Tim McCready flew Business Class to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific CX198 and returned to Auckland on Air New Zealand NZ80.
Cathay Pacific: Boeing 777-300. Seven years old.
Air New Zealand: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Brand new, out of the factory in August 2018.
Cathay Pacific: I was sitting in 11A (directly behind the cockpit — Cathay starts its business class seating at 11). The cabin is configured with a 1-2-1 layout, and as the seats are angled gently toward the window, it felt very private. I was the only one sitting in the first row of the plane, and the rest of the cabin was fairly empty — it felt as though I had the entire flight to myself.
The seat was generous in size, and when reclined into a bed provided plenty of space with a 208cm length and a 70cm width (the width is boosted by the clever armrest extension). The blanket was a little thin, and the pillow was adequate, but nothing special. Convenient storage around the seat allowed me to store everything I needed throughout the flight within easy reach.
Air New Zealand: I was sitting in 9A — the last seat in Business Class at the left window. Air New Zealand’s herringbone layout felt a real contrast to Cathay’s. The 1-1-1 layout means no one has a neighbour, but instead of facing the window, in this configuration you are angled so you face into the cabin. From my seat, I could see every passenger throughout the duration of the flight. If you’re after privacy or enjoy watching the world go by outside, this is not the layout for you. The ottoman provides storage but also doubles as a second seat, allowing another passenger to share the oversized tray table and join you for dinner. Several passengers travelling together on my flight took advantage of this.
The leather seat converts into a bed, but the mechanism requires passengers to stand while the seat folds forward. A bedding pack is provided (with high-quality sheets, a blanket, mattress and several pillows) that transforms the bed into something more luxurious. It was amusing to watch the passengers and crew struggle for space in the aisles as they all attempted to set up their beds immediately following the meal service — while I snacked on cheese and port. The bed was very comfortable, although its 200cm length and 56cm width felt noticeably more compact than Cathay’s.
That said, it is hard to complain about a lie-flat bed on a long-haul flight. I had a comfortable night’s sleep.
Food and drink
Cathay Pacific: A great selection of food. The flight attendant brought all dishes around on a trolley so that I could look at them and decide — a nice touch for those who are indecisive with menus. I chose the braised pork for lunch and snapper for dinner. The range of wines was excellent, made up of New Zealand and French premium wines. The “international beer selection” was less so: San Miguel, Heineken, Steinlager… they offered a Fosters from “out the back” if I wanted. I passed.
Air New Zealand: The food was spectacular. My order was taken before departure so my dinner could be quickly prepared for me following take-off. I chose the sole with almond romesco sauce — it tasted as though it had come out of a high-end bistro. My breakfast choice (French crepes with apple and pear) had a texture that resembled cardboard, I had food envy when I noticed most of my compatriots had sensibly chosen the mushroom and cheese omelette. Air New Zealand had a wide range of wine, and even offered Emerson’s craft beer from Dunedin.
Cathay Pacific: The service was professional and polite — I was always addressed by name. Although the crew were incredibly responsive whenever I needed anything, outside meal times they remained mostly in the galleys — which added to the feeling of peacefulness in the cabin. Hot towels were provided frequently throughout the flight.
Air New Zealand:
As always, the Air New Zealand crew seemed as though they loved their job and would do whatever they could to make the flight enjoyable. The crew always addressed me by name, but unlike Cathay they were eager to have a yarn with passengers — we shared a bit of banter at the front of the plane throughout the flight. During the breakfast service when I pointed out one of my utensils was dirty, they apologised profusely and had it replaced immediately.
Cathay Pacific: One of the perks of flying Business Class is unwrapping the amenities pack. This came in a stylish pouch (which has since been repurposed as my toilet bag), and included a dental kit, lip balm, hand cream, and rosewater face mist — surprisingly refreshing. The socks were comfortable and featured a rubber tread on the bottom.
Air New Zealand: The purple and black faux leather pack seemed less high-end than Cathay’s. It included a dental kit — the generous bottle of mouthwash lasted the duration of my stay in Hong Kong — lip balm and hand cream. The socks were shapeless and not particularly comfortable.
Cathay Pacific: There was a great selection of films and television shows on board. Cathay includes several ads before each video, and although they can be fast-forwarded, they are extremely frustrating — particularly because the same ads are repeated every time. The screen was large, but couldn’t be angled downwards, which made it difficult to watch when lying flat.
Air New Zealand: Again, a good selection of options to watch. There were no ads, which was appreciated, and the screen could be angled down (which allowed me to watch far too many movies when I should have been sleeping). The screen has to be stowed to the side during take-off and landing, which made it awkward to watch during those times.
Cathay Pacific: The best thing about this flight was the privacy and the space of the seat, it felt as though I was in my own private jet. The service and food were both great, but not a patch on Air New Zealand.
Air New Zealand: The layout of the cabin means you sacrifice a bit of space and a lot of privacy — but the service and the food are truly exceptional.
The verdict: Both flights were fantastic, as you would expect with the price of a Business Class ticket! I was truly surprised with Cathay’s offering and wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again. Air New Zealand is like a reliable friend, you know you’ll have a premium experience and will happily forgive any shortcomings.
After an unusual border welcome, Tim McCready finds a welcoming world of contrasts during a tour of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Thumbing his way through my New Zealand passport, carefully considering each page, the Serbian border officer looked up at my Serbian friend and asked him to translate a question for me: “What do I need to do to move to New Zealand?”
I laughed. But the officer glared at me and asked the question again. He wasn’t kidding.
“Tell him we need skilled workers in hospitality and tourism … and construction,” I said.
Without even a hint of a smile,he nodded at me, handed back the passport, and motioned us on into Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We left Serbia’s capital Belgrade early in the morning, heading southwest towards Trebinje — Bosnia and Herzegovina’s southernmost city. The eight-hour drive passed through dramatic scenery. Soaring rugged mountains covered in thick forest, dotted with small villages, magnificent clear winding waterways, and the occasional brutalist concrete structure, honouring those who have died in battles from the country’s turbulent past. Today, many of them are crumbling away — their ruins a bleak reminder of the economic problems of the region.
TREBINJE Game of Thrones has popularised the charm of Croatia’s Dubrovnik. It has become so inundated by cruise ships and visitors that Unesco has threatened to revoke its status as a World Heritage Site if numbers aren’t limited. On the other hand, Trebinje — just 30km away — is relatively quiet. There is a real sense of activity, but it is real-life, day-to-day activity — not tourism. The old town’s untouched Ottoman architecture, stone houses and towering walls make it one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most picturesque cities, and a credible rival against the circus of Dubrovnik.
Sipping coffee at a cafe on the edge of the city square, I watched the sun creep over the old city walls and on to the local farmer’s market that surrounded me. The central square converts to a market each day, with stalls selling local produce, cheese and rakija (a fruit brandy popular in the region) — and the sweetest, juiciest strawberries I have ever tasted. As in much of the Balkans, food here is fresh, tasty and very, very cheap.
The clear blue water of the river Trebisnjica flows through the city, passing under the city’s impressive Ottoman bridge — built in 1574 and painstakingly transported stone by stone 5km downstream in the 60s to avoid damage during the construction of a dam. I was yet to learn that in this region, bridges — with extraordinary pillars, impressive arches and ornate brickwork — were masterpieces waiting to be discovered.
But despite the beauty of Trebinje, one of the country’s most visited tourist destinations is 120km north — the small town of Medjugorje: the site of an alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1981.
As we made our way toward one of the most important religious sites on the planet, we stopped briefly for lunch at the Kravica waterfall. The falls are truly one of Europe’s hidden gems: beautiful clear water cascades down vast cliffs, wrapping around to create a stunning natural amphitheatre surrounding the lakeside. A few brave visitors were in the water — despite being ice cold year-round, it’s a popular spot for a dip.
Another 20 minutes in the car brought us to the main street of Medjugorje. It was a world away from the tranquillity of the waterfall, and felt more akin to driving the Las Vegas Strip — if you swapped the grand casinos for religious-themed souvenir stores and high-rollers for Catholics.
The town has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics in the world. It has a population of about 2000, yet receives more than one million tourists each year. It is estimated that 30 million pilgrims have visited the town since the reputed apparitions seen by six children in the early 1980s.
Souvenir stores line the main street, selling all kinds of religious memorabilia: jewellery, rosary beads, Jesus on the cross in all sizes, and even beer — branded with the apparition site, of course. Whether you are visiting Medjugorje for religious purposes or not, you cannot deny that the creation of such a bustling economic livelihood for the formerly modest agricultural village is nothing short of impressive.
Buying a heavily marked-up bottle of water from a convenience store close to the apparition site, I was approached by the shopkeeper with a recognisably thick American accent:
“Is this your first apparition visit?” she asked. I nodded and told her it wasn’t a typical destination for me. “I’m here every year from Wisconsin,” she told me, proudly explaining that she comes from the first approved apparition site in the United States. “I come back here during the summer high season and make an absolute killing,” she said, as she handed back my change.
Like Medjugorje, Mostar is bursting with tourists. Colourful bazaars and restaurants line the crowded cobblestone streets; historic houses and mosques spill down the cliffs surrounding the old town. Limestone steps lead to hidden restaurants, their terraces overlooking the river and its infamous bridge — the perfect venue for Turkish coffee … or drinks late into the night.
Of all the spectacular bridges in Bosnia, when referring to the “Old Bridge” (Stari Most), it can mean only one: the medieval bridge of Mostar that spans the Neretva river. The bridge — symbolically linking the Muslim east with the Christian west for 427 years — was destroyed during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 90s, ripping apart the city’s unity.
It was painstakingly rebuilt to its former glory in 2004 and using the same local stone as the original bridge; in 2005 it was added to the Unesco World Heritage list. When reconstructed, Unesco said of the bridge: “The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.”
Nowadays, the bridge is brimming with souvenir stalls that jostle for space. From the top, locals jump a dangerous 24m into the cold Neretva River below. This ancient tradition has become a moneymaking exercise as divers wait until they have collected enough money from the eager crowds that gather before taking the plunge.
My last stop — 130km north of Mostar — was Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital and largest city. Arriving close to dinnertime, I pushed my way through the narrow streets of the Old Town — the city’s historic precinct and cultural heart that dates back to the 15th century. Stalls sell coffee, copperware, trinkets and souvenirs that spill out on to the cobblestones.
The sights and smells from Bascarsija (the old bazaar) consumed my senses, and on an empty stomach, the smoky rich smell of cevapi and onions that fills the air was impossible to resist: a Balkan speciality of grilled mince shaped into a small sausage, served with flatbread. A generous meal sets you back just a few dollars.
Following dinner, I left the gritty and overcrowded winding labyrinth of the Old Town and stepped out into Sarajevo’s main boulevard — previously dubbed Sniper Alley due to the danger it presented during the Bosnian War, now transformed to a trendy high street that features all the top names you’d expect anywhere in the world.
The Siege of Sarajevo, lasting 1425 days, was the longest siege of a city in modern military history. The atrocities that took place are difficult to fathom, but the abandoned buildings and bullet holes that remain in facades act as a constant, cruel reminder.
“Why would you want to visit war-torn Bosnia?” my brother asked before I left New Zealand.
“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked my mum.
To many, the mention of Bosnia and Herzegovina conjures up memories of the war in the 90s. Images from the television news of the tragedy there remains etched into hearts and minds: shelling and gunfire, buildings alight across the city, and genocide — the atrocities resulted in 100,000 dead and more than two million refugees.
The city still has a way to go. Minefields laid during the siege remain in the hills. Signs remind you that venturing too far off the beaten track is absolutely forbidden.
But Sarajevo — with an eclectic, energising vibe — is now a beacon of hope for peace and multicultural tolerance. One of the city’s taglines is “meeting of cultures”, and the juxtaposition between East and West is evident. Sarajevo has been a city of religious diversity for centuries — Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and the Jewish community live side by side.
As I made the journey back to Serbia’s capital Belgrade, the words of the Serbian border officer continued to echo in my mind.
“What do I need to do to move to New Zealand?”
Despite the extraordinary vistas and rich culture, the economic situation of the region means locals often don’t have the financial freedom to allow them to appreciate it. The older generation is nostalgic about the days when Yugoslavia was under the leadership of the adored Tito; the younger generation desperately wants something better than what the region has given them and their parents. The atrocities of the recent past are never far from anyone’s minds.
But tourism numbers are growing and creating new opportunities. The World Tourism Organisation claims that Bosnia and Herzegovina will have the world’s third-highest tourism growth rate between 1995 and 2020 ( admittedly this comes from a low base, given the conflict in the 1990s).
Natural beauty with majestic waterfalls, ancient towns steeped in a complex history, hearty food and welcoming people.
Whatever these words conjure up, it probably isn’t Bosnia and Herzegovina. But it should.
Earlier this year I travelled to Hong Kong to attend the Asian Financial Forum.
The forum, now in its 12th year, brings together financial and business leaders, global policymakers and financial regulators from over 40 countries and regions.
While the theme of the Forum this year was “creating a sustainable and inclusive future,” it was unsurprising this was clouded by the uncertainty hanging over the United States-China trade negotiations, fears of growing protectionism, populism and wider geopolitical tensions.
In her opening address, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam wished attendees success in finding innovative new ways to excel in 2019 — but acknowledged it will likely be a considerable challenge this year.
She was, of course, referring to the trade discord between the world’s two largest economies — as well as lingering uncertainties in other parts of the world.
“For many economies — including Hong Kong — moderated growth and, for many companies, diminished business and financial results appear inevitable,” she said.
The more than 3300 attendees agreed — the audience were given the chance to vote on sentiment throughout the forum.
When asked about the outlook for the global economy in 2019, just 15 per cent of respondents were optimistic; 47 per cent were pessimistic. This is in dramatic contrast to the 2018 Forum, where 58 per cent were optimistic and just 6 per cent were pessimistic
A follow-up question asked the source of risk for global financial stability this year: US-China trade tensions came out on top with 77 per cent of respondents.
This was followed by monetary policy normalisation (10 per cent), cyber breaches and security risks (7 per cent) and Brexit and fiscal discipline in the European Union (6 per cent).
Perhaps in light of the concern around China uncertainty, attendees at the forum felt that Southeast Asia offered the best guarantee of investment return for 2019 (39 per cent). This was followed by China (35 per cent), the United States (16 per cent), Japan (3 per cent) and Western Europe (2 per cent).
Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan said that global uncertainty weighs heavily on global investment and business sentiment, and adds downside risk to economic growth and increased volatility in financial markets.
Although Hong Kong is part of China under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, it has distinct advantages for attracting investment — including operating with a strong rule of law based on English common law, independence of the judiciary, a simple tax system, and respected intellectual property protection.
Chan said Hong Kong’s position as the freest economy in the world comes with an assurance that protectionism won’t happen there.
“We support free trade and the multilateral trading system, as well as the free flow of capital, people and information.
“Indeed, it is the cornerstone of our economy,” he says.
“The International Monetary Fund has commended Hong Kong’s prudent macroeconomic policies.
“The fund noted that our long-standing buffers will help Hong Kong maintain stability despite the increasing risks confronting global growth.”
He noted that the Government is enhancing the regulatory regime and the resilience of the financial markets to help Hong Kong maintain financial stability amid heightened external uncertainties.
But US-China trade tensions, the economic slowdown in China, cooling property prices and volatility in the stock market have had a demonstratable impact.
The trade-reliant Hong Kong economy expanded at just 1.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year — significantly down on the 2.9 per cent GDP growth recorded in the third quarter.
Export growth was near-zero, a dramatic decrease from the 6 per cent average in the first three quarters. Retail sales were also down.
Denis Beau, First Deputy Governor of the Bank of France, told the forum: “the world economy is facing a maturing financial and economic cycle, but we are far from a downturn”.
Overall, financial intermediaries were much better equipped to withstand shocks than during the financial crisis in 2008.
Burkhard Balz, executive member of Deutsche Bundesbank (Germany’s central bank) said uncertainty was significantly higher than 20 years ago — due to disintegration (referencing Brexit), political disturbances and trade tensions — but “by historical standards, volatility is not high”.
Other keynote speakers, including Vice-President of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, Wang Zhaoxing, recognised that despite the challenges, there were still many opportunities.
He was confident the Chinese economy would remain stable because of the potential for supply and demand in the country and said although the opening up of China’s banking and insurance sector had so far been gradual, President Xi announced an acceleration which has been welcomed globally.
Wang said China’s central government would focus on five key areas this year: the real estate market, local government debt, the influence of global markets, monetary policy in developed countries, and the trade relationship between China and the United States.
“China will continue to work with other Asian countries to strengthen collaboration and promote the development of the Asian economy and financial markets,” he said.
In response to the Forum’s theme, participants were polled on what the biggest challenge was to achieve a sustainable future globally.
A total of 43 per cent said it was a “reluctance to trade higher cost today for better sustainability for future generations”.
This was followed by “reluctance by some governments to adopt policies for sustainable development” (23 per cent), “insufficient attention to environmental, social and governance factors in asset markets” (21 per cent), “lack of financially viable green projects” (10 per cent), and “lack of green funding” (3 per cent).
Tim McCready travelled to the Asian Financial Forum as a guest of the Hong Kong Government.
While in Hong Kong airport, Tim McCready compares the facilities and service in three lounges open to Air New Zealand passengers.
When I checked in for my Air New Zealand Business Premier flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, I was told I had access to three lounges: United Airlines, Thai Airways, and Cathay Pacific.
United Airlines Club lounge
My first visit was to the United Airlines lounge. I initially thought the space was quite small but soon realised walls separate the lounge into different areas. This layout provides a good sense of privacy for relaxing before a flight, and a very quiet feel to the lounge.
On one side of the lounge, huge windows provide great views of the tarmac and the planes as they come and go. On the other side, the mezzanine lounge overlooks the departure hall and gates — as the world’s eighth-busiest airport by passenger traffic, there is no shortage of activity to keep an eye on, to pass the time before a flight.
There were plenty of seats of all varieties scattered around, and although it was a busy time at the airport, I didn’t struggle to find a space. The lounge also had a small shower room and a business centre.
The selection of food was underwhelming, but adequate for a short stay. The Thai green curry I tried was delicious; the cauliflower soup left a lot to be desired.
Thai Airways Royal Orchid lounge
The Thai Airways lounge is just around the corner from United’s. It also benefits from its position: great views out towards the planes, and the ability to people-watch below in the departure hall. Compared to United, this lounge felt much less private — there is a roped-off area for First-Class travellers but the rest of the lounge is wide open. The eclectic chair colours — bright green, orange, blue and yellow — were a jarring eyesore but the chairs were very comfortable.
Though the food selection was wider than that provided by United, it was still fairly standard. There was a reasonable selection of drinks to help yourself to. The bathroom had a single shower (which was occupied while I was visiting). A large business centre was available for use as well as a couple of massage chairs. I was tempted to give them a try but was also well aware of my need to fit another lounge in …
Cathay Pacific: The Bridge
Cathay Pacific is a member of the Oneworld alliance, rather than Air New Zealand’s Star Alliance, however Air New Zealand’s alliance with Cathay allows Airpoints Elite and Gold, and Business Class passengers access to its lounges on certain flights. Cathay has several lounges in Hong Kong airport (The Deck, The Wing, The Pier and The Bridge). I visited The Bridge, located closest to where Air New Zealand flights typically depart from.
The Bridge is just a few minutes’ walk from the United and Thai lounges, but as I descended the escalators into the lounge check-in area, I knew immediately I had saved the best for last. The lounge is enormous and is divided into a North and South Wing.
Each contains multiple zones, which provide a great sense of privacy and a feeling like you’re at home in one of the world’s top hotel lobbies.
Floor-to-ceiling windows span the length of the lounge, providing unobstructed views out to the tarmac. The natural colours inside the lounge — wooden floors with oak and brass accents — give a warm feeling that is often missing in airports, while the custom-made lounge chairs, bookshelves, art and sculptures throughout give the lounge a very sophisticated feel.
The food was spectacular. The North Wing is home to The Bakery, which offers freshly baked bread and pizzas, a generous buffet of Western and Asian dishes and a fresh salad bar. The Long Bar overlooks the tarmac and features an extensive wine and tapas list.
Bartenders are on hand to mix up a drink from the cocktail list — the espresso martini went down a treat.
The South Wing’s Coffee Loft has muffins, biscuits and pastries, as well as barista-made coffee. This wing also contains The Bistro — a second dining area with buffet — along with a fully equipped business centre and shower facilities.
There are nine shower rooms available, and despite the lounge being busy I didn’t need to wait to use one. They come equipped with everything you need to freshen up before a long-haul flight and are cleaned and restocked after each use.
This one’s easy. Thai Airways and United Airlines provide an adequate — albeit fairly standard — airport lounge, but if you have access to Cathay Pacific’s lounge, take advantage of it. It is truly world-class and showcases the very best of what an airport lounge can provide. Just make sure you leave enough time to explore everything that is on offer.
Tim McCready travels from Auckland to Brisbane on Air New Zealand 739.
The plane: One of Air New Zealand’s Airbus A320-232s. My plane was 15 years old — you could tell from the fitout that it wasn’t one of the airline’s newest, but it was very tidy. The flight was full, aside from a couple of empty middle seats.
The airport experience: Auckland Airport is in the midst of a major redevelopment — it feels as though the airport experience changes every few weeks. Although the departure terminal was a construction zone, you could see behind the plastic drop sheets that the transformation will see it become a real feature for the airport.
There was no queue whatsoever for the Air New Zealand bag drop, and customs and security were seamless. I was let loose in duty-free within minutes.
My seat: Having a window seat over the wing meant I had a very smooth flight across the Tasman, despite warnings from the flight deck that we could be in for a rough ride. The seat was comfortable, and the tray tables seemed larger than others I’ve experienced on the same route or on most long-haul economy flights. I had a fair amount of work to get done, so the space was appreciated.
The flight: We departed about 30 minutes late, after waiting for the late arrival of a few passengers from a connecting flight — but we landed just ahead of the scheduled time. I have been on the other side of that situation before, which makes it hard to hold it against the airline when you eventually see a handful of very relieved, sweaty people clambering down the aisle. With no headwind, our total time in the air was just under three hours.
Food and drink: I travelled with The Works option, and was given the choice of honey soy chicken with rice or a beef casserole with roast potatoes. I chose the beef — which according to a colleague on the flight (who described the chicken as “very oily”), was a wise decision. The meal was substantial, especially for a 4pm departure where it felt too late for lunch but too early for dinner. The meal came with Kāpiti ice cream. Although I love their icecream , the flavour was their latest summer creation: Chamomile and Salted Kāmahi Honey. I’m not a fan of chamomile, nor a strong honey flavour, and I found it very sweet. The most awkward thing on flights where you have an optional meal upgrade, is when the person sitting next to you hasn’t upgraded. My neighbour in the middle seat found herself in the unfortunate position of being wedged between people eating meals, and had to have the crew explain politely why this wasn’t an option for her.
The entertainment: Although there were a reasonable number of older films on board, the recent releases felt light. I got halfway through Tag (the premise wore thin after 20 minutes), and Leave No Trace (lost my attention), before settling on One Hour Photo – a Robin Williams classic I hadn’t seen since digital cameras became ubiquitous (the movie has dated incredibly quickly).
The bottom line: Air New Zealand does these transtasman flights well.
Tim McCready flies from Hong Kong to Munich aboard Lufthansa flight 731.
The plane: One of Lufthansa’s 14 superjumbo Airbus A380-800s. My plane was eight years old, with eight First Class suites, 78 lie-flat Business Class seats, 52 Premium Economy seats and 371 Economy seats. I was transiting on both sides, travelling Auckland-Hong Kong-Munich-Dublin. The flight was packed — there were several cheeky passengers attempting to bag an upgrade at the counter, but they were repeatedly told that all classes were full.
The airport experience: Transiting on either side was a dream. Hong Kong and Munich Airports are big and spread out but trains between terminals, and clear signage means you can’t really go wrong. Though there isn’t much to do in Munich Airport for three hours when you arrive at 5am, the Wi-Fi is free and it gave me the opportunity to get this review finished!
My seat: I flew Premium Economy with a window seat. The size and shape of the A380 means the window seats get a generous amount of extra space down the side, which was appreciated. I stored most of the airline’s (and my own) clutter down there throughout the flight — blankets, pillows, shoes. The seats were comfortable, though they were fairly basic in terms of adjustability compared to other Premium Economy options. The separate cabin added some privacy and meant there were never any queues for the cabin’s two toilets — which were kept extremely clean throughout.
Entertainment: While I found Lufthansa’s entertainment system to be less user-friendly than other set-ups, there was plenty to choose from: the usual mix of new release and classic movies, and TV shows, as well as live satellite TV news (which I appreciated given the US air strikes on Syria that took place while I was flying). I used my own headphones as the ones offered in Premium Economy didn’t seem to be any kind of upgrade over most basic Economy offerings.
The flight: As this was the second of two 12ish-hour flights, I spent most of this one asleep. There was a fairly hefty amount of turbulence at the start of the flight, but things settled down and the remaining ride was very smooth. We departed 25 minutes late but landed on time. Total time with wheels off the ground was 11h 32m.
Food and drink: I was disappointed not to see bratwurst and sauerkraut on the menu as I was hopeful for some hearty German fare on board. Instead, I chose the penne pasta with pork goulash for dinner (my third dinner in a row). I should have followed my own advice and steered clear of airline pasta — it didn’t stand up well to reheating. The scrambled eggs with mornay sauce and ratatouille for breakfast was surprisingly good. The drinks service was frequent, and the crew were notably friendlier than my earlier Cathay Pacific flight. The Toblerone was a nice touch.
The bottom line: This wasn’t my favourite Premium Economy experience. It felt as though Lufthansa hasn’t put the same level of innovation into the seat design, food offerings and technology as other airlines have. As for whether I’d fly again — I don’t have too much choice — I’m doing the return journey in a few weeks. But I won’t choose the pasta next time.
The Memorandum of Understanding of Economic Alliance between sister city triplets Auckland, Guangzhou and Los Angeles was signed in 2014 – and if a week is a long time in politics, three years certainly is.
Since then, New Zealand has had three prime ministers. Former Auckland mayor Len Brown “The Singing Mayor” hung up his chains – replaced by Phil Goff, known less for his singing abilities and instead for his prowess in forging New Zealand’s free trade agreement with China.
Guangzhou also changed its mayor in 2016, and although Democratic Party superdelegate Eric Garcetti is still mayor of LA, President Obama was replaced by the entirely different Trump Presidency.
Over that time, three summits were held to recognise the alliance. And just as with geopolitics, the alliance has come a long way.
The first summit, hosted by LA in 2015, was attended by a humble delegation of about 43 Auckland businesses.
In 2016, Auckland outdid the council’s own expectations with over 700 delegates and more than 330 formal business matching meetings.
Guangzhou’s turn to host took place last month, and saw 70 Auckland businesses take 97 delegates, with around 800 others from LA and Guangzhou.
“Auckland companies need to internationalise,” says Pam Ford, General Manager – Business, Innovation and Skills (Acting) at Ateed.
“They have to go global from day one – and it’s hard. “That’s why we ran workshops for attendees ahead of this latest summit. They helped to build the capability of businesses to maximise their time offshore, and gave them the confidence to take part.”
Alongside business matching, networking events and showcase functions, panel discussions and keynote presenters shared insights and ideas from speakers across the alliance.
Los Angeles 2015: New York is a river, Los Angeles is a lake
The first summit saw panellists discuss the cartoonish view of cities that people – including Americans – have about the US, and stressed that the City of Angels should be seen as more than just a gateway to the US, and certainly more than just Hollywood.
Hollywood makes up only a fraction of Los Angeles’ economy. As well as tourism, it is the US’ largest manufacturing centre, a hub for aerospace, logistics, clean technology and innovation, and home to the largest port in the Western hemisphere.
It is the country’s fastest growing tech start-up region – many arguing it has benefits over San Francisco or Silicon Valley for a tech launchpad.
Despite this, there is no denying LA remains the creative capital of the US. One in seven people are employed in a creative field, and it is the top American metro area for art, design and media employment, providing more than US$140b (NZ$203b) of annual economic impact to the city.
“One of the things the LA summit did was open people’s minds that it is more than just film,” says Ford.
“LA is the place for many of Auckland’s companies that create content. Content now fits across so many more mediums – from gaming and television to social media and particularly the influencer economy.”
“But LA is also about cleantech, food and beverage, design and manufacturing. “Because of this three-year relationship, we’ve developed solid partnerships with the organisations for our companies to access – whether that is through the World Trade Center Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Business Council – that we would not otherwise have had.”
One panellist – a resident of LA – described how the city unfolds as you spend more time there. “New York is a river, but Los Angeles is a lake. If you step outside in New York you will naturally go somewhere, the city itself will take you and it is simple to navigate.
“In Los Angeles, to get anywhere you have to actively swim there – or you risk never getting anywhere at all. But that’s what makes it so exciting.”
Auckland 2016: Partnerships, People, and Cross-pollination
The Auckland summit saw global heavyweights take to the stage at the Viaduct Events Centre, speaking about the importance of partnerships and collaboration, and the opportunities that arise when you bring people together and ‘cross-pollinate’ ideas.
Sunny Bates, a serial entrepreneur and a founding board member of Kickstarter who has served as an adviser to companies including GE, TED and P&G, insisted the economic driver of the future won’t come from factories, technology, or software – it will be down to the networks of people.
“Networks are the structural basis for globalisation and for modernisation,” says Bates.
“Networks know no boundaries, and cultural networks are extremely powerful.”
Former Nike innovation expert Erez Morag agreed that networks were critical, but said it wasn’t those networks on their own that lead to innovation, but instead the cross-pollination of ideas through those networks.
“Instead of chasing the competition, chase the insights, listen to everyone, and play bigger than your size,” he says.
Morag used jogging as an example of cross pollination. In 1961, Kiwi runner and athletics coach Arthur Lydiard organised the world’s first jogging club in Auckland, promoting the cardiovascular health benefits of easy distance running.
Lydiard introduced Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman to the concept of jogging on a chance visit to New Zealand.
“[Jogging was] invented in New Zealand and commercialised in the United States,” says Morag – all through the cross-pollination of ideas.
Throughout the Auckland Summit, then-Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell reinforced the importance of trusted partnerships to the Maori economy. “Maori want to hear your heart, not just slick words.
“If there is no connection to your heart, then there can be no deal – because it will be doomed from the start” – a message that resonated strongly with Chinese delegates, who rely on guanxi – long-term, strong business relationships, based on trust and mutual reciprocity.
Guangzhou 2017: Leverage our Chinese diaspora
Auckland-based Kenneth Leong, co-founder and director at Healthy Breath – an anti-pollution mask using natural New Zealand wool filter media for international markets – spoke about leveraging the Chinese diaspora.
“We sometimes forget Auckland is home to a large, well-connected Chinese business community,” he says.
The summit and surrounding events enabled new connections between the business delegates, and deepened existing relationships.
“Cross-cultural partnerships enrich all parties, by bringing people with great ideas together with people who have connections, capital and channels to market,” says Leong.
“There is a need to accelerate integration between the migrant Chinese and mainstream business communities in Auckland. Everyone is keen to do business together, we just need to create more opportunities for interaction and relationship building.”
New Zealand’s connection to Guangzhou goes back a long way – many of the first Chinese immigrants to New Zealand came from the Pearl River Delta region, including Guangzhou.
Now, Guangzhou is China’s third largest city, contains seemingly endless skyscrapers, and is considered a manufacturing and commercial hub.
It has been consistently ranked by Forbes magazine as the best commercial city in mainland China for ease of doing business, talent, location, and international connectivity, and in many cases, could be a more accessible market for New Zealand businesses than the more recognised larger markets of Shanghai and Beijing.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has signed an agreement with Guangzhou Mayor Wen Guohui and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell to extend the alliance between their three cities for another three years.
The third and final Tripartite Economic Summit took place in Guangzhou last week.
Los Angeles, Guangzhou, and Auckland are sister city triplets, and the past three years has seen the Summit rotate between the three ‘gateway cities’ – previously in Los Angeles in 2015 and Auckland last year.
The 97 Auckland delegates represented 70 businesses including tourism, urban planning and design, bioscience, creative, digital and education.
Auckland Council says this has been the largest ever trade delegation to come out of the city noting that business delegates all paid their own way to attend.
Goff – who signed the free trade deal between New Zealand and China during his period as Labour’s Trade Minister – said , “If like me you’ve been coming here for 30 years, you can appreciate just how quickly, how dramatically, how strongly this country has grown.”
“When I came to Guangzhou in the 1980s I travelled by steam engine on the rail. Today, we see a nation that has progressed more quickly and further than any nation I can recall in history.”
Now, Guangzhou is China’s third largest city, contains seemingly endless skyscrapers, and is considered a manufacturing and commercial hub. Although it may not always be the first city companies have in mind when they consider entering China, it has been consistently ranked as by Forbes magazine as the best commercial city in mainland China when considering ease of doing business, talent, location, and international connectivity. Many delegates left the Summit noting that Guangzhou may be a more accessible market for their business than the more recognised larger markets of Shanghai and Beijing.
New Zealand can tend to overuse the phrase “punching above its weight,” but in this sibling rivalry we indisputably are. Auckland’s population of 1.5 million is dwarfed by Guangzhou’s 14 million. Auckland’s estimated GDP of NZ$93.5 billion could be considered a mere rounding error when compared with Los Angeles’ over US$1 trillion.
Yet Auckland’s 97 delegates were met with around 500 others from Los Angeles and Guangzhou that saw value in making connections and seeking out opportunities to collaborate.
The biomedicine and health forum was an example of these collaborations, co-organised by Auckland’s Maurice Wilkins Centre – New Zealand’s Centre for Research Excellence targeting major human diseases – and the Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health (GIBH), part of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The Maurice Wilkins Centre has been working closely with its Chinese counterparts since 2012, establishing a joint centre for biomedicine with the Guangzhou institute in 2015. The two research arms are now expanding their relationship with new projects, joint symposia in both countries, and increased exchange of staff and students.
“GIBH is one of China’s leading biomedical research groups and hosts many world leaders in their fields,” says Professor Rod Dunbar, Director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre.
“We are delighted that our colleagues in GIBH see such value in intensifying our collaboration, and look forward to working with them to deliver new treatments through the clinic.”
Businesses took part in business matching, sector specific sessions and forums, and a visit to tech giant Huawei’s nearby Shenzhen campus.
While New Zealand can be blasé about our mayors and local Councillors, in China they are considered almost like celebrities. It is for that reason that many of the Auckland business delegates considered the high-level representation to have helped connect them to significant players within companies that they would not have otherwise had access to. While the primary aim of the Summit is to build connections for the long-term outcomes that can eventuate, ATEED has said that several companies have made excellent progress at this year’s Summit.
The Council will track and report on the business outcomes of the Tripartite Summit where possible.
– Tim McCready travelled to China as a guest of Alibaba.
Step off the plane in China and there is no doubt about what day it is – Singles’ Day.
It’s hard to escape the sale buzz – billboards, the airport arrival hall, malls, hotel elevators – the advertisements are everywhere.
And the numbers are astounding: more than 140,000 brands offering 15 million product listings to hundreds of millions of consumers. The annual sales event dwarfs its Black Friday or Cyber Monday equivalents in the United States.
Last night, e-commerce giant Alibaba lived up to the hype. Oscars producer David Hill was responsible for the gala event that counted down to the start of the shopping extravaganza. Held at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz stadium, the event was broadcast on three TV channels and featured American rapper Pharrell Williams, British singer-songwriter Jessie J and former world number one tennis superstar Maria Sharapova – plus 100 or so other celebrities.
“If you analyse why we are doing the show, it’s to turn shopping into sport and to make shopping into entertainment, so the show has got to reflect that philosophy. And the way the show is constructed – with so many segments, so many stars and fun bits – it reflects the overreaching theme of what Singles’ Day has become,” said Hill.
“We can do things in China we can’t do virtually anywhere else in the world. In America, if you stream to any more than one or two million people you get a swirling circle of death, meaning it’s not connecting. In China, we can stream to over 35 million people. It boggles the mind.”
This year’s 11/11 fiesta has been themed around “retail as entertainment”.
The company’s chief marketing officer, Chris Tung, describes the shopping festival as “bringing consumers around the world a step closer to realising the aspirational life where entertainment and retail becomes one”.
The event is also an opportunity for Alibaba to show off its latest shopping technologies, and gives us a glimpse into what the future of shopping might look like.
Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” was an eight-hour marathon of singing, dancing and fashion. Broadcast on seven TV and online channels in China, the show encouraged viewers to shake their phones whenever they saw something they liked to immediately purchase it.
The Tmall platform is running a “Catch the Cat” promotion, designed to drive consumers to bricks and mortar locations including global brands Procter & Gamble, KFC and L’Occitane.
Customers use their mobiles to earn coupons, discounts and prizes by “catching” the e-store’s cat mascot – in much the same way as the game Pokemon Go.
Other online promotions are giving out virtual red envelopes containing a total of more than 250 million yuan ($54.3 million).
Maggie Zhou, managing director of Alibaba Group Australia and New Zealand, is keen to ensure New Zealand is one of the key markets supported in these new initiatives.
“New Zealand products are perceived as high quality and continue to outperform in China, and we are working … to engage more closely with New Zealand merchants and partners to further encourage this growth.”
Tim McCready travelled to Shanghai as a guest of Alibaba.
While participating in the Foundation’s offshore forum in Korea, Leadership Network member Tim McCready gauged the mood of the country following the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. In this article, he describes a country divided along ideological and generational lines.
We arrived in Seoul for the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s offshore forum at the height of demonstrations over the the impeachment of President Park by the National Assembly. Accused of violating the constitution by helping her long-time friend extort donations from the country’s biggest business empires, Park was subsequently ousted from office in an unprecedented and unanimous ruling by the constitutional court.
The president’s ousting brought to the fore simmering tensions that run along ideological and generational lines, at the heart of which is how to deal with North Korea.
Peaceful protests are not uncommon in South Korea. The first time I visited South Korea was the one-year anniversary of the Sewol Ferry Disaster. The sinking in April 2014 cost the lives of 304 passengers and crew. This resulted in enormous protests, as South Koreans saw their government having failed to hold high-level officials accountable for the disaster.
Prior to Park’s removal, demonstrations and candlelight vigils – representing both sides – took place every Saturday over three months.
A few days after we arrived for the forum, the courts approved an arrest warrant for Park, and she was jailed. Demonstrations broke out again.
I spoke with a group of protestors living together in a tent within the city square. A man in his 70’s translated and explained to me their perspective of the situation.
“There are two distinct groups in South Korea,” he said. “One is the left wing, and the other is right wing.”
“We are the right-wing group. We follow democracy. We are protesting because the president was impeached by the left. We are embarrassed that has happened.
“It is our wish that in the future there will be unification. But it is important not to give in. The left – the younger generation – follows North Korea and China.”
While this is an extreme view, it does exemplify the generational divide in South Korea. On a simple level, the older generation think that North Korea should be dealt to with pressure and isolation. The left would prefer to have an open dialogue with the North.
A lot of this divide stems from South Korean President Park Chung-hee, the father of jailed President Park. He seized power through a military coup in 1961, at a time when South Korea was far less developed economically than the North.
By the time he was assassinated in 1979, South Korea had gone through what is referred to as the “Miracle on the Han River” – a period of rapid economic growth following the Korean War. It is because of this that Park, and his daughter, are looked on fondly by older South Koreans, despite his systematic disregard of human rights.
There are an estimated 6,700 people from separated families living in South Korea. The tragedy of the situation is most easily seen through those people who are divided from their family, who passionately long for reunification.
Now, 70 years on from the division, those with the closest ties to the North are getting very old. The requirement to seek peaceful unification between the two Korea’s is part of the South Korean constitution, yet speaking with younger South Korean’s, they are often agnostic about the prospect. They are already struggling economically, and point to the enormous economic disaster that will become their responsibility if the border were to collapse.
During a meeting with a senior banker at a major international bank in Seoul, I asked for his take on North Korea.
“I am just a simple banker,” he said, modestly.
“We are always in the shadow of war. But that aside, South Korea is a very safe place to live. That is what I care about. I don’t care what happens with North Korea.”
Younger South Korean’s I spoke with shared the banker’s point of view. They don’t worry about the looming threat of nuclear war. Instead, they are getting on with their lives, and their careers – like the rest of us.
A younger South Korean I spoke to on my flight from Seoul to Europe explained it best:
“We do not spend time worrying about what could happen. That threat has always been there,” he said.
“But we are very nationalistic. We love our country. And now our President has been jailed. We are embarrassed by her. We are embarrassed about what the rest of the world thinks of us.”
That sentiment seems to be something that all generations can agree on.