Hitting a new kind of high note at Beijing Airport

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Now this surely ranks as an airport first.

Consumer services have hit a new high note at Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3, where these mini-karaoke booths offer an intriguing alternative to shopping, dining or simply waiting at the gate.

Mini-karaoke booths have caught on in a big way in China over the past two years and can increasingly be found in shopping malls, cinemas, subway stations and, now, airports. Users pay for the booths by scanning a QR code on their mobile devices.

State-run news agency Xinhua reported in 2017 that the concept would generate revenues of around CNY3.2 billion (US$470 million) that year. The sector’s worth is projected to soar CNY14 billion or US$2 billion this year. Nothing mini about those numbers.

The musical notes, too, were soaring during The Moodie Davitt Report’s visit last week to T3. Both booths were occupied, one by a male solo artist, the other by a young couple happily crooning to each other.

But what were they singing? Here are some aviation-themed possibilities:

• Leaving on a Jet Plane – Peter Paul and Mary (You don’t really need me to tell you the lyrics do you?  After all, this is just about the anthem of every travel retail executive. Well, in case you dont know it, here’s a taster: Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane/Don’t know when I’ll be back again/Oh babe, I hate to go)

• Come fly with me – Frank Sinatra (Come fly with me, let’s float down to Peru/In llama-land there’s a one-man band and he’ll toot his flute for you/Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue)

[Or were the karaoke couple singing Sinatra’s even more famous ‘Strangers on the flight’?]

• Supersonic – Oasis (I’m feeling supersonic, give me gin and tonic)

• Aeroplane – Red Hot Chili Peppers (I like pleasure spiked with pain/And music is my aeroplane)

• Hold that plane – Buddy Guy (Oh, I’m playing this morning/Please don’t let those jet-engines start)

• Blues from an aeroplane – Jefferson…. er… Airplane (Written by someone you probably don’t want to be sat next to on a long-haul flight. Here’s a sample of his moroseness: Do you know how sad it is to be a man alone/I feel so solitary being in my home without you)

• Take me to the Pilot – Elton John (Take me to the pilot for control/Take me to the pilot of your soul)

• Drunk on a Plane – Dierks Bentley (Buyin’ drinks for everybody but the pilot, it’s a party/Got this 737 rocking like a G6/Stewardess is somethin’ sexy/Leanin’ pourin’ Coke and whiskey)

[Dierks Bentley is apparently a real-life pilot who wrote this country song about a would-be groom left jilted at the altar. Unable to get a refund on his honeymoon tickets to Cancun, he boards a 737 to Mexico, tapes the photo of his would-be wife to her vacant seat, and drowns his sorrows in alcohol. As you do.]

• Fly Away – Christian Friedrich Johannes Büttner (We’re rising, we’re falling/We’ll make it through/We’re climbing, we’re soaring/A thousand views)

[Christian Friedrich Johannes Büttner is a German record producer who, perhaps understandably, also goes by a pseudonym. Less understandably though, his pseudonym is TheFatRat.]

• Airline Agent – James McMurtry

A marvellous song by a great country singer who sounds as if he just swallowed a sheet of sandpaper washed down with a barrel of 90 proof bourbon. Everyone in travel retail will identify with the lyrics:

Mr. Airline Agent, won’t you understand
I’m a frequent traveller and a patient man
But I’ve been mistreated a time or two
I’ve stood about all I’m gonna stand from you
I got my ticket in my hand just like everybody else
I paid my money in advance so I could use a little help
You’re making such a fuss
You’ee holding up the line
Just get me on the plane and everything will be fine.

And finally… surely the best title of them all:

• Shut Up and Get on the Plane – The Drive-By Truckers

When it comes your time to go, ain’t no good way to go about it
Ain’ no use in thinking bout it
You’ll just drive yourself insane
There comes a time for everything
And the time has come for you to shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane

So… which western airport will be bold enough to follow the Beijing trend? With Chinese consumers so critical to the aviation industry worldwide, this seems a sure-fire bet, with a return per square metre way better than most luxury boutiques.

And, while I’m on the subject of looking after Chinese consumers, the South China Morning Post also reported on a shopping mall in Shanghai that had set up ‘husband rest hatches’ – booths where bored men can play video games while their partners shop. Brilliant. Just think what that might do for the average airport conversion rate.

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