Why I’m Cheering For Uber

I landed at Heathrow at 10PM and needed a ride to the airport Sheraton on Bath road. My phone was acting up so I wasn’t able to use the Uber app that worked earlier that day in Qatar, and in the preceding days in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Los Angeles, and London. So I did what any road-weary traveler would do – I hailed a taxi. As the driver picked up my roll-aboard he looked at me and framed his demand as a question, “You’re paying cash right?”

What? Of course I am – I’ve been held captive by cabbie’s all over the world – and though I have tremendous respect for the most professional among them, the London Cabbies, I know better than to negotiate a credit card payment near midnight in the middle of nowhere (T4 is very quiet that late).

That four-mile drive lasted twenty minutes and cost my employer more than $30.

There are 400 airlines operating scheduled service around the globe, I don’t know how many hotel brands, or travel agencies exist, but ground transportation companies are part of a very fragmented industry. Until now.

I used four airlines to fly from Dallas, to Fiji, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and back to Dallas via London. The Western shore of Nadi, Fiji was the only place I couldn’t find Uber.

I’m not surprised by the polarized reaction discussions about Uber generate among travel managers. It’s hard to grasp how many problems Uber solved for globe-trotters and urban dwellers alike unless you’ve lived through it.

1. I can see where my car on the map in the Uber app before I request one.

2. I know the driver’s name and have his license plate before he arrives.

3. I can watch my journey in real-time on my phone while we travel to my destination – an address that I frequently plug-in before Uber arrives – which eliminates the three-minute discussion about where I’m headed and how to get there after the meter starts.

4. I get out of the car when I arrive at my destination. There’s no transaction or payment to the driver… no more lost cellphones or wallets because they’re safely tucked away before the driver pulled up to the curb. No more searches in his trunk to find those ancient multi-page slider-style receipts and listen to griping about how I needed to pay cash while he acts like it’s been months since anyone gave him a credit card.

5.  No more brake-stompers, tail-gators, loud-music listening, cellphone talking, A**hole drivers who act like they’re doing you a favor. You know what I mean if you’ve ever taken a cab between La Guardia and Midtown. Because I get to rate the driver after every trip. And if enough of his customers think he lacks the manners or skills to get us to our destination safely his ratings will plunge and Uber will cut him loose. How many taxi companies use customer ratings to do that?

Guess what? Uber driver’s rate their passengers too – and I care about my score – because if I ever need a ride out of a rough part of town at three in the morning I know someone will already know I’m a decent human-being and pick me up while the drunks and suckers have to hail a cab.

I know – Uber doesn’t blah, blah, blah, insurance, blah, blah, blah… well, I’ve jumped out of airplanes from 1,000′ without a camera and it wasn’t to enjoy the freefall, and I’ve flown airplanes upside down. I spent a few years as a first-responder too – I don’t care about insurance – that’s a check to give survivors. I care about safety. Have you seen the car Bob Simon was riding in when he died?  Here it is – the driver survived. I haven’t seen the full accident report, but early indications are that Bob was in the back and wasn’t wearing his seat belt.

If you really want your travelers to be safe tell them to buckle-up and only accept rides from Uber drivers with a 4.7+ rating.

Please hit “Like” and share this if you found it helpful.

Paul’s talk – “Personal Branding and Digital Footprints” is a discussion about how people connect, learn, and grow. He introduces ideas and techniques you can apply to achieve your goals, enhance your career, and help other people along the way.

Paul Laherty leads Diio LLC’s efforts to improve airlines’ decision-support processes, and access to critical data. Over the past fifteen years he’s led teams in Sales, Marketing, and Finance at American Airlines, Advito, Travelocity, and Cornerstone Information Systems. Paul’s an instrument-rated pilot, writer, speaker, world-traveler, former Army Officer, a husband, and father.  He uses his life-experience, and an MBA and BS in Psychology from Indiana University to help people and organizations achieve significance, travel safely, and think differently. Paul publishes at paullaherty.com, and is open to connecting on LinkedIn at LinkedIn/paullaherty, or twitter @paul_laherty.

 

 

Aviation Risk Management Travel Management Trip Reports

How to Handle Turkish Carpet Sellers

Hagia Sophia

Travel to unusual places can challenge you in new ways – especially westerners who are not accustomed to aggressive sales people. These are entrepreneurs who stand guard over bus stops, train stations and tourist locations to offer themselves as guides, or to grant you wi-fi service at their “Uncle’s” store. They ask where you’re from and then tell you about the time when they were an exchange student in your hometown. Another favorite is to ask about your area code, and then announce their Brother lives in that part of New Jersey, and that’s how they know it.

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Their goal is to push you into a sales-funnel, wrapped in hospitality, and fueled by your guilt to repay something helpful they produced early in the exchange. They understand western manners – the quid pro quo polite people live by. They insist on serving hot tea and hold it up as a custom in their country that guests must be treated like royalty when they step across the threshold into their store.

Rugs are my favorite. In your home they become obvious conversation starters – no one could miss that interesting silk runner inside your front door. It’s a status symbol that will remind your neighbors that one time you attended a conference in Istanbul or a bus tour through Morrocco, or a back-packing misadventure in India. Once you have a cup of warm tea in hand, you owe them a chance to show you two or three carpets. They’ll show you the inexpensive cotton one, then move up to the wool, before pulling down the gorgeous silk rug you’ve been eyeing since you sat down. The small wool rugs are about the price of your hotel room, so they don’t seem like a huge commitment. Besides, when would you be back in Rajasthan, or Turkey, or Morrocco, or wherever this pitch happened to be?

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The tea is good, so you start thinking about what your significant other will say when FEDEX shows up with a tube at your front door. “Oh, that?” you’ll say, and remember how guilty you felt about trying to leave before the entire show, and picturing the small mountain of rugs they’d already pulled down and rotated to demonstrate how the colors change when you look at it from the other angle, and how, when you flipped them over it became a “summer” rug to keep the floor cool. You’re starting to sweat like the assistant who was pulling down enormous carpet rolls, all the while insisting “this is easy – you deserve to make a good choice, and you can’t do that unless you see many colors and these amazing, hand-woven, carpets made by the woman you saw in the room we passed-by earlier.”

Turkish Carpets

“Hey – at least I didn’t buy the hand-made 8’x10′ silk rug from Pakistan!” You weren’t even going to buy the small wool rug until they showed you the enormous shipping log that listed three people from your hometown as sophisticated travelers who commemorated their trip by purchasing the biggest silk carpet in the store.

How do you travel to India, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Morrocco or any other country without buying a carpet that looks completely out of place in your New York loft or California contemporary? You thank them for the tea and say, “maybe someday, but not today.”

Paul Laherty has participated in several carpet presentations, and so far, has managed to avoid an awkward conversation with his wife, the decorator, and architect in their house.

Sales & Marketing Trip Reports

Rajasthan and the Taj Mahal

Several hours West of Delhi, Jaipur is situated along a trade route between Asia and Persia and is an important stop – and history proves it. In Jaipur I toured the Amer Fort, after riding up the hill on an elephant, and walked around the Jaipur City Palace, and the amazing observatory at Jantar Mantar; we viewed the Jal Mahal (the Water Palace), and the Hawa Mahal (the Wind Palace). I could see the Jaigarh Fort, but didn’t have time to explore it. My guide introduced me to a local craft center where I was compelled to listen to a series of well-rehearsed sales pitches for rugs and other local goods (it was a terrific break – the artists were extremely talented and the building had aggressive air conditioning). At one point a very serious man said, “these Pashminas are not common goats!” I almost laughed out loud at his lecture. He explained how fine the shaved wool was from the legs, chin and thigh… I couldn’t tell what kind of animal it was from, but he cared deeply and was really excited about teaching me as much as he could in the few minutes we had together.

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Predictably I was challenged to purchase a truck load of rugs and paintings to send to my absent wife. I reminded them that Ghandi carried everything he needed in his head and that I came to India to take memories home; I also worked-in an expression that proved effective, “Maybe someday, but not today.” That evening I walked around the old city and found jewelry makers working on gold and silver bracelets down numerous back alleys – a few answered my questions and showed me what they were working on. Jaipur is a fascinating city; it’s history and architecture rival the richest sites in the world.

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On to Jodhpur and the Mehrangarh Fort, a massive hilltop fortress in the middle of the Western desert, surrounded by blue buildings. Construction started in 1459, but the most visible portions were completed by 1678, and the most famous gate – Victory Gate was constructed in 1806 by Maharaja Man Singh to celebrate a victory over Jaipur. These cities are only a few hundred miles apart but waged war for centuries. The palace and surroundings, like most I visited in India, are stunning, and dominated by the Islamic architecture introduced by the Mughal emperors who reigned from 1526 to 1857. The Air Force base in Johdpur carried-on the finest local tradition and featured the wreckage of a Pakistani Mig they had shot down earlier – prominently displayed at their main gate. Jodhpur has a noticeable military presence positioned to counter threats from their neighbor, Pakistan, and our progress was held-up several times while we navigated around various convoys.

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Jodpur

I departed Jodhpur and traveled East again to Kishangarh and Roopangarh Fort, built on high ground North of the city. I was the only guest and had the run of the palace. I found a picture of Prince Charles from a visit he made years earlier, and during that exploration I also discovered that a staff member was assigned to turn lights on before I entered rooms, and extinguish them when I left. Just before dinner, and a highlight during the trip, I watched the sunset from the highest point on the palace – the wind blew so hard it drowned out every other sound, and bats left the fort for the night while the entire city lit cooking fires and each home turned on a single lightbulb.

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In the morning we left Rajasthan and continued East into the State of Uttar Pradesh and the city of Agra – famous for the Taj Mahal. During a drive that passed through marble quarries and endless desert, Mahendra commented on one particular town, “very filthy, dirty place…Muslims.” To my untrained eye it looked like any other Indian village constructed on a thousand year old trash pile, full of animals and open sewers. I wondered at the irony of a Hindu earning his living by dragging a Western tourist to heritage sites built by Muslim Maharajas. About twenty minutes later I witnessed my first two-legged highway fatality and the excited crowd that formed out of nowhere. We didn’t need to stop and continued on in silence and I thought about the complicated relationships among India’s people.

Next up, two planned stops at nearby World Heritage Sites before settling in at the Taj Hotel in Agra. The Fatephur Sikri was first; my young guide convinced me to ride an empty tour bus, dismissed my objections and reassured me that it was too far to walk and I would be comfortable. Within five minutes I was trapped behind a human wall a hundred people deep who loaded on before I could ditch the bus. Naturally, once it was full, we waited another three minutes to double the crowd again. The bus groaned up the hill as I jealously watched a group of German tourists enjoying their quarter-mile walk to the front gate. When I rejoined my guide he suggested I give him money to pay the guards so I could make a pit stop before starting our tour. Ha! No, I would not pay to urinate in a country that defecates in public. We parted ways on the spot and I walked around the entire site and took pictures of ruins, trash piles and junkies. It was very rewarding…  Slowly and by day my ignorance evaporated.

The Fatephur Sikri is an enormous site on hundreds of acres. It’s a beautiful place, full of fountains, pools, waterfalls and ornately carved brick and huge domes and arched ceilings. Everyone knows about the Taj Mahal, but there are palaces that took longer to build and cost more that few people know exist. India is amazing.

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Ruins

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Next up – Agra Fort at sunset – an incredible Mughal fortress with views of the Taj Mahal. The palace and grounds were impressive. Especially the symmetrical gardens, stone lattice carvings, running water and fountains. Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal are difficult to describe in words. Even before my close encounter with the Taj Mahal it was obvious why my India-Coach insisted that I visit other cities first. Paint and brick are beautiful, but they’re black and white movies to the 3-D Digital Color created by flourescent marble inlays and gemstones that decorate the Taj Mahal. I was off to my hotel and then a predawn tour at the Taj Mahal the next morning.

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Stunning. I viewed many Mughal Palaces and Fort’s during my ten day visit, but the Taj Mahal is breathtaking. Seeing it from different angles at the first morning light was exciting.

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Somehow that night I managed to get home in First-Class on American Airlines’ Boeing 777-200 service from Delhi to Chicago. It was nice to catch up on my sleep and reflect on the previous two weeks; International Flagship Service was a fitting end to days spent wandering around Royal stomping grounds.

Trip Reports

Delhi India – A Journey Through Time

There is no greater expression of freedom than to cross borders and visit countries, cities and places for the first time. It’s more productive to learn about property rights, court systems, infrastructure, tax authorities and other systems that define modern life around the world as you pass through it. How does a country pay for school, medical care and retirement? I have always approached travel with a sense of adventure and wonderment and these are fun topics to bring up with locals and other travelers during my trips.

As an Army Platoon Leader security and sanitation were pounded into my head. You could not achieve one without the other and they are both critical to a high quality, sustainable existence. That experience taught me that developed countries must have frequent, consistent garbage removal, clean water, and steady electricity. Without any one of those three, other systems fail and the community cannot compete globally.

During trips to Europe, South America and Asia I would ask people about the most unusual places they’ve visited? The most out-of-the-ordinary, different experience? I kept hearing – “Oh – if you’re looking for different, go to India.” So I did. And it exceeded my expectations in every way. I lived in South Korea eight years after the 1988 Olympics. Infrastructure was defined as “pre” or post-Olympics. The entire country was dominated by three things: craggy mountains, concrete high-rises, and rice patties. South Korea advanced rapidly leading up to the Olympics and into the present day. It is a modern country (even with occasional ox-carts, honey-dippers, and other features from Korea’s past). Not so with India.

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India isn’t a country so much a collection of States – each with their own identity, languages, customs, traditions, and governments. British Colonial rule established the framework for present-day India, but the British couldn’t conceal India’s identity.

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Indians suggest that you spend months in India to experience the real place; as an experienced traveler I concede that it would take weeks to experience the whole place, but few visitors have that much time. My trip was an exploration into the Western desert in the North, to Rajasthan. Rajasthan is the place Steven Spielberg must have used as inspiration for Indiana Jones; you’ll feel like you stepped into a movie as soon as you leave the airport in New Delhi. The ride to my hotel was incredible – what do you get when you cross a traffic jam with a zoo? Camels, elephants, cows, monkeys, rickshaws, and a huge assortment of cars, trucks, tractors and buses merged together without any thought about lane markings or traffic rules.

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Delhi is complicated – I was amazed by the care and expense that went into building monuments and government offices, but disappointed by how neglected they were. On my first day I walked past countless embassies and around the government buildings until I reached India Gate. It was a long walk, but I enjoyed taking in details that I would have missed from a car. Everyone I met seemed friendly. I stopped to watch kids playing cricket and even spotted a young girl riding a ten-speed bike that was way too big for her. She rode with her legs straddled between the lower frame bar and held the top bar against her side while she peddled. That was the only picture I regret not taking.

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Delhi Spice Market

My tired feet forced me to ride the subway from Connaught Circle to Jama Masjid where I was hijacked by more than one unscrupulous rickshaw driver. The cabs weren’t much better, but it beat walking. It’s worth warning that if you’re on foot, watch out for people on scooters and motorcycles who make it a sport to hit you with their handlebars or mirrors – you must be alert; I enjoyed playing along like a clueless pedestrian and would step out of the way a second before they passed me.

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In Delhi I recommend visiting the Red Fort and Jama Masjid along with the Delhi spice market. They are very close together and easy to see in two or three hours. In the afternoon I enjoyed seeing the home were Ghandi spent his last days, and Muyaman’s Tomb and the Lotus Temple. There are few places where you can visit multiple World Heritage Sites in one day, but India is full of them. After spending the first two days exploring Delhi – New and Old before I was ready to go West with my driver, Mahendra.

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He was equipped with a ubiquitous white Toyota crossover (half station wagon, half mini-suv) with blue pin-stripes that marked it as a tourist car – the paint job acted like a glow-in-the-dark target that attracted offers for every imaginable product. Guests are expected to ride in the back, but I moved to the front seat to improve my view and quickly learned how to snap pictures on the go – there’s so much craziness to see! I was amused to learn that every State requires drivers to pay a road tax once every month in person when they cross into the territory. Since my visit straddled two months I enjoyed people-watching from the highway tax office parking lots at every border. India gives the Griswold’s a run for their money.

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Back on the road the next adventure would always appear in the distance. This one caught Mahendra’s attention and he quipped, “so dangerous”. I agreed, but you’ll soon discover that people adapt to their situation and surroundings very well. I caught myself repeating “welcome to India” as a mantra for every unexpected scene…and I said it a lot.

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The unvarnished truth – India is a difficult place to visit and more difficult to navigate, but it’s full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences and rewards patience, tolerance and mild discomfort. Once I linked-up with my driver many problems were solved. Mahendra drove the car, and coordinated with local, English-speaking guides, who met us at local landmarks, and then give me a guided tour for the day. I had mixed experiences with the guides but developed a rule of thumb that seemed to hold up throughout the trip. Guides belonged in one of two groups – either older men who spent their entire lives as guides and made a good living at it, or younger men, college aged, who used it for fast cash from a summer job. The problem with the later group was their propensity to manufacture history on the fly that contradicted the three guide books I reviewed every evening, but it took a bad one to really appreciate how knowledgeable and professional India’s experienced guides are.

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Over the next week we drove more than a thousand miles during twenty-five hours on the road and visited many incredible places and met unforgettable people.

Trip Reports

A week in New Zealand (Part II)

New Zealand is easier to see than write about so this post includes more photos and less text (see part I here). Auckland welcomed China Southern Airlines’s Airbus A380 and our delegation with a water-cannon salute as we taxied to the terminal. A cool start to a fantastic trip.

New Zealand is dominated by two islands Southeast of Australia. The major population centers are on the North island, but the grand scenery made famous in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy are found on the South Island. Even now New Zealand’s location offers protection from over-development and a property law called “the Queen’s Chain” a regulation that set aside a strip of land sixty-six feet wide along every beach, river and large lake for public use. This allows residents and visitors to use beaches and waterfronts for camping and other recreation. The idea is deeply embedded in New Zealand culture and a lot of the pop icons I came across reflect how important outdoor activities and water sports are to New Zealand.

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New Zealand is a new country; the oldest residents claim ancestors from the Maori, Polynesians who settled New Zealand more than 700 years ago, and the European influence arrived in 1769 with English Captain James Cook’s first visit.

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James Busby’s home, The Treaty House (above), is where the Waitangi treaty was signed to establish New Zealand as a British Colony in 1840.

Our group arrived on a Monday evening and checked into the Skycity Hotel and Casino in downtown Auckland. The hotel is situated on a hill in the central business district and has excellent views of the harbor and surrounding city. Its location was an easy walk to restaurants and bars along the waterfront and a short drive to most attractions. For efficiency our delegation was divided into manageable groups and each was assigned to a single tour bus. Each group had a different itinerary which reduced the disruptions that would occur if four hundred people showed up to every attraction.

Auckland from Sky Tower

Auckland from Sky Tower

Things to do and places to visit: We used Great Sights New Zealand as our tour operator. They offered an extensive list of day-long and overnight activities in and around Auckland and the North island. We managed to do most of them and all of us enjoyed the Bay of Islands tour and Hole-in-the-rock. Another favorite was our Auckland Harbor sailing which included a close-encounter with the Emirates Team New Zealand yacht preparing for the America’s Cup Race in San Francisco in September, 2013. Our tour at Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium, home to the original shark tunnel was outstanding, and only fifteen minutes from downtown. Even our hotel got in on the action since it featured Auckland’s most prominent landmark, Skytower. The tower was an excellent place to view the harbor and many of the numerous volcanic domes around the city. Our last tour included a visit to Hamilton, and the glowworms in the Waitomo caves. They’re amazing creatures and well worth the beautiful three-hour drive South of Auckland. It’s also worth saying that we enjoyed excellent food everywhere – from fresh sushi at the fish market to perfect fillets and local dishes in a variety of restaurants around the port.

Dolphin Cruise

Dolphin Cruise

Bay of Islands tours depart Pahia near the Waitangi Treaty Grounds North of Auckland (pictured above). The Great Sights boats navigate through the Hole in the Rock (below).

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New Zealand is a unique blend of people, geography, history, location and weather; you could travel a long way before you find anything else like it. I can’t wait to visit again and next time I’ll check out the South island.

Trip Reports

China Southern Airlines A380 flight to Guangzhou

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China Southern Airline Company invited me to attend their 2012 partner conference in Auckland, New Zealand. This gave me a chance to learn more about Asia’s largest carrier and the world’s sixth largest. Conference participants were invited to connect via the new Baiyun International Airport (CAN) in Guangzhou, China enroute to Auckland (AKL). Since my journey started in Dallas (DFW), I transferred to China Southern’s daily Airbus A380 service from Los Angeles. This gave me time to explore their new plane and three days in Guangzhou and the Pearl Hotel (owned by the airline and available to passengers with tickets in Business Class and First Class on International flights).

The short notice required a call to CIBT Visa services to add pages to my passport at the US State Department’s processing center in Miami, then on to the Chinese Consulate in Houston for a six month, multiple-entry, business visa to enter China and join the other delegates.

My American flight to LAX was uneventful, and the connection was long enough to visit the Admiral’s Club at Terminal 4. I recharged, enjoyed the refreshments and updated the settings on my Iphone before the short walk to the Tom Bradley Terminal.  The International Terminal at LAX is undergoing a renovation, but still provides a convenient connection from the domestic terminals. Once past security travelers with lounge access will find a quiet atmosphere, inviting finger food and a well-stocked bar at the China Southern Airlines’ multi-airline lounge. After a quick look around it was clear that good weather and the additional jumbo-jet gates to handle A380’s and 747-800’s will maintain LAX’s position as one of the busiest airport in the world (6th) and North America’s favorite gateway to Asia.

The Airbus A380. An incredible airplane. Since all seventy, read Seven-Zero, business class seats are on the upper deck, you’re not faced with a simple, “which side of the plane are you sitting on” question from the flight crew. Before the gate staff release you to approach one of the three jet-bridges they asked if my seat was upstairs or downstairs? After climbing the ramp to a jet-bridge that led to the upper-deck I noticed the view over the Boeing 777 at the next gate. The fuselage is almost 28′ high and 34′ above ground level. It was a long way down from the doorway.

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The interior was well-designed. China Southern’s business class seats are very good. The 1-2-1 configuration offers aisle access to every seat and adequate privacy between seats. They’re staggered so the foot-well for the seat behind you is under your table and storage bins. The best seats are at the windows with a ‘table’ between the aisle and the seat, but even the least desirable seats were good. The fabric-trimmed seats are comfortable, and open to a level and flat position for sleeping. They provide lots of personal storage, power ports for different plugs and a USB cable, and a large LCD screen with an excellent movie selection (I spent sixty hours on-board over ten days and only made it through half the movies I wanted to watch). The amenity kits included all of the items you would expect to find: a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, comb, perfume, lotion, lip balm, earplugs, and an excellent eye-shade with two straps. They also provide a comfortable, two-piece, pair of dark blue cotton pajamas to size, trimmed in dark-red, and matching slippers. Many of the travelers in my cabin took advantage of them for the sixteen hour ride.

Onboard service was excellent – the menu included a mix of familiar Chinese and Western dishes offered in several courses that didn’t leave anyone hungry. Mid-flight snacks and beverages were available on request in the galley or self-service from the forward bar (yes – there is a bar, no lounge,  but a good selection of wines, liquor, fruit and chocolates). After the dinner service I descended the grand staircase to the forward cabin to start my self-guided tour. First stop, the superb First Class seats, actually very private ‘compartments’ in the nose on the lower deck. Next, three sections containing typical Coach Class 3-4-3 seating. The seats reclined well, but self-service snacks and personal LCD screens were competing for recognition as the most popular feature. Mission accomplished I climbed the spiral staircase in the tail and passed through the coach cabin on the upper deck before stopping in the business class galley for a snack before I started my next movie.

The Westbound flight arrived in Guangzhou on Saturday at 5AM local time two days after the midnight departure from LAX. It was strange to spend sixteen hours in the dark, but the long flight left me ready to tackle a tour in Guangzhou after clearing immigration and my morning check-in at the Pearl Hotel.

Baiyun International Airport – Shares features with other contemporary greenfield airports, its massive and well-designed. Passenger movement is easy and signage is clear. Open for only a few years they are already working on a third runway to increase capacity. There are dozens of shops and restaurants and every service you would expect to find in a major International hub. The modern Guangzhou Metro is located in the central terminal and downtown is accessible with luggage in tow.

The Guangzhou Metro rivals any of the smoothest, most comfortable subways in the world. The modern gates, new trains, continuously welded rail, and digital moving-maps displays in the cars combined to create a stress-free travel experience. People were friendly and courteous, but the trains did fill up later in the day, and service ended earlier than I was accustomed to especially compared to London, or New York schedules.

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Although Guangzhou is a large metropolitan area the new subway doesn’t have closely-spaced stations. I covered considerable distances by foot and used cabs to move between attractions in the city. Cabs were inexpensive, ten Yuan for the first 2.5km translated to roughly $2 for the first 1.5 miles. They didn’t charge extras for more passengers, but you should insist they start the meter once they’re moving. Additionally, I found that few drivers spoke English, so I frequently used a tourist map from my hotel to explain to drivers where I wanted to go.

Where to go. New Town, is an incredible collection of modern buildings, arenas and sporting venues with a large mall through the center (above and below ground). I found thousands of people everywhere I went, but New Town was a great place to start. When I finished there I took a train to the South side of the Pearl River to view the city from the Canton Tower. The tower was a great place for perspective on the enormous city. Next I took a cab to Beijing Road Shopping Mall for a quick look, then another cab to the Chen Family Temple Compound (Guangdong Folk Art Museum), and finally the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street in the Liwan district.

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Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street above, and a shoe store in Liwan below.

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Guangzhou is one of the busiest retail cities in the world – it’s full of malls and markets and hosts several markets for corporate buyers throughout the year. There are entire streets dedicated to a single item – I found the belt street, framing shops, and several extensive jade markets. The back alley shops were the most interesting for me – I could have stayed a week to explore the neighborhood markets in Liwan. I did return the next day, and again the following weekend with several colleagues, but Sunday evening, I joined the China Southern Airlines Company delegation at the Pearl Hotel for our flight to New Zealand.

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A sidewalk restaurant a few blocks west of Beijing Road (above), and a jewelry-maker near the Jade Market North of the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street (below).

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In part 2 I’ll describe Auckland and the surrounding sites.

Aviation Trip Reports