Travel Statistics

Travel stats. We all love them. But where’s the best place to go to find out where you’ve been?

IAG, my employer and owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and the newly launched LEVEL has been running a corporate accelerator programme for startups, called “Hangar 51“. I’ve been sponsoring the “Data Driven Decisions” category, and one of the startups I’ve been working with is esplorio, an automated travel journal service.

One of the things IAG and esplorio have been working on together is to offer our customers the opportunity to link their esplorio and BA Executive Club accounts, to give them a combined view of their data. Whilst we are sorting out the technical details, I thought I’d do a one person “proof of concept” by manually consolidating my own data.

Esplorio is a relatively young service, but it enables you to link to your Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare accounts. This means that I have data in Esplorio going back to 2011, which was when I joined Foursquare.

My BA data starts in 2004. This is when BA thinks I joined the Executive Club. I’m pretty sure that I joined before this, but maybe BA knows me better than I do.

According to esplorio, I’ve been to 30 countries and have travelled 454,648 miles. BA thinks I’ve been to 24 countries and have flown 351,818 miles. Whilst the two data sources agree on 21 countries, BA missed 9 that esplorio had and esplorio missed 3 so the true total is 33. Which I think demonstrates the power of combining data and also makes me think I’ve spent too much time on a plane.

Tech hunting in Israel

The Old City, Jerusalem

After three weeks catching up with ‘the day job’, I’m finally getting round to writing about a recent tech scouting trip to Israel. Four days of meeting with entrepreneurs, investors, startup companies and other participants in the Israeli technology and innovation ecosystem.

I had high expectations for the trip. Israel has acquired a reputation as the second most important centre for technology and innovation (the undisputed global capital of course remains “The Valley”). My already high expectations were exceeded and I came away deeply impressed by what has been achieved there. But overall, the thing that impressed me most was the sheer entrepreneurialism and energy of the people that I met. The willingness to take risks in pursuit of big rewards, and to treat “failure” as a opportunity to do better next time, drawing on the lessons learnt.

The UK has much to learn I think from Israel about how to foster and support innovation and create the jobs and companies of the future. There are lessons for governments, for companies and for individuals and I’d definitely recommend a trip.

Oh… and Jerusalem is pretty amazing too!

First flight on OpenSkies

Boarding pass

Boarding pass

Went on my first flight with OpenSkies last month. Being based in London, there hadn’t been much occasion to use the service before. But heading out to New York for a Board meeting, I decided to take the time to make a quick detour via Paris.

The service was excellent in every way. Great seats, food and wine and good service on the ground too. Of particular note was the friendliness and professionalism of crew. Overall, superb.

For more information pop over to the OpenSkies website on https://www.flyopenskies.com/splash

Shanghai smog

Shanghai smog from my hotel window

Shanghai smog from my hotel window

I was away from the UK for 61 hours on my recent trip to Shanghai, travelling out via Tokyo and back via Helsinki. This somewhat less than direct itinerary meant that I spent more than half the elapsed time at airports and on aircraft, giving me only one afternoon and an evening in Shanghai… by no means sufficient to do justice to this most dynamic of world cities.

It is four and a half years since I was last there, and a lot changes in China in that time. What was most noticeable to me was how much worse the smog was. A reminder perhaps of the downsides of China’s enormous and rapid economic development.

Or maybe I was just there on a bad day.

Dubai: living up to expectations, good and bad

Lobby feature

Lobby feature

We realised that it had been some time since we had escaped for a dose of sun and relaxation by the pool. With only a five day slot in our collective calendars, we were somewhat distance and time zone constrained and settled on a few days in Dubai. It had been over 10 years since we had been there as a family and a lot has changed in that time. We expected big and brash and Dubai delivered… with golden knobs on. We expected hot and got 44°C. We expected some of the best hotels in the world and got palatial rooms, fantastic food and an attached water park, complete with ziggurat. What we didn’t quite expect was how expensive the place has become, for example the cheapest bottle of wine on the menu was £40 and a beer was £8. Ouch.

Can’t escape the credit crunch

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

It has been great to exchange the business pressures of surviving the credit crunch for the task of trying to stay upright whilst skiing an expanse of fresh powder. Although I must admit that there are some similarities to the two challenges, on the whole it has been a pleasant escape. However, it was impossible to avoid being constantly reminded of the world’s problems. Whether it was the ease of getting a table in the restaurants or the length of the queues for the lifts, there were signs everywhere of the downturn, even though this must have been one of the busiest weeks of the year. What has certainly not helped is the weakness of the pound: suddenly everything is 30% more expensive for us Brits, and Val d’Isère was far from cheap to start with. At least the shops were running sales, so Amanda and Laura got some rather nice new ski jackets with a 30% discount. That made me feel better, almost.

American idyll

House

House

We spent the half term holidays in the States experiencing all that is best about the american lifestyle. We stayed first with friends in Pennsylvania and then with friends in Massachusetts. Highlights included glorious fall foliage, wonderful (huge!) houses and Halloween with pumpkin carving and trick or treating. Shame we couldn’t stay another couple of days and experience the finale to the US election.

A tourist in London

London Eye

London Eye

We have Laura’s French friend Anne staying with us at present, which gave us a chance to do the “tourist thing” in London yesterday. Luckily, the weather continues to oblige and we had a great day. Madame Tussauds, lunch at Chez Gerard’s in Covent Garden and then a walk through the wonderfully reborn South Bank for a trip on the Eye. I love London in the summer.

Armadillo racing

Armadillo

Armadillo

Visited Houston to celebrate now being able to operate the route from Heathrow. Evening entertainment involved Armadillo racing. Very strange. I am in orange on the left and despite appearances, my Armadillo did in fact come through to win!