Tagged: Hong Kong

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 | 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 | 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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Top 7 Aviation News & Analysis Resources on the Web

                                              Photo Courtesy : Airliners.net

With my last post, The Social Dutchman, I reached readers from 24 countries with inspiring feedback, providing me the urge to do better with my next. A benchmark was set for me & for over 2 weeks I thought about how to engage with more geeks like me, whether those are Social Media, Digital Marketing, Technology or in the case of this post, Aviation Geeks, or as they are called on twitter, #AVGeek.

There would have been other lists done before, maybe yes, then what value addition I bring to the table (& as a Digital Marketer, I get asked this question on daily basis) Well my simple answer is, I bring my own experience of being an ardent aviation reader for over 3 years to the table, during which I have been to over 120 aviation websites and blogs.

I have been fond of airplanes for as long as I remember, being in awe of pilots walking to their craft, clicking pictures with crappy cellphone cameras, reading every word of safety manuals in seat pocket, hell I probably was the biggest fan of Pan Am, the show which abc dropped, nerdy stuff like that but I delved more into the industry with the arrival of twitter, my favorite social network as I mentioned in the last post as well.

So this list compiles 7 of the best commercial aviation related web resources (listed alphabetically) that I know of, hopefully enthusiasts, from noob to pro level, all of them would find something they like. Your comments are welcome at the bottom of this post.

Airline Business Blog

Although Airline Business is a monthly international magazine for senior airline management, it also has a blog on the flightglobal blog page, focusing on “a sideways look at the airline industry”.

13 other blogs jostle for attention on the same page, including the famous FlightBlogger. With such rich content & renowned contributors, Airline Business Blog has carved a loyal following for itself by providing unparalleled coverage on Airline News, Interviews, Infographics & well researched opinion pieces.

Max Kingsley-Jones article on Boeing’s 787 at this years Farnborough show has been 1 of my favorite off late, summing up the Blog for me by being precise, studied & descriptive.

Arun Rajagopal’s How to know your Airbus from Boeing

Although Arun’s blog is full of marvelous information about aviation & his trip reports (Read this with a tissue: His report on last kingfisher international flight), this article, more so a plane spotter’s guide, as Arun explained me himself, has been “one of the best things I have ever done in my life”

Differentiating between an Airbus & a Boeing aircraft is one of the most important things for an enthusiast, a conversation starter & a handy way to show off among your friends, I can vouch for the last one.

Arun wanted to know more himself & realized there wasn’t any resource online suitable enough for him, so he wrote his own guide, took him 2 weeks but clearly it was well worth it & we can consume those 2 weeks of hard work, complete with explanatory pictures, in less than 40 minutes.

Aspire Aviation Analysis

This is where I come when I need commentaries on issues pertaining to Asian aviation scene in large. Their location, Hong Kong, one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, certainly helps in their coverage of stories.

Although Aspire Aviation is primary an aerospace consultancy business, their analysis section piques my interest with every visit, Daniel Tsang, the founder & chief analyst of the site told me he wanted to start a blog where he could express his views about industry developments & with time they added editors increasing the diversity offered.

Daniel also realized that Aspire could provide qualitative analysis for free, instead of hefty fees charged by others, as information cost fell significantly & they were in a unique position to provide Asian perspective to issues.

Besides Asian Aviation, Daniel, along with Vinay Bhaskara has also authored detailed posts on Airframe manufacturers like Airbus, Boeing & Bombardier.

Bangalore Aviation

I remember visiting Devesh Agarwal’s Twitter page, through Mashable’s recommended list few years back, which led me to BangaloreAviation.com.

Since that day, without a shadow of a doubt, Bangalore Aviation has been my first stop for everything related to Indian Aviation news & analysis; turns out hundreds of thousands of other enthusiasts feel the same way.

Devesh, joined off late by Vinay Bhaskara, has this uncanny way of making the industry approachable for newbies, as well as make the pros feel at home, with their concise approach & detailed analysis. I, especially look forward to Airlines financial analysis, which Vinay undertakes for the site.

As Devesh mentioned during our interaction, Aviation has been in his blood since childhood, he has flown aircraft for 24 years himself & advised Ministry of Civil Aviation on BIAL airport, giving him an edge which very few can boast of in this beat.

Cranky Flier

I’m not at all surprised that Crankyflier.com usually figures in the top aviation blogs list everywhere, as Brett Snyder has been responsible for one of the world’s best online destination for people’s thrust (literally) for aviation industry.

My regular lunchtime reading aviation tweets usually have a link to a latest piece on cranky & I marvel at the ease with which the articles envelop the reader with excitement & information.

Brett calls himself the President & Chief Airline Dork for Cranky Flier LLC, & that dorkiness has been with him since he was a kid, like going to LAX to pick up airline timetables & birthday gifts which led to plane spotting. He has worked with airlines, travel companies & now consults on various projects, along with running a personal concierge service.

You should visit crankyflier for insights & happenings in American aviation industry, & checking up on Brett’s regular articles for Conde Nast Daily Traveler & other blogs.

SimpliFlying

Simpliflying is probably the world’s best combination of marketing & aviation for me. Shashank Nigam’s (CEO, SimpliFlying) quote during our discussion explains it best, “Our brand engagement with a can of Coke is about 10 minutes. With Starbucks, it’s about 2 hours. But with an airline, it’s anywhere from 2-24 hours. And that’s just within the cabin. So why do airlines keep applying the same marketing principles as Coke and Starbucks, despite seldom turning a profit?”

& That’s why we have Simpliflying today, right from explaining how weather problems are airline brand business, to key influencers making a difference, Shashank & his team have explained all this & more through easy to understand infographics, video content, presentations, interviews, webinars, articles & even an iPhone app.

The Points Guy

I came across thepointsguy while I was preparing myself for a business trip to US & it has quickly become my go-to site for information on frequent flyer programs, credit card & hotel deals.

Although I would admit that the site is mainly focused on American readers, it still has some great resources for overall understanding about collection points, like The Beginners Guide, which has step-by-step instructions to become an addict.

For my travel, I was able to extract two important links concerning my hotel bookings, for example: I got to know how I could earn up to 5x air miles (in my case, it was KLM Flying Blue) by staying at Hyatt Reston, & another link helped me in deciding between going for Hotels.com free nights or Hotel Points offered at their sites. (I went with the latter of course).

During my communication with Brian Kelly’s office, the founder of the site, I was able to clearly see that unlike other similar sites, he disseminates information to his readers in a more intuitive, easy to understand & most importantly street smart way to work effectively with the system.

It has inspired me to travel one day in J class with a bag full of miles & points, instead of cash.

SPECIAL Mention:

I would like to mention Live From A Lounge, hosted as part of Boarding Area, an India dedicated site for Credit Card, Airport Lounges, Hotel & Airline miles, run by AJ, I certainly enjoy reading his reports & he answers reader questions frequently as well.

Update: I have received an email from AJ, requesting for some additions to this summary :

LFAL is an India-dedicated site covering Indian aviation and hotels, focusing on how to travel smart and in style from India by making the best use of deals, miles, points and credit cards offered in India. Live From A Lounge frequently features in the Top 20 travel blogs worldwide as per Technorati, the global authority on blog rankings.

 
This Post is also featured on Bangalore Aviation, as a slightly altered Guest Post.