I’m on top of the world

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

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‘Been dreaming of this since a child
I’m on top of the world.’ – Imagine Dragons

I am writing from familiar turf. Or to be more precise, familiar air space. I’m 34,000 feet up in the sky, flying over the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, 3,140 miles and six-and-a-half hours away from London.

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I’m on Cathay Pacific 251 out of Hong Kong heading home to the UK. I’ve been listening to the beautiful choral sounds of UK boys’ choir Libera (based on the Libera Me portion of the Requiem Mass) and uncannily as I begin this Blog they break into that most wonderful of songs  ‘Going Home’. I always associate this song, based on the Largo from Dvorak’s New World (No 9) Symphony, with the great Paul Robeson and it never fails to move me.

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But where is home? I’m not so sure anymore. Christchurch the beautiful, earthquake-ravaged city of my youth? No more. London, my adopted town? Physically perhaps, spiritually no. Maybe up here in the sky is where I belong, a perennial stateless citizen of the world, moving across time Zones, lost forever in translation (and forever looking for Scarlett Johansson).

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Maybe that’s the wrong movie. I gave a speech earlier this month at advertising specialist JCDecaux Airport’s annual seminar in London and jokingly likened myself to Mehran Karimi Nasser, the Iranian who lived at Charles de Gaulle for 18 years and who inspired the Tom Hanks movie’ The Terminal’. Maybe I am Nasser’s successor, Terminal Man 2. Or is it airplane man? Certainly I find myself having to double check that I have my belt and shoes on, so often am I forced to take them off.

Terminal_martinBut here’s the thing. When you wake up, as I invariably do, flying over somewhere like Novosibirsk, sleep deprived yet wired, and watch the onscreen map in front of you tracking your journey over places that you will never actually get any closer than 34,000 feet to, a sense of wonder kicks in. At least it does for me.

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It’s, I estimate, some 50 years since I first stepped onboard an aeroplane. They were pretty small steps as I was eight years old, flying out of Christchurch Airport to Wellington, which I can tell you back then was the really, really big smoke! What a magical day that was. Can you remember your first flight? Or the reaction of your kids when you first took them on one?

Well I’m long past youth; left early adulthood in my dust; hey, even middle age is somewhere back in my slipstream, goddamn it;  but to see that moving map and watch this plane working its way around the top of the world brings out that little kid again. Farwell Novosibirsk! Hello Chelyabinsk!

The past week encapsulates my life in travel retail. I flew to Asia last Saturday, amid final countdown to The Moodie Report’s annual Cannes Print Edition (think the collected works of Dostoyevsky – in length rather than artistic quality I hasten to add – then multiply by two and you’ll get the picture). I caught up with some key contacts and old friends, visited some remarkable retail operations, wrote around the clock for our Cannes issue and kept feeding anti-insomnia drugs to that damned website that never sleeps. Full on. And fantastic.

As I track across Siberia (here comes Severdobinsk!) I feel pretty reflective about it all. I talk a lot to many others in this industry who, like me, travel a lot. They, too, talk of this almost indefinable feeling of being in a cocoon, high in the sky, thousands of miles from their loved ones, flying to or back from an important schedule of meetings. No-one can touch you up here in the sky. No-one can reach you. This is what, maybe I should dub ‘travel retail-ness’.

The great Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote a wonderful book called The Unbearable Lightness of Being set during the Prague spring. I’m going to write a sequel set during my travel retail years. It’s the follow-up to my best seller ‘Free of Duty Free’ and it’s going to be called The Unbeatable Delightfulness of Boeing.trio

[A selfie with Sunil Tuli and Rakhita Jaywardena in Rakhita’s King Power Traveler office in Hong Kong]

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[How’s this for a working environment? Long-time industry executive Trevor Moore who is running the travel retail operation at the spectacular new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on the grounds of Hong Kong’s famous old airport. Look out for my report in this week’s edition of The Moodie e-Zine.]

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Cissy Cecilia and MM

[With Cissy Chan, left, and Cecilia Lam of Airport Authority Hong Kong’s retail team after a nice lunch at the Regal Airport Hotel to discuss the authority’s latest very exciting plans. Details on The Moodie Report.com soon.]

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[Room with a view: At the offices of DFS Co-Founder, the amazing Bob Miller]

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[Dining airside at Hong Kong International Airport’s superb Peak Lookout restaurant, which I gave a 5-plane rating to on Airpinion.com]

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HKIa lilq fab

[Apologies for the mediocre iPhone images but the real thing is fantastic. Does spirits and wine retailing get any better than DFS Group’s offer at Hong Kong International Airport?]

HKIA liq

hkia mjui

[I love this Muji to Go store, airside at Hong Kong International Airport. It’s always busy and has a really fun and eclectic mix. Every airport should have a Mjui.]

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[Don’t shoot the piano player: Look, I love much about Heathrow Airport but this just won’t do. Terminal 3’s self-playing piano – which wasn’t playing by the way – is about as welcoming as those trollies. Compare and contrast with Incheon International Airport below, also airside.]

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  • Martin,
    Absolutely enjoyed this blog, I feel very much the same way about travel and flying. John and I just arrived in Hong Kong and the trip pitching FlyrBuyr has been a great success. Very good interest and much to organize and follow up.

    Many thanks again for your time and insights. Have a great Cannes.
    With best regards
    Ed Aster