We have never had such an overwhelming response to our Business Travel Poll. In a matter of a day we had 472 replies. It seems that this is a poll that our readership eagerly awaits. As heavy users of airlines and hotels, our poll gives our readers a chance to reflect likes and dislikes, and in some cases, grudges held for several months - normally as a result of bad service.
You, our readers, are exactly the class of customer that hotels and airlines need to attract. You spend a lot of time in hotels. Of the respondents to this year's poll, 125 spent more than 50 nights per year in hotels, and 215 spent between 21 and 49 nights. Only 32 respondents spent less than 10 nights per year in hotel rooms. And 293 of those who responded said they normally travel on first or business class - another indication of our readership's super-premium frequent-flyer status. So here's what you thought:
Asia's best airport
After many teething problems, Hong Kong's Chep Lap Kok has started to truly impress business travellers. It won the vote this year with 215 respondents naming it their favourite Asian airport, versus 173 for Changi.
On the airline front, Singapore retains the edge. As with previous years, Singapore Airlines beat Cathay Pacific as your preferred airline. SIA swept virtually every category - best first class, best business class, best food and beverages, best cabin crew, and was also voted the airline on which business travelers felt "most safe".
Best Business Class
Singapore Airline (219 votes)
Cathay Pacific (114 votes)
Best First Class
Singapore Airlines (131 votes)
Cathay Pacific (77 votes)
Best Cabin Crew
Singapore Airlines (196 votes)
Cathay Pacific (113 votes)
Best Food & Beverages
Singapore Airlines (186 votes)
Cathay Pacific (113 votes)
Airline on which I feel most safe
Singapore Airlines (183 votes)
Cathay Pacific (141 votes)
In fact, there was only one category where Singapore Airlines didn't take top spot - but came runner-up. And that was in a newly introduced category that asked which airline has the best flat beds. British Airways was the conclusive victor in this category with 127 votes to Singapore Airlines 95 votes. Respondents did note that Cathay's first class flat beds were excellent, but in business class BA was untouchable. A respondent also noted that the flat beds in SQ's business class needed improving, although the beds in first class were excellent. The only vaguely negative remark to be made about BA's flat bed-seats was "they are getting a bit firm as they age."
The good, the bad and the ugly
As ever, we asked you to tell us about good and bad experiences you have had on airlines in the past year. Most comments in the 'good' category inevitably centre around an upgrade of some shape or form. It seems the quickest way to a business traveller's heart remains an upgrade. We did get repeated feedback that Singapore Airlines were much less likely to upgrade passengers than Cathay. A typical remark was: "The best thing an airline did for me in the past year? On Cathay Pacific when they upgraded me to first class and gave me a bottle of champagne when I flew on my birthday."
Away from upgrades, other good experiences included:
- Food: "Eating a whole tin of Sevruga caviar and drinking a whole bottle of Dom Perignon 1996 on a recent Singapore Airlines flight to Sydney."
- Entertainment: "Watching my three favourite movies from Singapore to New York."
- Cabin crew. "Having a conversation with an airline hostess on Thai about the political changes in Thailand and her views on the upcoming elections - very unexpected and interesting."
- Massage: "The new Virgin upper class - slept so well, the massage was great too, and the lounge on arrival in London is an excellent facility after an overnight flight."
- Baggage and children: "We were travelling with our two sons and the total baggage weighed 160kg (ie over by 60%), but we were not charged. Inflight help with children is by far the friendliest and most capable on Singapore Airlines. The flight was full and we got an extra seat because they upgraded someone near us to business class."
- And the bizarre: "Thumb wrestling with Angelina Jolie on a Hong Kong to Singapore flight."
One of the more interesting comments to be made about cabin crew centred on Singapore Airlines and Cathay. A respondent made the observation: "While the execution may not be as polished on Cathay as Singapore Airlines, the cabin crew tend to think on their feet better and are more adept at adjusting to needs that are a bit out of the norm."
This, of course, brings us to most respondent's favourite section of the poll - the bit where they recite gripes about airlines. When asked about the worst thing an airline has done in the past year, most frequent flyers have no difficulty producing a list.
For example: "On board a Philippines Airlines plane when I needed something, I press the button. But the stewardess just came and switched the button off without asking me what I needed."
Or this swipe at United Airlines: "The interconnect times are too tight. The delayed departure from Singapore and late arrival in Tokyo caused me to lose my business class seat."
Or at British Airways: "I had just had major surgery 10 days before and was not able to lift anything weighing more than three pounds. I asked a BA male cabin crew member if he would place my son's backpack in the overhead locker and was told he wouldn't because he wasn't insured. A fellow passenger obliged."
Or this particular favourite about China Eastern: "It was a no-smoking flight, but there was cigarette smoke coming out of the cockpit."
Or Thai: "Airplane quality of Thai is poor. They really need to upgrade."
Even the two top-rated airlines, SIA and Cathay do not escape criticism. Take the following examples about the issue of seats:
- "On Singapore Airlines the passenger next to me spilled her drink on the electronic keypad that controls seat movement. The water short-circuited the control panel, and the seat began moving on its own from upright to sleeping position. After alerting the flight attendant, she came over and said that this happens fairly often. However, there were no other vacant seats in business class, and she could not authorize an upgrade to first. She offered to lock the seat in either sleeping or upright position for the remaining five hours of the flight. I asked her to speak to her supervisor, and she said that he was sleeping and was not scheduled to wake up for two more hours. She said there was nothing she could do until he woke up. The passenger who spilled the drink offered to switch seats with me until the situation could be resolved. Reluctantly, I agreed."
- " I am annoyed by the inconsistency between Cathay's business class seats (depending on the type of plane), despite the fact they charge the same rates."
Not going online
We were also intrigued to find out what you think of the new inflight internet options the airlines are offering. The conclusion was that not many of you are using them. Of 458 who answered the question, only 82 had used the internet while onboard an aircraft, and 376 just hadn't bothered to even try it once. Why? Well, 192 respondents said they liked the idea of using the inflight internet service - to check emails and so forth - but felt it was priced too expensively. Only 39 responded they were satisfied with the service at the existing price, and 227 said they didn't feel the need to use the internet while in the air.
Hotels and Golf
Blue Canyon was again voted your favourite golf course, and the Banyan Tree in Phuket your favourite spa. The best business hotel in Asia was once again the Ritz-Carlton Millennia in Singapore.
There were no upsets in the hotels' category. Most of the winners from last year retained top spot. In Hong Kong, one interesting comment came from a voter who noted: "Shangri-La is the best currently, but Four Seasons will be in a few months". In fact, it will be interesting to see whether this time next year - with the Four Seasons having been open for six months - whether it makes strong headway in our poll. Can it steal the top spot in Hong Kong from the Peninsula in its first year of operation?
Best Hotels - by City
1 The Oriental (149 votes)
2 The Sukhothai (80 votes)
1 Grand Hyatt (104 votes)
2 The St Regis (95 votes)
1 The Oberoi (140 votes)
2 The Taj Mahal (85 votes)
1 The Oberoi (109 votes)
2 The Taj Palace (44 votes)
1 The Peninsula (137 votes)
2 The Island Shangri-La (92 votes)
1 Grand Hyatt (135 votes)
2 Shangri-La (101 votes)
1 Mandarin Oriental (159 votes)
2 Ritz-Carlton (93 votes)
1 Shangri-La (190 votes)
2 The Peninsula (85 votes)
1 Grand Hyatt (113 votes)
2 Westin Chosun (103 votes)
1 Grand Hyatt (135 votes)
2 Four Seasons (115 votes)
1 Ritz-Carlton Millennia (213 votes)
2 Raffles (71 votes)
1 Park Hyatt (124 votes)
2 Four Seasons (99 votes)
1 Grand Hyatt (134 votes)
2 Far Eastern Plaza (76 votes)
1 Park Hyatt (133 votes)
2 Four Seasons (116 votes)