Yesterday, I blogged about Singapore. For much of the past 20 years, its airline has been ranked as the best in the world. How do they do they achieve that? In this sixteen-minute video by Sam Chui, the most popular airline blogger in the world, learn some of the answer.
I’ve been fortunate to have flown on Singapore Airlines many times, including one around-the-world (honeymoon) trip, as well as thrice on the world’s longest non-stop flight. I will fly them again anywhere. Watch and learn why.
For several centuries, Hong Kong was called the ‘Gateway to the the East‘. Western businessmen make the British Crown Colony their Far Eastern base of operations. Western tourists planning to make their first trip to Asia more often than not made it their first stop. I know many retirement age Americans who still want or suggest Hong Kong as a destination.
That was fine advice until the turn of the millenium. In 1997, the British handed Hong Kong back to the the mainland Chinese government, and the Chinese Communiist Party (CCP) has since wasted no time transforming the Hong Kong into another province or city of the People’s Republic. Shanghai, rather than Hong Kong, has become the largest business city regarding China. International businesses are moving either there or to another ity that I’m about to mention. The CCP has enacted censorship and cracked down on political dissent. Hong Kong is a democracy no more. It’s still a wonderful, fascinating place, but it’s not the old Hong Kong of the 20th Century.
I know both cities. Hong Kong is fun to visit, but always daunting for first-time travelers to Asia. By contrast, Singapore has much of the exoticism such travelers crave, but is twice as prosperous and much more educated than Hong Kong. The majority of Singapore’s citizens speak English (the ‘Singlish’ version of it) as fluently as Mandarin Chinese. Singapore is also a democracy, albeit with rather authoritarian and censorous rule by its dominant political party which has been governing it since it founding. Nevertheless, it is a better place to do business or vacation or shop than Hong Kong. I’d heartily recommend Westerners who want to visit the Far East for their first time to visit Singapore rather than Hong Kong. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world.
[Likewise, as I’ll write sometime, westerners who are planning to make their first visit to the Middle East should visit Qatar or Oman, rather than Egypt or Dubai. They won’t see the pyramids or the world’s tallest building, but they’ll be welcome and see true Arab cultures.]
Over the years, I’ve visited five of the eight island that comprise my wife’s native Canary Islands archipelago. I hope sometime next year to spend time on the one renowned as having–no kidding–the best beaches in the world. That island is Fuerteventure. Its 1,660 square kilometers (640 sq. miles), about the size of the Isle of Man or half of Rhode Island) have over 304 kilometers (189 miles) of white sandy beaches in the Atlantic. See for yourself: here is a three-and-a-half minute look at its beaches.
The main reason why I frequently posted here about the historically amazing revival of China as a world economic power is that most of the American with whom I grew up during the 1950s-60s, most of whom have never travelled outside of Anglophone North America, nonetheless anywhere else in the world, still visualize China as a Third World nation of Mao suit-wearing Communist drones traveling on bicycles, rickshaws, steam locomotives, and 1950s Soviet-built automobiles. None of that is true, except to some degree the Communist part (approximately 100 million of China’s 1.3 billion people are members of the Chinese Communist Party). For most of the past 4,000 years, China had the world’s #1 economy. It has been only during the past 400 years that China had been in eclipse, no longer one of the world’s top ten, nonetheless top one or two, most powerful nations. Napoleon Bonaparte knew that China’s decline was a temporary exception to history. “Let China Sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world,” he supposedly said. With the death of Mao Tse-Tung some 50 years ago and the decision by his replacement Deng Xiaopeng to embrace capitalism in the Chinese economy, (“It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” Deng said), China has come roaring back as a world power.
Most of the American men I grew up with want to deny this fact. They don’t like America having competition, and particularly not Communist-ruled, albeit capitalist, competition. But China is a reality that can’t, and shouldn’t be denied. Some of them try to excuse China’s economic power by noting that by Gross Domestic Product and other economic measurements China now has an economy equal or greater than of the United States simply because it has four times the population of the U.S. who produce only one-quarter or more of the economic output the average American does. This is true. However, the economic output of the average Chinese is constantly growing and at a much faster pace than the average American’s. China now has some 300 million members of its population enjoying a middle class lifestyle, a number equal to (and soon to be larger) than the entire American population. This graphic from Visual Capitalist predicts the relative size of the world’s major national economies by the year 2050.
Until recently, the entire history of the United States had occured while China slept. The U.S. isn’t used to having such an economic competitor: a nationl that has been major power for most of the past 4,000 years. That is the reality.
My wife and I were scheduled at midnight to fly from Hong Kong to New York City. But where to have a great Cantonese meal before departure? Not the airport! So, accompanied by our Hong Kong friend Ruth Chen, we dined at Man Wah atop the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (the original Madarin hotel in that chain). We there had the most extraordinary Chinese of our lives. I’ve been fortunate to have dined in one, two, and three star Michelin-rated restaurants in Europe, Asia, and North America, and am surprised Man Wah has only one such star! We selected a seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Exquisite and extraordinary. (I regret that I don’t have at hand my receipt from the restaurant but will post it when I find it, a souvenir I kept). My compliments to the Man Wah’s somelier, who has forever changed my taste for champagnes from Moet & Chandon, Verve Cliquot, and Tattinger, to Ruinart. Visit this restaurant if you can. If you can’t, enjoy this video.
Travel is the best way to see the reality of where you are from because without that you see no new perspective, know no difference, and can make no judgements. I have been fortunate to have travelled much: I’ve logged more than a million airline miles since 1993, air mileage which doesn’t count my a dozen foreign trips during the 1970s and ’80s nor extensive domestic U.S. airtravel during the 1980s and early ’90s for United Press International and Reuters. Among the things which all that travel has led me to see is how woefully miserable the North American and many European airlines have become.
It is no wonder why for the past ten years Skytrax‘s rankings of the Top Ten Airlines (i.e., the ‘Five Star’ or World Airline Awards rankings) are dominated by Persian Gulf and Far Eastern airlines. During some of the past ten years, a European airline might appear among the Top Ten, yet that hasn’t happened during most of those years. The 2023 Top Ten are:
All Nippon Airways (of Japan)
Cathay Pacific Airways
EVA Air (of Taiwan)
Among European airlines, either Air France or Lufthansa make the list some years. As for Turkish Airlines, its home airport of Istanbul is 29 kilometers (18 miles) into Europe, although most of Türkiye (the nation until recently known as Turkey) is in the Middle East. The highest ranking U.S. airline is Delta at #20 (behind such airlines as Fiji Airways and India’s Vistara). Air Canada ranks #38, United Airlines #49 (just ahead of Azerbaijan Airlines), Alaska Airlines #52, Jet Blue #55, Southwest #60, American Airlines #82, and Hawaiian Airlines #85. Skytrax only ranks the Top 100 airlines, so forget about Spirit Airlines. These rankings demonstrate just how bad U.S. aiirlines are.
My two favorite airlines are Singapore and Qatar, so I’m not surprised. My wife’s favorites are Singapore and Emirates. We love Singapore Airlines so much that we booked it around the world during our honeymoon in 2013. I’ve thrice flown non-stop flight from New York City to Singapore, a trip which lasts for 17 to 18 hours depending upon the winds. Most Americans would abhor the very idea of such a long flight, yet that’s because they’ve only flown on U.S. airlines and never on Singapore Airlines. The video above, shot by aviation video blogger Sam Chui, lets you know how well trained Singapore Airline cabin crews are. It shows what makes the world’s best airline.
I realize that I’ve a few friends (notably those who have worked as cabin crew on U.S. airlines who might not like Singapore Airlines’ services compared to U.S. airlines. I realize that this airline and its iconic ‘Singapore Girl’ uniform persists what some North Americans and Europeans will charge is sexism. And I know that Singapore Airlines is mostly government-funded, whereas no U.S. airline is. However, if you’re a airline passenger, you are more likely to value the courtesy and services you receive when judging an airline; that your comfort, and not governmental and cultural policies, are your main concerns.