Welcome to The Moodie Report Interim Etihad Airways Bureau.
As I begin this Blog I am 803 miles out of London, en route to Abu Dhabi, Bangkok and Hong Kong. We’re flying at 35,000 feet at a ground speed of 909k per hour. And I, dear readers, am blogging live.
It’s the first time I’ve had a wi-fi connection onboard since my regular London-Hong Kong flights on the now sadly demised Hong Kong Airlines flights between the two cities.
For the daytime leg of a long flight, it’s brilliant. Or is it? Within seconds of logging on, I was besieged by 37 e-mails that had arrived since I last logged on in the lounge. Flak from my personal assistant Mrs Earley (Above on skype) about me being always late. And the opportunity to catch up on feature writing, correspondence and sleep already fatally compromised.
But hey, I’m not complaining. What a wonderful world for a multi-media publisher when he can blog from 35,000 feet over Bucharest (which is what I plan to do in Thailand next week) and bring live coverage of the duty free service onboard as I plan to do.
Already Michelle (above), the lovely head of food & beverage from the Philippines, has told me there’s a -10% discount on all fragrances today.
More to follow, but first it’s lunch-time. Some sweetcorn soup (pictured) to start, then an Arabic lamb ragout. What to wash it all down with is, of course, the pressing question. Based on the premise that it was night time in my home country of New Zealand, I’ve already supped on an exuberantly zesty Stoneleigh Sauvignon from Marlborough in Kiwiville but to accompany my soup I’ve opted for a Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Torrontés 2012 from Argentina. It may be from the higher elevations of the Andes but this wine has certainly not peaked and should drink beautifully for a few years, gathering complexity. Smooth, charming and seductive. Enough about me though, the wine too is pretty damn good.
I’ve had my meal set up at the empty seat opposite so I can carry on working. I’ve just been chatting to the lovely Josephine from Sweden (below) who suggested I try the Chateau de Chassagne-Montrachet AOP Saint Aubin 1er Cru (‘Le Charmois’) white burgundy – I suppose one might call it the cabin cru recommendation. Now we’re talking! The tasting notes say it is ‘upright and frank’, as opposed to my (currently) ‘upright and Martin’ but I get the drift. Saint Aubin at its best (and this is close to it) is gloriously crisp and vibrant, fresh as the first peony of the summer but with a beautiful roundness of texture,
The world has changed Ladies and Gentlemen. I can do a live interview from here (in fact why don’t YOU send me some questions via skype or e-mail and I will do my best to answer?), blog and e-mail away happily. In fact I may talk to Etihad and suggest that I simply live on their planes for one year, blogging about my experiences and traversing the globe in line with this brilliant airline’s burgeoning route network.
And here’s the first question…
Oh gawd, it’s from Matt Willey, The Moodie Report Executive Director of Business Development & Innovation:
Matt Willey: As you are now a captive audience… is it a good time to ask for a pay rise?
Martin Moodie: Sorry Matt, the signal keeps dropping off after the words “good time”. But yes, I am having a good time, thank you for asking.
Here’s one coming in (just over Baghdad) from Remy Cointreau travel retail supremo Peter Sant:
Peter Sant: What are you drinking Moodie san, where r u going, what seat are you seating in , how’s your neighbour , don’t you ever stop working, has anyone seen Pistachio king since he won the ticket to DDF lotto?
Martin Moodie: So many questions Peter, especially when I am trying to discuss industry issues with the cabin crew. But here we go: I am drinking Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand as I write; I am going to Hong Kong via Abu Dhabi and Bangkok (don’t you read my Blog!?); my neighbour is non-existent which is great as it allows me to put my meal there while I work across the aisle; this isn’t working, it is fun; and no the Pistachio King (aka James Kfouri) is now officially awol after winning the US$1 million Dubai Duty Free prize draw).
Peter Sant: It’s me again Moodie san.
Martin Moodie: Oh gawd…
Peter Sant: Why are there so many ex-Nestles employees so influential in TR today? Why does Sunil Tuli have such an easy job? What did Barry Geoghegan do in such a short time to overtake Spillane as the most lived Irishman in TR? Does anyone know all the lyrics to The Fields of Athenry except (Daniel) Cappellini?
Martin Moodie: Because it’s time for them to take a break? Because he is tuli, madly, deeply worth it? Because Barry is lived and Spillane is simply livid? Yes, I do. And, by the way, tell me who Trevalyan (as in ‘stole Trevalyan’s corn’) is you English tyrant!
Sunil Tuli: How high is 35,000 feet?
Martin Moodie: Much more intelligent than your usual questions Sunil. It’s between 34,000 and 36,000 feet or roughly all the tea plantations in India laid end to end.
Rebecca Mann: Martin, does the fact that you are 35,000 feet over Baghdad mean that you have postponed our scheduled dinner meeting in London this evening without telling me? That’s so unusual…
Martin Moodie: Not at all Rebecca and actually I am now over Bandar Abbas. Please jump on a plane from Essex’s finest airport right now and I will buy you dinner in Karachi.
Time to interrupt as the beautiful and charming Sonia from Romania brings me a glass of Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc.
They’re an amazingly friendly crew onboard Etihad. I think this might be about to become my airline of choice, especially given the wi-fi factors. Sonia (above) and I talk matters of industry importance as you would expect. I ask her about the duty free programme and she knows it all! Everything but everything depends on flight route and passenger profile , she says. Perfume on European routes, jewellery on African routes, accessories and jewellery and watches on Asian routes. She talks of the service values of Etihad but more importantly she walks and talks them.
Question from Avril Appleyard: Hey Mr M… Are they doing anything different or innovative to engage you as a shopper? Can you buy on wifi?”
Martin Moodie: Good question Avril. All the crew approach all the customers right at the start of the flight and tell them of the -10% offer on fragrances. On the IFE system the offer is nicely showcased and segmented (photo to come) and lots of items come with Etihad miles. The inflight magazine is decent though not inspiring. The offer is pretty extensive but as with almost every carrier in the world I would like to see something a little different onboard. Why not a programme that features, say, 50% of exclusive to airline/local items? Does the UAE have an amazing, unique culture or not? Etihad has one of the world’s best inflight duty free offers but I feel good could become great with not too much of a stretch. [Update: Oops, I missed the 'Style of Arabia' section, which features four very nice local items - criticism withdrawn. See further detail below.]
Anna Brownell (Head of Product Development & Innovation Guest Experience, Etihad Airways): So glad you’re enjoying the flight! The soup looks really good. Was it recommended by one of Etihad’s Food & Beverage Managers? Or were you being looked after by one of the Flying Nannies? My tip? Try the Segla 2008 Margeaux.
Martin Moodie: Thanks Anna. Your crew (unbelievably affable, informed and engaging) have done you proud. Give them all a bonus, they are to a man and woman just outstandingly humble, personable and informed! I will have the Segla on the next leg down to Bangkok! Quite seriously, I cannot recall a better level of service in business class on any airline.
Alex Cook (Lightfoot Communications): ”With England getting the job done against Dermot’s [Dermot Davitt] boys at the weekend… who are you backing for the showdown in a couple of weeks: England or Wales (Rebecca Mann’s girls)?
Martin Moodie: Being the son of a celt (Irish) mother, you know my answer to that Alex, at least in terms of the heart. But, no, I respect the English pack too much and so my head says that they will beat Wales. It will be good training for England’s quarter-final exit against a Southern Hemisphere team in the World Cup 2015…
Helen Pawson (The Moodie Report): How many glasses/bottles of wine have you consumed so far?
Martin Moodie: A very good question Helen, which shows the sort of probing mind we demand at The Moodie Report. As always, I believe in moderation but of course I have the Abu Dhabi to Bangkok leg to follow. In which case I may become less moderate. Thanks for being concerned about my welfare.
Gerry Munday (Furla):Technology never ceases to amaze me, and all I want to do is sleep on a plane, please tell me I can will still be able to do this!
Martin Moodie: What, with all those people around you taking calls and saying “I’m on the plane!”?
Victoria Bowskill-Shanks: What’s your top pick from Etihad’s inflight sales catalogue, Martin? Will you be making a purchase today?
Martin Moodie: I really like their consumer technology section and a nice though small ‘Style from Arabia’ section that I missed earlier. They have beautiful ‘Sougha’ iPad covers individually handmade by local Emirati women using ancient Bedouin weaving techniques from 100% cotton and Emirati camel leather. I am always, always, always running out of battery power on my iPhone and I keep losing my chargers, so I may buy the Lifetrons Power Solution Digital Charger.
A few hours later…
Wow, word sure travels fast in the digital world. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that Anna Brownell at Etihad Airways noticed my Blog but just before I landed in Abu Dhabi, two of the great Etihad cabin crew (Josephine and Michelle) presented me with a special dessert (see below) , marking my presence on flight EY12, and I am later met off the plane in Abu Dhabi by the brilliant local team (below). So much for travelling incognito (and for keeping the dreadful ‘Stanley’ secret- all the Moodie children dating back about six generations take it as their first, but not used name. My sister used to especially hate it.)…