Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Emirates: Hotel With Wings

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of the best experiences in my luxury, vagabond days. A three hour drive from the Gulf of Western Thailand to Bangkok was not the best start to the day, given what you find on the Thai roads in the early hours of the morning. Nonetheless, we made it in one piece to catch a six hour flight to Dubai. After three hours transit in the incredible experience that is now Dubai Airport, I boarded an Emirates flight for Sao Paulo. Fifteen and a half hours in a flying metal tube at 35,000 feet is not usually my idea of heaven, but Emirates changed all that. They’ve introduced the next level of luxury in the form of a separate private suite reminiscent of the great Oriental Express train journeys of yesteryear.

On board there are two rows, each with four individual suites, and I was in 2A by the window. The floors are wooden and the compartments individualized and completely private. They are made of beautiful wood paneling and you can close the doors as soon as you enter, sit back in your luxurious leather seat, watch your widescreen TV and let the world pass you by. They’ve pretty much thought of everything. There are 50 new movies on the system. They include great classics, all the top TV shows, terrific sport – including 11 cricket episodes and 6 rugby episodes - and the most amazing music choices. All you do is hit 4 digits to put in a year, like say 1964 on your channel, and out comes the Top 20 hits from the year, ditto 1965 right through the 90’s. There’s also a list of 50 great artists from The Beatles through to Radiohead, with all their albums available.

Emirates is officially, as of today, my new Lovemark. They’ve had a great reputation and trust for years, but they’ve now added mystery, sensuality and intimacy to their offering. This is an airline that has come to understand how important intimacy is in today’s 24/7 world, and particularly to people like me who are on the road 250 days per year.

It’s all about flexibility, personalization and privacy, and their menu reflected this perfectly. Instead of the standard set meal format, there were thirty items ranging from breakfast omelets, to pre-lunch caviar, to the Lobster Sheppard’s Pie (make a note of that) for dinner. And let’s not forget the creamy lobster medallions from the Gulf, topped with spinach and cheesy potato; can’t wait to get mother-in-law, Rita, onto that little delicacy (making it for me I mean, not eating it!)

I was so blown away by the experience I slept for eleven hours. Of course the luxury leather chair converts into a beautiful full-length flat bed, complete with duvet blanket and soft down pillows.

So I arrived in Sao Paulo refreshed and ready for action. Unfortunately, it was 9:00pm at night, so I went straight upstairs to the gym at the Emiliano (one of my favorite hotels) and had an hour’s workout to get the heart rate up a little bit from it’s comatose sleeping position. That worked and got me geared up to face the next two days of visiting our agency in Sao Paulo (led by the creative genius, Fabio Fernandes). I was also giving a speech to Unibanco, a key client in Brazil, and presenting at the HSM management forum, along with Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox, Michael Porter from Harvard, Alan Greenspan and Michael Eisner.