The Allison Inn & Spa, a 35-acre luxury destination resort at the north entrance of Willamette Valley wine country, celebrates the new year with a distinguished list of awards and recognitions from top travel media outlets, stemming mainly from recent reader polls. As The Allison completes its second year of operation since its 2009 debut, last year’s praise truly confirms The Allison as Oregon wine country’s premiere destination resort. In 2011, The Allison was honored to receive the following recognitions:
Condé Nast Traveler- 2012 Gold List – The World’s Best 511
Condé Nast Traveler - 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards: Best in the World- #56 in Top 200 U.S. Mainland Hotels
Fodor’s – Fodor’s 2011 Top 100 Hotels of the World Awards, featured in the “Casual Chic” category
The Hermosa Inn was selected by readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine as one of the “Top 500 Hotels in The World”. With a rating of 88.47, The Hermosa Inn has become one of the country’s leading hotels, right after receiving for the second year in a row, recognition in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Poll for 2011. This is the first time the property has been bestowed this honor by readers of the leading travel publication. Besides, being the newest member on the prestigious list, The Hermosa Inn was also named as a “value” in comparison to the other hotels in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.
Brian Garrido has promoted some of the biggest names in film, slept in world-renowned hotels and dined at internationally lauded restaurants, all in the name of work and passion. As senior vice president overseeing Los Angeles and southwestern U.S. based clients, Garrido’s relationships with traditional & new media and the hospitality industry meet the demands of luxury hotels, restaurants, products and services represented by BMC.
Over the past several years, Garrido helped spearhead the opening of two hotels: The Pacific Northwest’s new leading wine country property, The Allison Inn & Spa in Newburg, OR, and Paso Robles’ esteemed Hotel Cheval. His hospitality industry accounts include such luxury properties as Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay and Sayan; Four Seasons George V, Paris; CordeValle, A Rosewood Hotel; Santa Barbara’s San Ysidro Ranch and Simpson House Inn, the only AAA Mobile only five-diamond bed & breakfast in North America; Starwood Italy & the Central Mediterranean; Meadowood Napa Valley; and Orient Express’ Casa de Sierra Nevada, located in San Miguel de Allende, and Maroma Hotel and Spa on the Mayan Riveria. Garrido currently oversees the media relations for the Paradise Valley luxury hideaway, The Hermosa Inn, and one of the Phoenix area’s best restaurants, LON’S.
In addition to hotels and resorts, wine and restaurant public relations and marketing are among Garrido’s specialties. He has developed campaigns for Cindy Pawlcyn’s Napa Valley (Mustards Grill, Go Fish, and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen), Nic’s Restaurant and Lounge in Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood’s Mexico. Garrido has also been involved in the PR/marketing efforts for the restaurants associated with his hotel clients. In addition to his prestigious restaurant roster, Garrido has work with such wine clients as Stags Leap District Winegrowers, Ehlers Estate, Blackbird Vineyards and Signorello Estate.
DeBeers LV and Val Harding bath products for hotels in North America are among Garrido’s luxury product clients. He was instrumental in landing Harding’s bath and body amenities in the exclusive Hotel Bel-Air, among many others.
It was through his travels to intoxicating locations such as Palau, Bali, Provence, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Venice and Paris that Garrido became enamored with world cuisine. Garrido believes that food is an intrinsic part of the travel experience, beyond the shopping, museums or sites a location has to offer. From fresh tortellini with white truffles served piping hot in an Umbrian trattoria to the ancient delicacy of ant larvae in interior Mexico to Palaun fruit bat soup, the local food in the 142 cities (and 22 countries) that Garrido has visited played an intricate part of his travel experience.
Garrido’s deep appreciation for chefs and cooks around the world and the culinary talents they possess is reflected in his work. He believes travel and dining should create or re-create blissful moments that affect our sensory experiences. A passionate chef himself, Garrido cooked his first Thanksgiving meal at the age of 9, making Rock Cornish Game Hens with Wheat-Germ Dressing and a Rum Raisin Sauce.
Prior to working with BMC, Garrido worked on Academy Award media campaigns for such films as “Erin Brockovich” and “Cider House Rules.” He also helped produce UCLA Film and Television Archives film retrospectives with American Cinematheque, a Los Angeles’ leader in film series, promoting the art of filmmaking through events and movies. He had the great pleasure of working on several American Cinematheque “Moving Picture Balls,” which honor an outstanding artist currently making a contribution to film. Past honorees have included Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts, Will Smith, Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Garrido has run four full marathons and four half-marathons and would like to run a couple of more before he hangs up his running shoes.
By Grace Emery
I love nothing more than being a tourist in my own city. I’ve been in the bay area only about a year, so I find it quite exciting when I recognize intersections and feel like I’m starting to really get my bearings in my neighborhood. While I like having my regular coffee shop and my blissful and familiar morning commute (which I’m lucky enough to walk in a mere 15 minutes!), I love the chance to play tourist every once in a while and fall in love with this city all over again.
Today, I was fortunate enough to go on a hard hat tour of the under-construction Inn at The Presidio– a new hotel in The Presidio that BMC represents. The Inn at the Presidio is slated to open in April 2012 (hence the hard hats) and will be the first hotel to open in San Francisco’s Presidio. It’s also the only new hotel to open in San Francisco in 2012!
I grew up in Northern California, so even before I moved here I had taken my fair share of day trips to Union Square or Golden Gate Park, but until today I had never been to The Presidio. Enter: my ridiculous tourist enthusiasm. On our drive over from the office, we passed through Pacific Heights. As I’ve gotten to know the city and met people here, I’ve heard “Pac Heights” thrown out here and there. I don’t leap at the chance to admit to my embarrassingly small knowledge of city geography, so I pull the “smile and nod” when people mention Pac Heights as a reference point. I can now add that to the list of places I’ve been to and can feign geographic savvy with a little less guilt in the future. Also, can I live in one of those mansions?
Long home to military residences, The Presidio is now a national park site at the Golden Gate, a National Historic Landmark, home to hundreds of small businesses, and ridiculously pretty. Crissy Field alone is inspiration enough for me to procure a bicycle. Before the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 made flight through the area too dangerous, Crissy Field was a bustling aviation area, home to heroes like Amelia Earhart. In addition to its biking and running trails, Crissy Field’s historic airplane hangars and warehouses now house indoor recreation areas and restaurants. House of Air, The Presidio Bowling Center… how had I not been to The Presidio yet?!
[caption id="attachment_750" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_752" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="It's only minutes from downtown SF, but the Presidio feels like a forested oasis!"][/caption]
Upon hearing I’d never been to The Presidio before, our “tour guide”—Terry, the GM of the Inn at The Presidio—was kind enough to give us deluxe driving tour of the grounds. Highlights included: Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire, a view of the Walt Disney Family Museum, and some casual scouting for a future wedding venue.
[caption id="attachment_753" align="alignleft" width="285" caption="Apparently a lot of people get married here. For views like that, I’m ok with getting on the bandwagon."][/caption]
I think The Presidio might just have to be my new favorite place. It’s the perfect combination of tourists soaking up the Golden Gate, plus plenty of regulars and locals enjoying some pretty unreal views in some pretty unreal weather.
I spent just over a week in Turkey, and each day was wonderful and exciting in its own unique way – truth be told the particular day I am about to share with you was not necessarily the very best one I had in the country! Yet it was a delightful, unforgettable day nonetheless. And I can’t imagine an agenda with more amazing photo ops for the ancient and stunning city of Istanbul!
Since a wedding was the main inspiration for my visit, in addition to all of the must-do touristy things that I was sure to check off my list I also got to experience the country from a more ‘local’ perspective. The bride – having grown up in Istanbul – not only had a bounty of choice ‘insider’ suggestions for her visiting friends, but also set up some beautiful meals and special get-togethers where her American visitors got to have some fun mingling with her Turkish family and friends.
Our day began in the Ortaköy district. In a city that is (literally) 15 times the size of San Francisco in square miles, Istanbul feels like it is absolutely bursting with energy and history. Cobblestone side streets lead to several hundred year old bathhouses, gorgeous trellises of ivy drape over Victorian era flats with exposed brick, ancient ruins dot through the seven hills of the city. Long story short, Istanbul is breathtakingly beautiful and absolutely charming to boot, and the Ortaköy district is high on the list of super-cute areas that you must visit! We enjoyed a Traditional Turkish Breakfast with a view of the waters of the Bosphorus at local favorite Sade Khave – which in English translates to “black coffee.”
[caption id="attachment_724" align="alignleft" width="175" caption="Figs, olives, eggs and feta can be found in any good Turkish Breakfast"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_725" align="alignright" width="274" caption="Sade Khave - Proof that Ortaköy is super duper cute"][/caption]
To walk off our breakfast -and hangover from the previous night’s Raki & Nargile session (Raki is a Turkish anise flavored liquor, encouraged to be drunk in shots, Nargile is their word for Hookah) we took a hike around the ruins of the Rumeli Fortress. Built between 1393 and 1394, the massive stone towers and staircases of the fortress jut out right in the middle of the city. Being thoroughly American I never cease to be amazed by 1) the mere idea of ruins and 2) the idea of them still existing in the middle of a major metropolitan area!
[caption id="attachment_726" align="aligncenter" width="284" caption="Imagine if THIS were in the middle of Northbeach!"][/caption]
After a few more hours spent strolling through the city we all reconvened back at… Ortaköy! This time to board a riverboat for a dinner cruise. Floating down the Bosphorus Strait affords you some amazing views of Istanbul that you wouldn’t be able to capture on land.
[caption id="attachment_727" align="aligncenter" width="319" caption="Chillin’ on the cruise boat gave us all some quality time to get to know each-other :)"][/caption]
All geared up with Dramamine (I can get pretty motion sick if I’m not careful) I was able to enjoy at least 2 (maybe 3) deliciously fresh plates of Mediterranean food:
[caption id="attachment_730" align="alignleft" width="320" caption="Dolmas and eggplant and spinach – oh my! But really, this stuff is addictive."][/caption]
After such a long, lovely cruise we were all pretty sleepy, and the scenery (apparently) started to look like this:
But we all managed to make it out for a quick Raki & Nargile nightcap before heading off to rest up for the big day.
I come from a family of foodies. As a young child, it was customary to enjoy tempeh and artichokes for dinner, and I still remember the first time I ever tried—and for that matter heard of meatloaf at the ripe old age of 16. My sister and I grew up exploring weird and wonderful foods, and we have our enthusiastic foodie parents to thank for our adventurous taste buds.
Perhaps an overdue symptom of empty-nest syndrome, my parents have recently started going on themed culinary kicks for weeks at a time. These adventures typically reflect the cookbook they most recently acquired: “Oh, did you know this is the national dish of Ethiopia!? Well, we’ve been eating all vegan this past week, you know.” I look forward to their Sunday night check-in calls (with an admitted bit of jealousy), destined to be filled with tales of the dietary feats they have accomplished that week.
Enthusiasm for food and flavor runs strong throughout the family, and our holiday celebrations often go above and beyond a typical celebration, including a full out Iron Chef competition that occurs every Christmas Eve. It then should have come as no surprise when I received a call gleefully informing me Thanksgiving would be vegan this year and isn’t that just so exciting!? Even within a family who more often than not has Christmas tamales rather than honey baked ham, this was quite a break from tradition. No turkey, no mashed potatoes, no gravy boat making its way around the table and the inevitable drama that ensues when it spills on the tablecloth? I at least found great comfort in the fact that wine passes as vegan.
These “vegan” meals are often accompanied by a quick disclosure that the meal is entirely vegan, except for just this little bit of cheese. Thanksgiving was no exception to that rule, as we started off the afternoon with mini-quiche. Much like the gift-card as a last minute Christmas present, I turn to the Whole Foods frozen section in times of need. I’m also going to go ahead and consider this appetizer my personal contribution to the meal—I did put them in the toaster oven after all.
Diner started with pumpkin soup, topped with cumin-flavored roasted pumpkin seeds and parsley, and a salad featuring roasted beets, blue cheese, and pecans. In California, we tend to sing the heralds of summer vegetables that we can grow in our own backyard—but there is something to be said for the comfort factor of roasted fall veggies. We had a heaping pile of oven-roasted brussel sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, and onion, tossed together in olive oil and light seasoning.
The main event—or our turkey stand-in— was a vegetable wellington. After one bite of flakey puff pastry filled with butternut squash, mushrooms and the familiar “just a little bit” of goat cheese, I forgot all about turkey. I oh so generously offered to take a good portion of the leftovers off their hands and returned home with bursting Ziploc bags. While I can’t exactly make a day after Thanksgiving sandwich out of these leftovers, I’d take this version any day.
Paul Burditch has directed major campaigns for many of the world’s most esteemed luxury hotel brands with world class properties from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, Orient Express Hotels Mexico, St. Regis Hotels, Italy, Luxury Collection Hotels, Italy, Starwood Hotels Italy and Central Mediterranean, and Ty Warner Hotels. Additionally, he has launched numerous new and renovated independent hotels such as Meadowood Napa Valley, The Allison Inn & Spa, San Ysidro Ranch and The Hermosa Inn. Burditch currently handles some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s top chefs, winemakers and restaurants in addition to clients in Mexico, New Mexico, Oregon, California and Italy.
“Promoting my passions began at an early age and has always come quite naturally to me,” says Paul Burditch. Before he began his professional public relations career in Los Angeles with Guttman & Pam Public Relations in 1980, Burditch directed the advertising and promotion of his family’s Arabian horse farm in Pennsylvania in addition to developing curriculum and a “living/learning” study program for the University of Vermont as an undergraduate. Conceiving the creative with an affinity for strategies to attract clients and exceed their expectations, Burditch has honed his inherent talents during his thirty year professional career and now directs his company Burditch Marketing Communications specializing in luxury hospitality, travel, tourism and design.
During his six-year tenure at Guttman & Pam Public Relations, Burditch was mentored by the entertainment industry’s most esteemed publicist Dick Guttman, and was responsible for directing media relations and image management for talent, motion pictures, television programs, and corporate and specialty art accounts. His facility to work with a wide range of personalities allowed for personal public relations representation of major talent including Christopher Reeve, Cher, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Pierce Brosnan, Howie Mandel and Alec Baldwin. Burditch also coordinated campaigns for many television specials; his motion picture campaigns include Brazil, The Year of Living Dangerously, Rich and Famous, Inside Moves, Conan the Barbarian, and Tattoo. His specialties included fashion, retail openings and non-profit fundraising events such as The National Ball for The American Cancer Society in Washington, D.C.
In 1986, he left the firm to head the first West Coast office as Vice President of Schecter/Cone Communications, a New York-based entertainment and consumer products firm. Major television campaigns included the highly regarded PBS series American Playhouse, Alive from Off Center and Discover. Burditch also developed relationships with Universal Television and the Disney Channel for the agency as well as coordinated west coast activities for the consumer product campaigns for client Charles of the Ritz, later purchased by Revlon.
Paul Burditch and Associates was founded in April 1988 and conceived with an emphasis on travel, corporate and entertainment clients. Burditch began his reputation in hospitality with Sheraton Mirage resorts, Queensland, Australia and the Kahala Hilton in Honolulu, Hawaii. He then expanded with additional consumer products in food, beverage, retail, fashion, and entertainment public relations. Appropriately, his personal interest in travel, food and wine has garnered an increasing concentration on hospitality and a focus on culinary and wine tourism with national brands such as Piper Sonoma. Major product launch campaigns include the Aveda Esthetique in the Beverly Center and RMS Special Reserve, the first Alambic brandy produced in America for Remy Martin and its American distribution subsidiary Remy Amerique. His particular strength is in integrated marketing communications and strategic planning for all corporate clients. He finds creating strategic marketing partnerships for his clients immensely gratifying and rewarding.
Burditch formed a partnership in 1992, where he went on to represent the International Spa Association, Tourism New South Wales, Australia Ansett Airlines, Lavosh Hawaii Food Company, Estee Lauder Day Spa at Neiman Marcus and the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills to name a few.
In 2000, Burditch formed his own company, Burditch Marketing Communications concentrating on his successful integration of marketing communications that target the upscale consumer. BMC effectively promotes corporate accounts with a personalized and integrated approach. Incorporating media relations, promotions, events, direct marketing and strategic alliances the company is designed to represent corporate travel, hospitality, design, and luxury consumer products. BMC is recognized for representing “the best.” Additionally, Burditch regularly performs pro bono work for AIDS-related clients and is on the Special Events Committee of the Jonsson Cancer Foundation/UCLA with Barbara Fairchild at Bon Appetit.
It has always been Burditch’s philosophy to watch trends in order to provide a context for clients, as well as assist them in re-defining and re-shaping their goals, product or business. He takes pride in the fact that those who have enlisted his expertise have successfully forged a leading role in their business categories and are serving their markets in the most effective and productive manner possible.
Burditch is a member of the International Council of Tourism and has worked in tandem with numerous tourism boards around the world and domestically including but not limited to LA, Inc.; Singapore Tourism Board, Malaysia Tourism, Hong Kong Tourism and Beverly Hills Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A member of many distinctive culinary and wine industry associations including Slow Food USA, Burditch is grateful to be working with such distinctive clients who lead their industries with products, service, creativity and ingenuity.
It is a conundrum that every world traveler must face: the long layover. That dreadful logistical puzzle… Do I make friends at the airport lounge whilst sampling every colorful cocktail on the menu? Should I be sensible and try to sleep (in the airport – ugh!) with one eye open, clutching my carry-on? Or do I take the plunge and run out in to the city, take a whirlwind tour in under 8 hours? I finally had the guts to make my long layover count in Taipei, en route to Bangkok, and I will never go back to boring airport-bound layovers again!
My boyfriend and I decided we had time for public transportation and hopped on an air-conditioned double-decker bus that sped us away from the airport along a stunningly lush tropical highway. We had landed around 6 AM and the city was still half asleep as we rolled into town. It was amazing to watch the transformation as one dusty store-front (or food stall) after another pulled up its metal door to reveal a bounty of richly colored textiles and steaming plates of food available all along the roadside.
After enjoying a tasty (if slightly odd) breakfast of mini hot-dogs-in-a-croissant-crust and cucumbers (it came highly recommended!) at an adorable café near the Taipei Train station we were free to roam for the next few hours. The heart of the city is beautiful, tranquil and safe. Like so many cities in Asia there is the feeling of constant traffic swirling all around you, but Taipei has a deeply calm undercurrent. Despite our time crunch the afternoon felt long and relaxing as we strolled through the humming downtown streets.
While we were enjoying a lovely afternoon in Taipei, we were technically in the process of a 24 hr flight to Thailand…So we had to cut our visit short and return to the airport. Luckily the food there is delicious, and the entire terminal was dotted with Duty-Free Scotch samples just waiting to temp you in their plastic thimble cups…
People often tell me “that’s not long enough to do anything in _____ <insert fabulous destination here>” But I have learned that any time at all is long enough to have an incredible travel adventure. Step out of the airport, inhale the curious smells, let that exotic air caress your skin, eat the first fried thing available on the roadside! I bet it feels (if ever so slightly) different. And you will leave different, maybe a little better.
There’s nothing more exciting than a long weekend in the city that never sleeps. There’s sophistication, old-world classy charm, men in designer suits, fine dining, and incredible shopping, oh the list could go on and on. To put it simply, New York City is alive and buzzing with life; there’s a constant energy there that seems to be running through everyone’s veins. This is the very reason why New York is one of my favorite places to visit. This year, my family decided to go to the Big Apple for Mother’s Day weekend. Not only did we all want to get out of town for a bit, but also we had the excuse of visiting my younger sister.
The very first night in NY started off with our family’s tradition- dinner at Balthazar. This long time favorite and staple of the SoHo district never lets a diner down. I don’t know how they do it. It’s always packed with European tourists, and sprinkled with a few locals who enjoy the classic Manhattan Martini. The menu offers bistro fare that is reminiscent of the even more famous Brasserie Lipp located in the Saint-Germain neighborhood of Paris. We ordered our usual moules frites to start for the table, followed by the juicy whole roasted chicken for two, and then ended with a warm chocolate cake and apple tart tatin. We left satisfied, happy, and all agreed that this is one of our family’s favorite traditions.
The next morning we got coffee at 71 Irving Place, another ritual and perhaps best place to get a coffee. The coffee here is strong, smooth, and located two blocks from the exquisite Gramercy Park. After coffee, my father went uptown to do art business at Christie’s, while the girls decided to eat next door at the popular “Friend of a Farmer” café. To me, the food is mediocre, but it remains a neighborhood hot spot for brunch. Menu items include biscuits with gravy, chicken pot pie, and your basic soups, salads, and sandwiches. Last time I was there I saw Jude Law and his family, but this time around I didn’t see any celebs. After lunch, we walked off our meals all the way over to the charming West Village. We made a stop in the women’s Ralph Lauren store where I bought a new champagne colored trench coat. The best thing about Bleeker Street besides Ralph Lauren are the other designer stores and boutiques that sit side-by-side both gracefully and unpretentiously. After shopping, my father met up with us and we strolled over to the very trendy Meatpacking District. We ended up eating dinner at a rustic Italian steakhouse called “Macelleria.” The façade of the restaurant is lovely, but the service is snobby, and the menu is overpriced. After dinner, we decided to take a nightcap at Mario Batali’s “Bar Jamon.” The tiny space is candle-lit, and features Spanish tapas and wines. It is located right next to Batali’s tasty (and also tiny) “Casa Mono” which boasts over 500 wines and another dozen sherries. Both places are absolutely fantastic, and are well worth a visit for any traveler to the city.
Saturday was low key; we got our usual 71 Irving coffee and headed uptown. Lunch was spent at “Serafina” a long-time standing Italian restaurant that has great traditional Italian fare like angel-hair pasta, wood-oven pizzas, and fresh fish. After lunch, we did one of my favorite walks in New York: Madison Avenue. We walked all the way up Madison until we ran out of windows to shop in, and then walked back down via 5th Avenue alongside Central Park. Sometimes there is nothing better when you are in a loud city like Manhattan, than a quiet tranquil walk along one of the most picturesque parks in the world. After a long day of walking, we headed downtown to TriBeca for dinner. We ate at “Industria Argentina” a newer/hip Argentinean place with great wines but hit-or-miss food. The skirt steak I shared with my mother didn’t quite live up to the price, while the chicken my father and sister had was excellent. Overall, it’s a good place, has nice service, and a great atmosphere.
Mother’s Day brunch was spent at one of Sarah Jessica Parker’s favorite restaurants “Morandi’s.” I have seen her here twice. This is Balthazar’s sister restaurant, and is fantastic, though it has mixed reviews from local critics. Morandi’s is an interesting place. While it remains a casual place to dine, it is always filled with the “who’s who” crowd of New York. Some people pull up in sparkling limousines, and walk in to order only a simple margherita pizza. It’s funny, and is another example of why not only Morandi’s, but New York is one of the best places to people watch.
My father and I picked out dinner that night. Of course, whenever we pick dinner you can bet that it will be Latin or Spanish. We both share the same passion for the cultures, food, and people, which is why “Rayuela” in the lower east side was perfect. Rayuela describes their menu as *libre latino*or freestyle latino which fuses Spanish and Latin American cuisines. They are also known for having an exotic wine list. The food was interesting, but perhaps the most interesting thing about the restaurant is the interior which includes a small candle lit pool and a tree growing right in the middle of the restaurant.
The last morning in New York ended at Union Square’s well-known Steak Frites Bistro, which had recently been renovated. The only thing that had not been renovated was the menu, which was good considering how tasty it is. For lunch you can get a juicy steak frites meal cooked to your desire and a salad to start for only $19.50. At this price it’s hard to pass up, even if you’ve been here a million times.
Sadly, the end of the trip had come, and the reality that we had to leave New York was creeping upon us. We walked around the sunny, windy streets of New York one last time before we started heading back to JFK. Why is it that the moment you know you are about to leave something, it suddenly looks perfect and flawless beyond your imagination? I don’t know what it is about New York, but I must have tossed an imaginary coin into an imaginary *Fontana di Trevi* somewhere, because I know in my heart that I’ll always keep coming back.
The opportunity to experience Airbus A380 - the largest commercial aircraft currently in service - was one I looked forward to with great anticipation. Most airports worldwide are not capable of servicing this plane due to its exceptional size and advanced boarding ramp requirements.
Amongst its extraordinary features is the fuselage size - longer than a 747 by just a bit with a wingspan that is wider by more than 10 feet, and, of course, the fact that it has an entire double deck of seats running the full length of the plane, accommodating more than 450 passengers.
It flies higher and faster than the 747 and in my experience may be the quietest plane in the skies today. An extraordinary piece of machinery to say the very least. The opportunity to watch takeoff and landing with the aid of a camera in the tail of the plane can give almost anyone vertigo, but I do recommend the feature.
As of today, LAX appears wholly unprepared for the fact that it is hosting this unusual piece of equipment (Sydney Kingsford has this down and should be a model for other airports before the aircraft is cleared for landing). The check in area at LAX is set up for an economy class cabin the size of a 737 with no other option than to force a check in line that snakes around to the next bank of desks. Checking in luggage look longer than 45 minutes simply to get through the line. Security had one person - that’s right - one - checking all of the boarding passes for both the A380 and the Air Pacific 747 departing for Fiji at the gate next door - so this created another 1.5 hour bottleneck and once security was behind us, passengers found themselves in the oldest, and most decrepit terminal at LAX featuring one broken down bar/lounge and a single bartender dealing with more than 700 passengers. It was hardly the world class experience promised when booking one of the first A380 flights available from the U.S. One woman escorting her 90 year old mother asked a Qantas representative whether a seat might be available during the check in for her mother to wait - and she was told that it would be available for business and first class passengers, but otherwise ‘you get what you pay for.’ I thought that the Qantas CEO might be keen on capturing that customer service response. Quite a shocker, as they say in Sydney.
Onboard, service levels didn’t really improve. It was as if this jet were being serviced by a crew treating it as if it were just another 737, though awestruck passengers thrilled to be having a new avaiation experience certainly were not of the same mentality. Qantas advertisements call out delivering ’The Spirit of Australia.’ If they meant to suggest Australians are lackadaisical, boorish, indifferent and unstylish, they have truly nailed their intentions spot on based on the service delivery on display aboard A380. My hat does go off to the team of pilots who delivered us safely and on time both to and from Sydney. It takes a team of four pilots to run the A380 service and they are extraordinary. Qantas is an outstanding transportation company. But it is little more than that and should not be confused with a company that is in the hospitality business. On the way home via Auckland, I saw a new billboard for Air New Zealand entitled “ALLOW US. Service…it’s a Kiwi thing.” Qantas helps them make that point quite clear. -DH