of course, due to their hyper-efficient immigration, baggage delivery, and customs. Even with checked baggage, you are out of the airport within 15 minutes.

  • All right Singapore fan boy (just kidding!!), tell me about your all time favourite aircraft.

Devesh – Without a doubt, Concorde. I was very sad to see her being retired. For the first time in history we went backward in technology as there is even till today no replacement aircraft for her, and none appears to be for the next 20 years.

(Vishal’s note: Read my flashback story on the Concorde, as well as Devesh’s great piece on it.)

  • Let’s get slightly more specific now; which airline according to you has the best economy, premium economy, business and first class products?

Devesh – Best Economy – Singapore Airlines

Best Premium Economy – Cathay Pacific

Best Business Class – 1-2-1 configured Singapore Airlines beats most first class. Also the Upper Class of Virgin Atlantic and their fantastic Club House, and those ladies in red.

Best First Class – The old Pan Am Boeing 747s with the upper deck lounge. Currently, I think Emirates A380 takes the crown. Their seats are narrow compared to other airlines, but any airline that has a shower spa on board and serves Hennessy Paradis cognac (about $850 a 750ml bottle) has to take the “Over the top” crown.

  • Lets come back to airports for a second, is there any particular addition that you would like airports to adopt? (Besides Wi-Fi)

Devesh – Restaurants serving real food, not the fast food fried or ready made nonsense. I think with growing travel, appreciation for good food, and airline’s cutting back, a fine dining restaurant at airports will do well.

  • You have a successful career and run a successful website, what advise would you give to those who want to travel the world without breaking their bank balance?

Devesh – The travel itself is not expensive. Depending on where you travel the boarding and lodging is. For most I would recommend using a tour package from one of the reputable companies.

  • Is there a go-to website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Devesh – Apart from BangaloreAviation.com? :), I go through Lonely Planet, Frommers, but my first choice is my business colleagues and friends in the destination country/city.

  • That was a clever plug Devesh 🙂, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel?

Devesh – Social media has brought more world cultures to the attention of more people, and hence the desire to travel to what, ten years ago, would have been an unknown place for someone. Same goes with meeting people. Personally I have met some great people, initially online, but then also in person. You are one person where our virtual friendship has transformed in to a real one. Other friends include Shashank Nigam (Simpliflying), and others.

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 must follow twitter user accounts?

Devesh – @mashable for all things social media and gadgets

@avweekrupa, @apexmary, @simpliflying – people with great insight and thoughtful tweets

@breakingnews – global developments

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Brian Kelly is a perfect case of perfection passion and popularity converting a Wall Street road warrior to a Miles and Points guy, more so as “The Points Guy”.Brian Kelly - The Points Guy

Before catching up with him, it was fascinating to read how a 13 year old Brian figured out to use his father’s points to take the whole family for a vacation to Grand Cayman. Equally fascinating was his transformation from a Wall Street HR Manager with a cushy job, to a Full time blogger after frequent hounding up by his family and friends first and later by the readers of his then part-time blog to help them out with their points. Boy, has that turned out well or what?

Brian’s website, ThePointsGuy turned full time in mid 2011 and now gets more than 4,00,000 unique visitors every month. Besides his own, Brian has also contributed to The New York Times, Conde’ Nast Traveler, The Los Angeles Times and The Independent. He is often invited for major travel conferences and consults regularly with top airline and hotel loyalty programs.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • Brian, what attracts you to travelling?

Brian – The main thing I love about travel is meeting new people, exploring new cities and trying different foods – all while accruing miles doing so.

  • Do you fancy airplanes or does the destination hold greater excitement for you?

Brian – For me travel is the destination, if I could teleport I absolutely would. That being said, because I’m able to fly a lot of great Business and First Class products I don’t dread getting on the plane but if I could avoid it I would. I’ve met a lot of good friends on planes including one of my best friends and business manager, and sat next to countless celebrities but the most interesting people I find are fellow frequent flyers.

  • I suspect catching up with Madonna would rank right up there for you. Which airline you fancy most for flying?

    Cathay Pacific First Class

    Cathay Pacific First Class (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brian – My favourite airline is Cathay Pacific because of their First class product, which has to be the most comfortable product I’ve ever flown. Emirates first is on my to do list and I hope to experience that within the next year or so.

  • And your preferred airport would be?

Brian – Most US airports are overcrowded and uninspired but I really like the new Sky Deck at JFK that is my favourite lounge to visit in US. Internationally I love the Concord lounge at Heathrow T5 because it’s perfect for plane watching.

  • If you could improve one area at airports what would it be? (Besides wifi)

Brian – More sky lounges for plane watchers! I would also love to see more pet relief areas within the terminal since most are outside in parking garages, which doesn’t help when connecting.

  • Which is your favourite aircraft to fly on? 

Brian – I’m old school – I love the Boeing 747, I’m an upper deck kind of guy and I like the enclosed quaint feel it has.

Flying Lufthansa First Class last summer with the lie flat bed and spacious seat was definitely a highlight for me. I still haven’t tried out the 747-8 but its on my to do list.

  • From a wall street  road warrior to a professional frequent flyer (if I may say so), what tips would you give to people at large who want to travel without spending too much?

Brian – Right off the bat you should sign up for point earning credit cards and charge every expense possible on them so you can maximise the points you earn. You should also get credit cards that have bonus categories for the things you spend the most on whether it be dining, travel, groceries, etc. I recommend signing up for the the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives 2x points on travel and dining and there is a current sign up bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.

  • All though most of your credit card tips are not applicable for the Indian market,  I still keep reading them for kicks and I remember your British Airways card tip, where 50000 miles was an upfront bonus and then you can cut up the card few months later. That was a pretty awesome offer.

            That reminds me; tell me your recommended economy, premium economy, business and first class products in the world?

Brian – Economy – I don’t know I’m 6’7 and don’t fly economy often enough to judge but I’ve heard that Emirates is pretty good

English: EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin

EVA Air 777 Elite Class cabin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Premium Economy – I’ve only flown KLM Economy Comfort and really enjoyed it. Nice touch was that it was free for Delta Platinum/Diamond Medallions

Business Class – I would have to go with EVA airways because its comfortable and they serve Dom Perignon champagne

First Class – Emirates takes the cake for my First class choice. Besides the roomy seat that extends to a comfortable bed that I can actually fit in, you can take a shower on their A380.

  • Do you have a favorite city to travel?

Brian – Madrid is the place I visit the most since my best friend lives there. I love the energy, culture, food, and nightlife there – I can never get enough. I also studied abroad there in college, which is when my love for the city began.

  • Do you consult any website, guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Brian – Whenever I’m taking a trip to an obscure destination I like to ask my readers for recommendations because they are well traveled and I trust their opinions. I also check FlyerTalk to see if there are any relevant threads.

  • You have a huge social media presence, what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Travel, and specifically award travel?

Brian – Social media/Twitter has greatly increased airline’s customer service and allowed them to be more proactive and responsive to customer complaints. In the past, customers had to submit complaints and wait weeks for a response. Now you can tweet airlines while in the airport and get issues resolved as they are happening.

(Vishal’s note:  Read this quick piece on Delta’s fantastic social media customer service effort).

  • Finally, as this is GlobeTrotters on “Twitter”, your 3 favourite twitter user accounts?

Brian – @skift – for travel industry news

@theflightdeal – for cheap flights

@NYCaviation – for breaking aviation news

 

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Aviation Day Flashback: Concorde

Concorde G-BOAB in storage at London Heathrow ...

Concorde G-BOAB in storage at London Heathrow Airport. This aircraft flew for 22,296 hours between its first flight in 1976 and its final flight in 2000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

19th August means Aviation day, and although it is more of a US based tradition, Aviation Geeks should know no boundaries.

So, in the spirit of celebrating Orville Wright’s birthday and uniting with fellow geeks all around the world, I have given a break to “GlobeTrotters on Twitter” for couple of days.

I would like to share with you one of my life’s greatest regrets, of not flying on The World’s most technically advanced aircraft ever built, The Icon of Aviation and The Marvel of Engineering, Concorde. Unfortunately, it seems I would never be able to fly on the supersonic airliner in the distant future too.

As someone rightly pointed out to me few days back, “with the retirement of Concorde, the aviation industry took a step back for the first time in it’s history”.

I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, during a recent conversation with Brett Snyder, he also revealed that his most memorable flight was on a British Airways Concorde, from London Heathrow LHR to New York JFK.

So, if you have 30 minutes today, spend them well and watch this video on “The Story of Final Concorde”.

In fact, if you’re an enthusiast, I can positively recommend you to subscribe to “The Concorde Channel” on YouTube for some excellent content on the great aircraft.

Have a great day folks, and keep flying.

Note: As I now realize, the gentleman I refer to above is none other than Mr Bangalore Aviation himself, Devesh Agarwal. His piece on the Concorde, although written few years back, is still is an emotional read.