The much anticipated annual World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry, generating more than £2.8 billion of business contracts between attendees, opened it's doors to the media and invited guests in London at the London ExCel with a spectacular display of song, dance and plenty of glamour on the morning of the 6th of November. It's the key event for the world's travel and tourism industry, with practically the who's who of the industry coming together to discuss important issues, close important deals and reveal new product and service offerings in a world exclusive. Below are some exclusive snippets I gathered from the action-packed three-day event.
Here is what I had to say about the importance of attending the event:
BBC News anchor Aaron Haslehurst opened the event for the media with an overview of the year for the industry. He summarised that the industry is more optimistic in 2017/8 than last year with over £3 billion in business and is set to grow. He also revealed that Italy and Greece are actually enjoying the high growth of tourism despite Brexit happening, and this trend is set to continue. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Alex Cruz, the CEO of British Airways, gave an inspirational talk on his thoughts and strategy to make the national flag carrier a leading five-star airline while at the same time keep costs down. Despite being a tough year for the airline, Mr. Cruz is optimistic that 2018 will be a fruitful year for British Airways, and that cutting down on certain things, such as free in-flight food & beverages on European and Domestic routes is the correct thing to do because the majority of passengers would prefer that. Aviation experts predict that the introduction of paid services, such as in-flight Wi-Fi could also bring in extra income for airlines. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Cricket legends attend the WTM 2017
When the world comes to London!
China's economic growth will see a trend in the independent traveller- whereas before it used to be that group travel was popular in the country. Chinese visitors to the UK will also increase in the coming year. A particular reason is the awareness about global tourism generated in China via digital and social media platforms such as WeChat: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Slovenia, one of those countries that deserves more attention than they get. With great food, wine and spectacular views, this is a country that offers a lot for the tourist and is not that expensive either. Foodies delight, Slovenia will be a major hit list in 2018 according to industry experts. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
THY Turkish Airlines had one of the biggest stands I have ever seen displayed by an airline. The award-winning airline has constantly been voted the best in Europe and offers more routes worldwide than any other airline...will they be the next Singapore Airlines? We shall see. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
SAUDIA- Saudi Arabian Airlines unveiled new Business and First Class seats and products during the WTM 2017. They have ambitious plans to operate to over 200 routes by 2020 and maybe even plan more routes to London, a traditional destination for them, and to emerging markets such as India and China. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
It doesn't get better than this. On our flight back from our honeymoon to Shanghai, we receveied a card signed by every member of the cabin crew and cockpit crew, and an announcement made over the PA- to the applause from the passengers. Quite a celebration and a joyful moment to remember for the rest of our lives: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Kuala Lumpur airport is located around 50kms from the city centre- you can either cough up a heavy taxi fare (around $40 one-way) or take a quick express train from the airport to central station. The KLIA Ekspres is a premium non-stop high-speed train service that connects KL International Airport(s) and the Kuala Lumpur city center and takes around 30-minutes. It is clean, air conditioned and makes the London Underground and the New York Subway system look like wagons from a century ago!: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Kuala Lumpur is the 13th busiest in the world and always seems to be empty. It's built about 50kms from the city and not quick to get to by all means, and is surrounded by forest. But forests mean green and green means hot. During approach pilots (and passengers) have to contend with turbulence due to the localised hot air rising from the canopy: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
My wife and I would like to give a special thanks to Hong Kong based Passenger Services Officer, Ms. Koyi Wong from Cathay Dragon. After our flight was delayed from Shanghai Pudong to Hong Kong, we evidently ended up missing the HKG-KUL flight as well. Ms. Koyi Wong went out of her way to help us get not only onto our next flight, but also to make sure that our luggage arrived safely onto our next flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi (which was with Malaysia Airlines on a different ticket).
Koyi is a customer service professional extraordinaire, and in all my travels so far I have never come across an airline personnel who genuinely goes out of their way to help passengers. If it was not for her, we would have missed our flight to Langkawi from KL and it would have occurred us extra charges and delays etc. She deserves a special mention in your company newsletter or similar communication materials and I hope she can become more successful in her career and life. There are some truly amazing people in the aviation industry and Ms. Koyi Wong is definitely one of them. Amazing human. I did not take her photo, but here is a photo of her badge, which she quite rightly deserves to wear with sheer pride. People like Koyi ALL work for airlines (except for the ones who work in hospitals...or ambulances...or rescue helicopters etc.). My hats off.
Airline pilots are apparently trained not to spill drinks while in-flight. Interestingly, after our flight was delayed by nearly three hours (they like to avoid the insurance claims, so the delays are always just below three hours!), these chaps were in such a rush to get me to my wedding in Yangzhou that we ended up spilling the drinks in-flight!
Dubai Airport at 1am...the world's jet lagged come here to do shopping at midnight. Yep, people love buying gold at night (like you do!)!
Wedding cake and card given by Emirates airline cabin crew on flight to Dubai from London. Great flight...photos on their camera came out better (yes, hard to believe that a PHOTOGRAPHER could not take his own photo!)...never had 12 crew surrounding my seat...what a celebration!: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Time to go back to Shanghai (via Hong Kong)...def will beat DHL to get my parcel to the British Embassy- as that would have taken 3 days...quickest turnaround...12 hours of running around London getting errands done (including a quickfire shopping trip to Harrods) and 8 hours of bliss sleep thanks to a great book by James (read his book...perfect for long-haul flights and short stopovers!). Ciao London...
I first met James on an Emirates A380 flight from Dubai to London Heathrow (Callsign ‘EK003 heavy’- click here to view the review of that flight) in 2011. He was our Senior First Officer and was kind enough to take a few photos for me from the flight deck using my camera (my camera was allowed in, but not I!). We had an amazing crew on that flight, and the senior purser was a good bloke. Upon hearing that I was a photographer and journalist, he replied “Oh, our senior pilot is also a photographer and author- let me speak to him and see if he can lend you his book”. The guy gave me his book for the whole flight…best in-flight reading I have ever done! After we landed at a windy Heathrow, the senior purser (who somehow also doubled as a good salesman), asked me “So, what do you think? Would you like to buy it?” I burst into laughter….I thought it was a free gift from James!
Ever since that flight, we have been good mates. I can say that he comes across as a very friendly and customer-focused person- which is a rare to find in the aviation industry these days. Reading his blog posts and his Facebook posts, you get the feeling that he is a true aviator and not just a pilot- he calls his planes girlfriends…I mean, you can’t really get much more love out of your job than that! He makes you wish you were a pilot, even if you are not into aviation and even if you have no love for planes whatsoever! James has always provided me with great advice about flying and I have cherished that advice. We met again in Dubai in 2015. This time he was preparing for his simulator test for his command course on the Airbus A380. It was at that time that he told me of his retirement plans. I was quite sad and surprised to hear it.
James’ last flight, EK407, was on the 24th of September from Melbourne (MEL) to Dubai (DXB) on aircraft registration A6-EDY, arriving early in the morning in Dubai. I cannot begin to imagine what he must be going through at this time, knowing that he will never fly ever again. His career has been nothing short of an exemplary one for those who want to enter the challenging but rewarding world of aviation.
He will be writing books in his retirement on subjects related to aviation (while downing a few well-deserved daiquiris in Boracay, no doubt!). Click here to read a review I wrote for one of his books in sleeping for pilots and other insomniacs!
In his own words, just before this last commercial flight out of Melbourne for Dubai, the great Melbournian said on Facebook: “They say pilots only love the plane they're flying ... And they remember only two flights, the last one they did and their first solo. Thanks, Peter Nelson, for sending me solo in 1985 ... Will never forget it!”.
After a remarkable career of thirty-one and a half years that many can only dream of having, I am sure he will be yearning to fly again soon! Mate, you are really an inspiration to many and it has been an absolute pleasure to know you as a mate. Here’s cheers to a very well-deserved and happy retirement!
Below is a recording of James' interview on Melbourne's Radio 3AW with Darren James
On 3 August 2016, a Boeing 777-300 aircraft, registration A6-EMW, belonging to Emirates Airline, was operating a scheduled passenger flight, numbered EK521, and departed Trivandrum International Airport (VOTV), India at 0506am local time for Dubai International Airport (OMDB), the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At approximately 0837am local time, the aircraft impacted the runway during an attempted go-around at Dubai. There were a total of 300 people on-board the aircraft, comprising of 282 passengers, two flight crew members, and 16 cabin crew members. However, the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was very sad to announce that one of the firefighters lost his life while saving the lives of the others.
Jassim Isa Al Balushi managed to rescue 300 lives, but in doing so, he lost his own. The brave firefighter sustained fatal injuries after helping put out the flames during rescue operations, the report said. His valiant efforts, however, were not in vain, as everyone on board escaped from the burning jet alive—including 282 fliers and 12 cabin staff. Once everyone evacuated, the aircraft exploded and burst into flames and Al Balushi was unfortunately caught in the blaze.
The initial report into the incident has shown the pilot had tried to abandon the landing after the main wheels of the Boeing 777-300 had already touched down.
When such accidents happen, it is always best to wait for the investigators to do their job and publish the report, rather than listen to so many so-called 'aviation experts' on the TV and the internet because most of them are just guessing and have little or no idea on what the truth of the matter is.
The official Preliminary Report has been published by the GCAA of the UAE. Click here to get it from their official website.
My latest article is about Beijing's hutongs, for the August issue of Qryx, the in-flight magazine for Qatar Airways (the world's 5-star airline).
Flying from London Gatwick Airport to Madrid International Airport with Iberia Express at night rewards passengers with priceless views of the city.
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