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‘Leading Hotels In Are Of International Standards’

Abraham Thomas, managing director, IBM India Limited, asserts that high levels of service is what drives him to select an airline. In conversation with Ashish K Tiwari, he highlights aspects that make business travel comfortable

‘Every time I visit the Changi airport in Singapore, I marvel at the complex infrastructure, which is managed with such professionalism. Its sheer expanse is amazing. Besides, it offers travellers exclusive shopping opportunities’

Which destinations predominantly feature on your business travel itinerary?

My business requirements typically necessitate domestic travel about once or twice a week on an average and, as our ASEAN regional headquarters are located in Singapore, I generally need to travel there about once a quarter.

Are you registered with any frequent flyer programme?

I am registered with the frequent flyer programme of Jet Airways. I am also a member of similar programmes offered by Indian Airlines - Flying Returns, Singapore Airlines (SQ) - Kris Flyer, Malaysian Airways - Enrich and Northwest Airlines - World Perks.

Which airline meets your fancy?

Singapore Airlines is my undisputed favourite. Their unmatched service standards, make it my preferred airline. What I find most endearing is that minute details are taken care of - unobtrusively - and they go a long way in adding to the comforts of the journey. It is evident that a great deal of planning and innovation goes into their customer service.

With regards to in-flight services, which airline emerges as the undisputed leader?

The airlines I fly regularly are Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines and Northwest Airlines. All of them offer quality service, but I would rate SQ the best, primarily on account of its in-flight entertainment, food and personalised service.

What are your preferences with regards to wine, alcohol and cuisine on board, and which airlines satisfy your palette?

I’m a complete non-alcoholic person. While travelling, I prefer a light meal and lots of fruit juices. The culinary fare served by Singapore Airlines suits my palette just fine.

Could you recount some of your prominent travel experiences?

Among my most distinguished experiences, there are two incidents, I’ll always remember. One was not uncommon but surely trying, when I lost my baggage at Minneapolis and had a tough time trying to retrieve it. The other occurred at Istanbul, during my return flight to Singapore. It so happened that we had a person who was in an inebriated state, and naturally dramatised the situation aboard our flight and was finally handcuffed on flight. In retrospect, the situation was quite droll, though at that time we were all quite disturbed by it.

In your judgment, how does domestic travel compare with overseas travel?

Through my experience, I can say that domestic travel has come of age in the recent past. Visible changes for the better have come about in service standards of most domestic airlines, flights are usually as per schedule, aircraft cleanliness is accorded a great deal of importance, the food served is of high quality and the staff are courteous and attentive to passenger needs.

Are you a member of any hotel’s guest loyalty programme, domestic as well as international?

Yes, I am a member of the loyalty programmes offered by Taj Group of Hotels and Oberoi Hotels and Resorts.

How do Indian business hotels compare with their international counterparts?

From my perspective, the quality of services offered by the leading hotels in India are of international standards. The hotel industry here is definitely developed and the hospitality provided is of the highest order, I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. The only downside is that hotels in India are more expensive when compared to hotels of the same category, offering the same amenities abroad.

What factors influence your selection of a particular hotel or chain?

When selecting a hotel, location is of prime importance to me. It usually is the key decision-making factor as I usually have clients to meet or internal meetings to rush to after I arrive at a place. If the hotel is conveniently located vis-a-vis the city, it effectively saves time, otherwise wasted significantly on commuting. The other important factors include the business facilities available at the hotel, the security, of course, the hygiene factor and to an extent the choice of restaurants.

What is your impression of the Indian airports vis-a-vis the international airports that you have visited?

The airports at New Delhi and Mumbai are good, they function well and have the requisite facilities to make travel comfortable, but to be able to really hold a candle to international airports of repute, I feel they still need to be upgraded, especially as far as infrastructure is concerned.

In your opinion, which international airport is the undisputed pacesetter?

The Changi airport in Singapore would definitely qualify for this description. Every time I visit it, I marvel at the complex infrastructure, which is managed with such professionalism. Its sheer expanse is amazing. Besides, it offers travellers exclusive shopping opportunities.