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I’m writing this from 35,000 feet… 34,000 feet…. 34,450 feet…. We’re over the Atlantic Ocean and Virgin Atlantic Airways flight 15 has been bumping around like some crazed rodeo ride for the past 45 minutes. Looking around the cabin, people are trying to put a brave face on things but there are more green faces here than you’d find in a hypermarket on Mars.
Even for the most seasoned international traveller, severe turbulence isn’t much fun. And it sure plays havoc with the typing.
I’m a few hours from Orlando, en route from Heathrow to the formal opening of The Nuance Group’s (in partnership with DFASS) new duty free store at Orlando Airport – a contract it won during an open tender in late 2011, ousting long-time incumbent World Duty Free Group (Alpha).
Much as I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s big occasion, today’s not a day I wanted to be in the sky, out of internet, e-mail and telephone reach. That’s because it’s D-Day on the AENA duty free tenders in Spain, conducted via an extraordinary, unprecedented public auction, in which the top two bidders – and anyone within 10% of the second bidder – go toe to toe in subsequent rounds of raised stakes and tension until the last man is standing.
One can only imagine the pressure cooker atmosphere today in the room as multi-million Euro decisions were made under intense fast-changing circumstances. The process is certainly transparent but the unrelenting, winner-takes-all focus on the financial offer is as demanding an approach as seasoned airport tender veterans can ever recall. “It is what it is,” replied one bidder wearily when I asked him for his views on the eve of the contest.
When you do this job, such days are not to be missed. It’s one of the big stories of the year and you want to be playing your part along with fellow members of the team, not being bounced around in a Boeing 747-400.
But I needn’t have worried. Just after 11.20 London time as I was doing a store check at Gatwick Airport a dramatic e-mail arrived from my colleague Dermot Davitt (below). World Duty Free Group had just captured Lot 1, including the big prize of Madrid Barajas Airport. One down, two to go. The Moodie Report had broken the story not only on the web and by e-mail VIP Alert but also on Twitter.
Extraordinarily, those in the room would be reading the news while their concentration was consumed by Lot 2.
It’s simply amazing how things have changed in the modern communication era. When I came into the business 25 years ago we were still receiving information by telex and reporting it via a fortnightly news magazine that was then considered to be ultra-fast in its delivery. At that same magazine (Duty-Free News International) we later introduced a ‘Fax Flash’ and then (shortly before I started The Moodie Report) an e-mail alert service. Back then such innovations were considered pioneering. Today it is standard. What lies next?
But it’s still about the quality of the information. We covet speed but not at the risk of accuracy. ‘Get it right’ rather than ‘Get it first’ has always been our motto but make no mistake we place major focus on being the primary source of breaking news.
That’s why I was so delighted to see Dermot’s e-mail shortly before I took off. The report was solid and fast. As he has done many times down the years, Dermot had broken a story of major significance in rapid but responsible fashion. There was even a live Twitter feed built into his web story. [Reviewing his whole day’s coverage on Lots 1, 2 and 3, from my Orlando bedroom tonight as I post this Blog, I would even say that is the best example of breaking news reporting I have ever seen in this industry].
It’s that sort of journalistic nose, discipline and responsibility that has made Dermot, a Dubliner based in Galway, such a crucial and respected asset to The Moodie Report. And that’s why I appointed him Vice Chairman last Friday. He’s the future of a company that bears my name but which also bears his imprint and that of the other members of my fantastic team. You just know the business is in safe hands when you’re being thrown around at (now) 40,000 feet off the coast of North Carolina and the team is breaking profoundly important stories with pace and precision in your absence.
On the flight display screen, I can see the cities of Fayetteville, Atlanta and… Dublin. Dublin??? No way did we get bumped that far off course, surely! Is there no end to Dermot’s influence? Actually it’s Dublin, Georgia (pop 16,201) but it’s time to stop typing, for we’re encountering yet more turbulence.
For once I can’t get off a flight soon enough. In the words of the great Irish song it’s been a rocky road to Dublin. But any rollercoaster here in the sky is nothing compared to the emotional equivalent that must have been played out in Spain today.