Category: Twitter

Is Taco Bell the Savviest Social Media Brand?

On my commute back from office last night, I noticed few odd and alarming tweets. Allow me to quickly present my case:

Bridget Carey, from CNET was tweeting in ALL CAPS!!

And Nilay Patel had this

Taco Bell story? Some die-hards were flipping out!

Like any self-respecting digital marketer, I figured I had to be on top of this recent development. So I went to Taco Bell’s twitter. Then to their Instagram feed. Then to their Facebook page. And finally to their Google+ page as well. This is a collection of what I saw.

Taco Bell - Social Networks

Taco Bell – Social Networks

As it turned out, Taco Bell launched a new mobile app but rather than going on a social media frenzy, and buying up all possible hashtags, the digitally savvy brand did the exact opposite. It blacked out and went silent across all of their social presence channels. Even the website, which had products and corporate/brand information, wasn’t spared either to promote the new app. Content on the company’s Facebook was deleted and all images blacked out. On Instagram, Taco Bell released a series of black and white text-based images with the hashtag #onlyintheapp. For a brand that has over 10 million fans on Facebook, this move can clearly be described as ballsy, one which most marketers will lose weeks of sleep over.

Taco bell - only in the app

The silence was urging fans to download the app directly. Normally, a brand would go all out on its social and web channels to promote a new launch. For something like an app, the focus clearly would have been more on mobile marketing, and a typical brand would have done one, two or all the three below:

1) Running a CPD campaign to promote downloads on mobile ad networks. Off late, this has been a very popular form of promotion on Facebook and Twitter native apps as well

2) Buying display and text inventory across major networks, trying to push app functionality

3) Bid for related keywords on search engines and then hope for CPC traffic

Taco Bell, to the best of my knowledge, has done nothing of the above. This is obviously not to indicate that the above-mentioned methods are not effective. Thousands of apps employ those strategies every day, and do it with great success.

Taco Bell has done things differently while creating enormous amount of buzz and earned impressions. The App Annie chart below looks at the Taco Bell “Live Mas” app’s rank history over the past month, for Apple iOS. Notice the spike in the end. The chart shows that for the Food & Drink category, the app moved from its usual spot from around 60 to become number one for that category, in the US. Amazingly, It also became 24th most popular app in the US on the launch day. Next day, it climbed up to rank #22.

Taco Bell App - iOS Rank History

Taco Bell App – iOS Rank History

The hour-by-hour report is even more incredible. It starts with the app ranked 1,379 overall in the US as of 2am PT, October 28. By 1pm — it had shot to become the 24th most popular app. The app is not yet listed on the iTunes most popular free apps chart as it is updated on a weekly basis.

Taco Bell App - iOS Hourly Rank History

Taco Bell App – iOS Hourly Rank History

Besides the number of downloads, the post-download behaviour/interaction is vital. Everybody in the business knows that its easy to make users download apps, its far more tougher to make them use it everyday, every week, once every month or heck, even once after the first trial.

It won’t be the brilliant promotion strategy that would make users come back, but the app itself, and the UX it offers. Taco Bell covered that with the option of ordering mobile app only products on the app. They are also offering mobile payment, which is apparently the first for the industry. Moreover, in stores, there will be a separate pick-up line for app orders.

Taco Bell is known for its progressive and clever social media strategy, including being an early mover on Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr, Pinterest, Hyperlapse among others. While it initially seemed like Taco Bell had completely wiped out its Twitter history, the account is actually hiding at @totallynothere during the blackout — with all followers (1.4 million) and tweets (39.9K) in place.

Taco Bell - Totally not there twitter

Taco Bell’s alternative twitter account

It is also interesting to note how quickly Twitter acted to make the “new” Taco Bell account verified. Usually, when a verified account is renamed (which is exactly what Taco Bell’s agency Digitas did), it loses the verified status. Clearly twitter and Digitas were planning and working on this stunt together. For now, the experiment seems to be continuing though it may not be long before Taco Bell resets and retakes its old avatar. I, for one, miss the witty one-liners. See below for an epic example.

Taco Bell vs Old Spice - Tweet Wars

Taco Bell vs. Old Spice – Tweet Wars

It is heartening to see Taco Bell embrace technology like no one else, and at the same time, add emotions in the mix. Even the press invites sent for the announcement looked like something you wouldn’t expect from a fast food retailer.

Taco Bell Invitation

Taco Bell Invitation

And that’s the trick. Taco Bell wanted to make sure that their message broke through, without breaking their budgets.  As a pioneer marketer, Taco Bell prefers to do things that have never been done before, which fits perfectly with their brand as well as the demographic they cater to.

Social media has been tightly entrenched in Taco Bell’s broad marketing play as well, with key personnel from PR, operations, product, and marketing playing a part in influencing the brand’s social movement. And for those, who believe social media leads to zero ROI, one look at Taco Bell would absolve that myth. AdAge recently wrote about the role of social media in year-on-year sales growth outpacing its competitors.

I have written in the past about clever social media and real time marketing employed by brands but this easily surpasses all Dark dunks and funny tweet fights. What do you think?

This article has also appeared on The Wall Blog.

 

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 | Scott Mayerowitz

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

With a twitter handle like @GlobeTrotScott, it was almost impossible to leave Scott Mayerowitz out of this list. And not just the apt twitter handle, his extensive experience and expertise as a long time travel and airline writer meant that I had to somehow find a way to convince him, to answer my curiosities.

As it turned out Scott is all round nice guy and few twitter DM’s between us did the trick. Apt again, considering twitter is a very important part of this little initiative called “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”. Get the hint?

Scott is based in the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest news agencies, writing long form enterprise and investigative stories about the airline and travel industries, and covering all aspects of aviation. Prior to his arrival at the AP, Scott covered travel for ABC News and oversaw the network’s online travel section. He’s also been associated with ABC in the past.

#AvGeek Drill?

#AvGeek Drill?

This series has had aviation and travel maestros of various kinds, from marketing specialists, to world renowned bloggers, perpetual non-stop travellers to well respected frequent flyers, Having someone now from journalistic background who’s a self confessed #AvGeek excited me immensely, and I hope all of you enjoy our chat as well.

  • What is your greatest motivation to travel Scott, and what do you think about air travel?

Scott – I just love to explore. Even when I walk around New York, where I live, I try to pick a different block and see something new. Traveling to the other end of the country – or another continent – is just an expansion of that desire to appease my curiosity. Trains and ferries are fun, but nothing beats flying high above the globe at nearly the speed of sound. I’m happy spending my flight pressed against the window watching small towns, rivers and highways pass below. Even the clouds can be fun to watch.

  • I know you consider yourself an #AvGeek, what do you think makes flights memorable? Do you have a flight memory to share?

Scott – Flying is a great tool for quickly exploring faraway lands but it is ultimately just a means for getting from one place to another. That said it could be a lot of fun. Too often, I am buried in my laptop on a flight. But when I don’t have work to do, I’m like a five-year-old boy again, watching the world outside the window. The complex operations of an airport are also fun to watch. My most memorable flight isn’t one where I’ve been pampered in first class – though those are nice too – but a short hop at low elevation across the Caribbean. I was mesmerized by the view of the Shallow Ocean and countless tiny islands below.

Statues dancing Hula kahiko at Kona I...

Statues dancing Hula kahiko at Kona International Airport (KON), Photo: Wikipedia

  • Do you have a preferred airport?

Scott – It’s hard to pick just one. Napa Farms Market at San Francisco’s Terminal 2 has great, quick food. I love the look of the Rafael Viñoly-designed terminal in Montevideo. Hong Kong’s sprawling airport is easy to navigate and you can’t beat the express train into the city. The huts at Kona airport in Hawaii make me smile.

  • I know you cover the airline industry, but I’m still going to try and ask you your favourite airline.

Scott – I can’t exactly pick favourites in my job. Sure one of the Asian carriers might have the best seats or service, but that doesn’t mean it is the best value for everybody or fits my travel needs. And an airline that I might prefer for domestic travel isn’t necessarily going to fly me to Africa or South America. The one that gets me there safely, on time, at a reasonable cost and with some degree of comfort wins.

  • What about your favourite aircraft type?

Scott – I like the promise of the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. If they live up to the hype, they can cut the cost of travel and the toll that flying takes on the environment. That said, I still find the Boeing 777 to be one of the most graceful and simplistic planes. Sure it doesn’t have the distinctive hump of the 747 or the A380’s double deck but it has two giant engines that are able to take hundreds of people around the globe without stopping for fuel. I’ve been lucky enough to see those engines up close and, well, it puts everything into perspective.

  • And while globe hopping on those 777s, have you come across a city where you love traveling to? Recall an interesting travel moment.
Budapest Parliament Building on the Danube

Budapest Parliament Building on the Danube (Photo : Wikipedia)

Scott – One of my favourite travel memories was an early-morning run along the Danube when visiting Budapest. The city was just coming to life. Most tourists were still in bed. The sun was beaming down on these amazing historical buildings. And I just experienced a sense of being part of it all. It’s one of the most beautiful cities and – at the time – was just far enough off the tourist agenda that it wasn’t overrun with crowds. Besides, who can’t love a city that has 500-year-old Turkish baths with amazing architecture?

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

Scott – When in Europe, I rely on Rick Steve’s for advice on what to see and which neighbourhoods to stroll through. Otherwise, I check Frommer’s and Fodor’s for the basics. These days, I’m finding myself turning more and more to Twitter. I’m fortunate enough to have many loyal followers who give me tips and connect me with locals they know for even better tips. We all know to see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame when visiting Paris. But what about that great, new cafe in Le Marais? That’s where Twitter has surprisingly helped me.

  • How would you like to see airports improve?

Scott – Airports, particularly in the U.S., need to do a better job of being accessible by mass transit. Cities should follow the lead of Portland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Denver, which have built (or are still building) light rail lines to the airport. It’s stressful enough to worry about getting through check-in lines and security. Nobody should have to also fret over a traffic jam. Living in New York, I frequently take our clunky and often confusing mass transit to the airport. It might take longer – and is far from the best system – but I know exactly how long the trip will take.

  • What tips you would like to give to new travellers, afraid of breaking their bank in order to travel. 

Scott – Some of my best travel experiences have come on a shoestring budget. I still have cravings for this incredible dinner I had in Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighbourhood; we had steak, wine and pasta for less than the cost of some New York lunches. Thanks to some wise use of credit cards and frequent flier miles, I was able to fly for free. Many public transit lines – especially in Europe – offer great sightseeing tours at a fraction of the cost of those hop-on, hop-off buses. Museums are often free one night or day during the week. Think like a local and do some research. You won’t just save money but have a better experience.

  • You may have slightly answered this question already but briefly describe what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating travel among common folks?

Scott – Social media has allowed the common traveler to communicate directly with airlines, hotels, zoos, museums and other attractions. It has taken some of the stress out of travel but providing detailed answers to custom questions that guidebooks often can’t answer. Does the cafe at the museum cater to people with peanut allergies? I’m traveling for my honeymoon, any chance of an upgrade? Twitter allows all travellers to get answers to questions that might have never easily received.

  • Right! Finally as this is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, which are your 3 must follow twitter accounts?

Scott – @DavidJBarger – It’s nice to see an airline CEO Tweet and actually have fun things to say.

@NYCAviation – These guys are plugged into the air traffic and plane spotting communities.

@AP – Sure I work here, but it always amazes me how many interesting stories from all corners of the globe there are.

 

 

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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 | Gary Arndt (Everything-Everywhere)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Almost six and half years back, In the early spring of 2007, Gary Arndt decided to let go of everything that he owned and set off on a journey which would inspire not just him, but hundreds of thousands across the world to Travel.

He sold off his house, his furniture, and appliances…. Almost everything he owns and decides to pursue his passion. And thus Everything Everywhere, one of the longest running personal travel blog is born.

In between his undying love for Travel, Pro Wrestling (His headshot actually reminded me of Stone Cold Steve Austin in a way) and Writing for the blog, Gary also finds time to co-host a fantastic travel podcast with Chris Christensen every week called This Week in Travel, speak at conferences around the world and shoot thousands of brilliant photographs every month.

Gary wears his patented "traveller facemask"

Gary wears his patented “Traveller Face mask”, you don’t wanna know more!

Gary also writes/shoots regularly for leading publications like The Atlantic, The Huffington Post and The Four Hour Work Week. He has won the Lowell Thomas Award and his blog was named one of the 25 best blogs on the Internet by Time Magazine in 2010.

And here’s the most stunning part: Gary has Globetrotted over 140 countries and 7 continents in the last 6 years, besides covering over 250 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

With an ever increasing massive following on twitter (1,22,889 followers, as of pressing publish) and his unmatched Globetrotting skills, needless to say I was more than excited for my chat with Gary.

  • What is it about traveling that made you left everything behind? What is your greatest motivation to travel?

Gary – I enjoy the freedom that travel offers and I enjoy learning about new things everywhere I go.

  • Do you enjoy the flying portion of your trips?  Would you count yourself as an enthusiast?

Gary – Honestly, I don’t. I prefer almost every other mode of transportation to flying. The process isn’t pleasant, but it is something you just have to do if you travel internationally. Memorable flights are usually not good flights, so I’m thankful to say I haven’t really had any memorable experiences.

  • No special memories from your flight time. What about airlines, do you have any favored airline?

Gary – My favorite airline is Singapore Airlines because they have such great customer service.

  • Would that make SIA’s hub at Changi your desired airport as well?

Gary – Yes, Indeed. They have lots of great things to do if you are on a layover and the facility is well designed.

  • I know you have hesitated before about naming your most favourite destination, and compared it to a mother choosing between her children, but I’m going to give it one more shot.

Gary  * SILENCE *

  • All right, with that insightful answer, can you share your most unforgettable travel experience?

    English: A swimmer in Jellyfish Lake, Palau.

    A swimmer in Jellyfish Lake, Palau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gary – My most unforgettable experience is either swimming with Jellyfish in Palau or being on shore with 100,000 penguins in South Georgia Island.

  • As a habitual traveler, if I may use that word, where would you like to see Airports improve?

Gary – I would like to see accessible and ample power outlets. Too many airports either hide them or make them inaccessible.

  • True. While researching for our interaction I stumbled on to one of your other interviews, where you mentioned Monster Cable Travel Power Strip as one of the most important parts of your tech gear. I also read that you’re a part owner of Packers, which would make you quite well off. What advice would you give to all those who might not be as financially sound, an average guy, but who still wants to travel the world?

Gary – That confuses a lot of people. The Green Bay Packers are the smallest community in North America to have a professional sports team and they are the only North American sports team, which is owned by the community. There is no billionaire owner. I own 1 share of stock that I purchased for $200 🙂

Travel is cheaper than people think it is. It all depends on where you go and how you do it. If you travel to Switzerland or Norway, you will spend a lot of money. If you go to SE Asia or Central American, you can spend very little. Likewise, if you avoid the big chain hotels and stay at hostels and guesthouses you can save a lot of money as well.  

  • So much for my extensive research. Ha! Let me try to put you in the pickle again: Which website, guide book etc. you consult before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?

Gary – I never use guidebooks and I don’t do that much research. I travel so much I usually just land and figure things out. If it is a place I’ve never been before I might get 1 or 2 nights booked in advance, but that is about it. Everything I get from asking people on the ground, Google searches and from my readers.

  • That should encourage a lot of people out there to just travel. And in the end, in the spirit of “GlobeTrotters on Twitter” tell me your 3 must follow twitter users

Gary –  @PVPonline

@JohnnyJet

@Petapixel

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

The first bookmark in my aviation essential reading folder is CrankyFlier.com, and I’m certain to be one of the many enthusiasts who open the site every day to read new content (although on an average, a new article pops up on the site every second day).

Brett Snyder, the President and (as he likes to call himself) the Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Flier is the ‘been there, done that’ man of the aviation industry. Fascination with airplanes started at a very young age and by the age of 12, he had become a travel agent. His fascination with the industry only grew with job stints at USAir, America West, United and PriceGrabber.com.Brett Snyder - Cranky Flier on Air NZ

He’s been a full time blogger for few years now, along with his own air travel assistance service, known as Cranky Concierge, for which he has been named as a “Top Travel Specialist” by Conde Nast Traveler for multiple times now.

Brett has also won multiple awards for “The Cranky Flier”, and also writes for CNTraveler.com and Intuit Small Business Blog.

Before we begin our chat, bit of trivia about the name: Brett was given the name “Cranky Pants” by his friend and that stuck as CrankyFlier, as the name seemed neutral to Brett himself.

 

  • What makes you travel Brett?

Brett – Sadly most of my travel lately is about the process itself and not about being in a location.  That’s too bad, because the real motivation for travel should be what’s on the other end of the flight.  It’s almost always worth it, even though it is exhausting.

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

Brett – I enjoy both, but I don’t have a lot of sightseeing opportunities on my trips lately.  Regarding flights, I have had so many great experiences.  But I think if there’s one that stands out, it’s the time I had the pleasure of flying Concorde from London to New York.  That was just surreal. (Vishal’s note:  Must read related trip report of Concorde here).

  • I know that Boeing 747 is your favourite aircraft, what about your preferred airport and why? 

Brett – I don’t have a single airport or airline that I like best.  It’s different depending upon the situation.  For example, I love my hometown airport, Long Beach, but that’s because you can get through it very easily and the facility is excellent.  But it’s not where I’d want to spend a long connection.

  • And your Favorite airline will be?

Brett – For airlines, I might choose one airline to go in business class to Europe whereas a short hop to San Francisco might be something else.  I really don’t have a top choice.

  • What about your preferred city for a break?

Brett – I’d have to say London.  For whatever reason, I just love going there.  One of my favourite experiences there involved a visit to some friends on a surprisingly warm and sunny spring day.  We started up on Baker Street and wandered the streets until we ended up down in South Kensington for dinner.  We just wandered aimlessly for hours and took advantage of the city’s lack of an open container law.  I find that the best experiences are when I know someone locally.  It just changes the way you see a city.

  • Leaving aside Wi-Fi, which is being implemented by majority of airports, what other changes you want to see at the airports?

Brett – I would love to see more day rooms.  Fortunately, we’re seeing that happen more and more.

  • You run a successful website/business. What would you tell as advise to the average Joe, missing deep pockets but still harboring the will to travel the world?

Brett – There are great ways to travel the world without spending a ton of money.  In particular, if you can qualify for a credit card, you can earn a lot of miles and turn that into free travel around the world.  Or you can look for a job that requires a lot of travel.  Travel within regions can be very inexpensive, and you can always say in hostels to save money.  So the key is just funding the long haul travel.

  • Do you have a go-to guide before you travel?

Brett – I don’t have a go-to guide.  I use friends as much as possible, but for internet research I usually just start with Google and work my way around from there.

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

Brett – I think social media has helped bring experiences to people in real time.  It used to be you could watch a slideshow of someone’s trip after they returned.  Now you can live through it with them including photos, videos and more.  It can all be shared as it happens, so it makes it more real for people at home.

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

Brett – three favourites?  Hmm, maybe @FakeUnitedJeff@NYCAviation,

and since you didn’t say it had to be travel-related, @Dbacks.  (Yep, I’m a big baseball fan.)

 

 

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GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time)

GlobeTrotters on Twitter 2

Let me start about Ben by saying that he has had top tier elite status with an airline since he was 14 years old. FOURTEEN. When I was 14 I had taken a grand total of four flights. With that out of the way, Let’s try to pick more of Ben’s brain.

I know Ben Schlappig as the guy behind Boarding Area’s “One Mile at a Time” blog. The purpose of the blog is to share his travel experiences (300,000 miles/year and 100+ hotel nights/year at that) and to stay abreast with the latest in travel industry. Besides his blogging prowess and his healthy obsession with collecting points, Ben is also a travel consultant and a writer.Ben Schlappig

Three years back Ben founded PointsPros.com, a travel consulting service to help regular folks utilize their miles for dream destinations. He has also served as a member of the TalkBoard, and has been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

Excerpts from our chat:

  • I read that you overslept for your Computer science class, did guilty procrastination and emailed Randy Petersen to start your BoardingArea.com blog. I’m curious how a blog about Frequent flying and Aviation took birth from a computer science class?

Ben – For one, I am a huge aviation geek, and am fascinated with planes and travel in general. I love experiencing new products and new places, and typically find the experience to be more of an adventure than a hassle. I’ve been known to intentionally “fall” for scams overseas just to see what happens, and have spent hours in coffee shops and cafes soaking in the differences in culture.

  • As an #AVGeek, Do you enjoy the flying part of your travels more or the sightseeing in cities? Tell us about your most outstanding flying experience.

    A crayfish starter for the business folks on S...

    A crayfish starter for the business folks on Singapore Airlines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ben – Both! I can’t emphasise enough how much I love airplanes. Seeing a new city is always fun as well, or just spending time enjoying the views. One of my favourite flights was the first time I flew with my now favourite flight attendant on a Singapore Airlines First Class flight from Singapore to Tokyo last April.  From the moment I stepped on board I was treated with a level of kindness and attention I’d never encountered in hundreds of thousands of miles of travel, and it was just an incredible experience. She and I are now good friends, which makes the outstanding service on that flight even more memorable.

  • I would hazard a guess that Singapore Airlines would be your favourite airline?

Ben – I am incredibly partial to Lufthansa’s First Class product, but for an overall favourite airline I’d have to say Singapore Airlines. Similarly, I’ve threatened to move to the Frankfurt First Class Terminal, though outside of that my favourite airport is probably Singapore Changi for all of its amenities.

  • I understand Taj Mahal is your favourite world heritage site, what would be your favourite city?

Ben – I love Hong Kong, and like to visit there every chance I get. The food is fantastic, the architecture is unique, and I find it to be such an approachable city – even for a short layover.

  • How do you think airports can become friendlier and easier for frequent flyers like yourself? Most of them are installing Wi-Fi, can they do something else too?

Ben – Well, the natural counterpart to Wi-Fi is a power outlet, and I think most frequent travellers can relate to sitting on the floor charging their electronics before the next flight. Besides that, as an aviation geek I love outdoor terraces/observation decks, which some airports seem to be adding.

  • I’m glad you mentioned observation decks/terraces as I personally think that’s the best thing an airport can do for its flyers. Schiphol Amsterdam straight away comes to mind with its wonderful and large terrace.

            Do you have any research quirks before your trips?

Ben – This is mildly embarrassing, but I do almost no research outside of checking the weather and finding the best way to get to the hotel from the airport. I also tend to work the majority of the time when I’m traveling, so prefer to talk to people on the ground when I arrive and find out what their favourite recommendations are for the short time I typically have for sightseeing.

  • What would you to tell an average person who wants to travel but is missing fat pockets?

Ben – Most people think travel is expensive, though with a bit of legwork it needn’t be. Having your finances in order is important, and can allow you to leverage your credit and other resources to obtain world-class travel, but I find people are generally surprised to hear how low the out-of-pocket costs can be for some amazing travel experiences. By taking advantage of the right credit cards and promotions, even luxury travel can be affordable for the majority of people.

  • What role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating Award Travel and its awareness levels?

Ben – It’s had a huge impact! When I first started blogging social media wasn’t a key component, but now I find myself interacting with readers and sharing experiences via Twitter, which is awesome. I also think the access to airline and hotel representatives via Twitter can be hugely beneficial to travellers in general.

  • And in the spirit of “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, tell us your three must follow twitter accounts?

Ben – I love @theflightdeal for keeping track of the best airfare

@johnnyjet for keeping up with the latest news in the industry (he does an especially good job retweeting top stores),

and @AmericanAir for the excellent customer service they provide via Twitter.

 

 

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