We love to travel at Expat Living and are always mulling over where to escape to next. On our quest to keep on top of the travel scene, we catch up with ROBERT WILLIAMS, Head of Sales Asia Pacific and the Middle East for British Airways, to see what’s new with the airline, and to get some ideas on where to fly for a spot of cooler weather!
How long have you lived here? Which neighbourhood?
I’ve been in Singapore for four and a half years now. I live right in the heart of Robertson Quay and wouldn’t be anywhere else. We have everything on the doorstep, it’s vibrant and there’s always something new opening.
How long have you worked for British Airways?
This year will be my 10th anniversary – time really does fly! I’ve always had commercial roles, and prior to Singapore I was based in both London and Amsterdam.
What does your role entail?
I’m responsible for all the revenue we make in the markets I look after. We work both on a Business to Business basis with corporate customers and the travel trade, and we also sell directly to consumers, of course. Given the geography that I cover and the diverse markets we operate in, no two days are the same, which is fantastic.
How often do you fly? Do you have a favourite route?
I seem to fly pretty much once a week. My favourite route in terms of the flight itself is our direct service from Singapore to London. Leaving at night and enjoying a wonderful dinner and a film, then having a full night’s sleep on board and still getting to arrive in London in time for breakfast and a day of work is great, and it really maximises my time. I also love our flight from Sydney to Singapore, as it’s an afternoon flight and passes over some spectacular Australian landscapes; if you’re lucky you can even see Uluru from the skies.
With all that flying you must have some good travel tips.
I have so many! A key one is “everything in moderation”. I like to eat but won’t eat red meat on board so close to wanting to sleep; better to pick the lighter fish option. Have a drink on the ground and maybe one in the air but then concentrate on drinking lots of water and staying hydrated. Invest in some cashmere socks (they really make the difference) and a pair of lightweight cotton jogging bottoms. Buy ear plugs that are made from wax that moulds to your ear rather than the foam ones that go in your ear; they’re just a lot better. And, for the gentlemen, travel in loafers or a slip-on shoe rather than laces … so much easier if you have to remove them at security.
What’s new at BA?
We’re launching some exciting changes in our Club World business class cabin at the moment, which will make the customer experience even greater. There’s new catering and a reimagined service on board, together with a new partnership with The White Company, providing exquisite bedding and duvets to our customers.
We’re also expanding some of the flight routes that we have, adding more destinations to our network than ever before. For example, expats living in Singapore who are planning a European break over the summer holidays can now connect from Singapore, through our home in London and straight on to hotspots such as Santorini, Mykonos and Zakynthos, all with great simplicity and ease.
What would you say are some of the “must-do’s” for someone flying to Singapore for the first time?
Just go for a wander. For me, the best things in Singapore are the things you see just by walking around rather than actually going to an attraction. Start for breakfast in Robertson Quay and walk along the river to Clarke Quay, along past some of the oldest bridges to Parliament House, the Fullerton, around the marina, through the CBD and back through Chinatown. You’ll see so much along the way. I would also say a visit to the new National Gallery is a must; it’s a wonderful new development within some very historical and stunning buildings.
Favourite local dish and favourite “international” restaurant?
I love a good popiah and my Singapore team will often come back to the office with a new one to try. Also, satay – of course – but I’m afraid I don’t like shellfish so I can’t give the usual “chilli crab” answer! My favourite international restaurants would have to be Oso on Bukit Pasoh Road – always a great meal and a wonderful cheese room. You can never go wrong at PS Café, too; it’s an institution and I’m so lucky to have one opposite my condo in Robertson Quay. Favourite new find is Summerlong, also in Robertson Quay; it’s great to finally have some good Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food in the area.
What do you do in your downtime?
Walk my two labradoodles Luca and Monty along the river or take them over to Tanjong Beach for a swim in the sea.
Do you have a favourite winter destination?
Definitely back to Europe for skiing. I love the fresh crisp air of the Alps; a day’s skiing followed by some après with the sun shining is heaven on earth.
What are your top tips for travellers over the end-of- year winter season?
Head to the cold weather – it’s good for you! I’d suggest a trip to London and then onto one of our many ski destinations all over Europe. My top skiing tip is to go to Austria. The food on the mountain is excellent, the après ski is a lot of fun and the prices aren’t as steep as elsewhere.
Hit the slopes!
BA is launching two cool new routes for winter, for easy connection to some of Europe’s best ski resorts. Flights to Grenoble will depart Heathrow on Saturdays from 2 December (fares from £39, or around S$70, each way). Skiers will also be able to reach the Italian slopes via Turin from just £40. The airline already operates flights between Gatwick and the Italian and French ski hubs over winter, so these new Heathrow flights will take the number of weekly flights up to 18. Additional ultra-low-fare destinations from Heathrow include Tallinn, Amsterdam, Milan and Billund, all under £40 each way (with a “kids fly free” offer available), and there will be more frequent flights to Salzburg, Innsbruck, Reykjavik, Sofia and Zurich.