There’s a bloke in France working on an idea to use commercial passenger jet cargo space for paying guests. Apparently if the idea works, passengers will get some sort of view from a converted loading door and the space will be designated as premium. As cargo bays are pressurised there’s plenty of oxygen so all that needs doing in order to be comfy is some form of temperature control. Cargo bays get a bit cold and moist at 30,000 feet I’m told.

I had cause to reflect on all of this previously useless information recently, we’ll get to that !

This year marks an important milestone in the life of the managing director. I am not permitted to state the number under pain of death, but lets just say it’s a big O year. It will come as no surprise to learn that I have been left in no doubt as to the importance of the occasion and the need to mark the event with many diamonds and a few days stay in some luxurious location. Apparently love will keep us together, but only if accompanied by some form of material appreciation.

Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays is a nice spot. Long favoured by sailors, holiday makers and international men of mystery, it’s a top spot to unwind and relax, albeit a very challenging place to run a resort. The weather is unpredictable, cyclones regularly ravage the place and maintaining quality staff has got to be difficult. Covid hasn’t helped or so we are told. The MD is very fond of the place and in particular Qualia on the north western side of the island. I book a few nights and calculate that if I work until I’m 98 I’ll get the credit card cleared. We fly from Brisbane with Virgin and have a great experience. Hassle free check in, nice lounge, nice staff and smooth flight. The last 10 minutes over the water coming in to what looks like a way too short runway are quite exhilarating. I wonder how often the planes have to go around for a second attempt ?! There’s a young fella on board having his 4th birthday and once we are stationary he gets an invite to go up front and check out the flight deck. Made my day.

We are collected by the resort shuttle and delivered to check in. The sneaky buggers who run the resort meet us at reception with champagne and the sort of smiles people who know they’ve got you tend to exhibit. A relaxed and very happy vibe ensues before we are tipped into our golf buggy and pointed in the direction of our villa. To our delight we are allocated the exact room I had asked for when explaining the importance of the occasion to the reservations staff. Our luggage is already in situ and a bottle of the aforementioned champers is on ice. Of course, it’s addictive and having got a taste we can’t help ourselves. The subsequent grand reveal of the price per bottle caused what felt like a momentary stroke, but what can you do ? I’ll tell what you do ! A frantic drive to the bottle shop next morning to purchase a replacement at half the price before housekeeping turn up is what you do !

But I digress. Let’s get unpacked and settle in. I open my suitcase to be confronted by what appears at first assessment to be the aftermath of having smuggled a small animal with bowel issues in my case. Given that I have packed for an island holiday, and am a complete wanker, there are many white linen items, mostly now caked or flecked with a brown, sticky substance. It was at this point that my recently acquired knowledge of passenger jet cargo holds collided with my desire to carry my own preferred brand of instant coffee. Yep, the lid had come off the coffee bottle mid-flight. What a mess ! We salvaged what we could and sent the rest off to be laundered.

Of course, the suitcase remained full of coffee granules which needed to be tipped out. No problem, we have a deck overlooking the water, I’ll just tip the case upside down and all will be well. I’m not sure what came next, the MD cautioning me to check the case or the sight of the contents of unzipped compartments falling into the bush far below. The recovery mission seemed to provide amusement for those who witnessed it, but by then I’d lost my sense of humour

Perhaps it was the series of unfortunate events, maybe the biblical rain but I found myself in a reflective mood. What struck me most profoundly was the lack of Covid excuses exhibited by our chosen airline and our accommodation provider. If recent press reports are anything to go by the Virgin cabin crew have every reason to be less than content and yet they exhibited professionalism, good humour and a touch of the spirit so valued by their founder. It would be easy for an airline to hide behind recent financial troubles and Covid impacts as excuses for a poor customer experience. They didn’t !

Likewise, the experience on Hamilton Island. The resort has been well maintained and to our surprise plenty of competent staff, many from foreign lands. We are told that the destination is very popular with visitors from Melbourne and Sydney and forward booking demand is strong. If management are facing supply chain, trades and staffing challenges they are doing a great job of shielding guests from any negative experience.

It seems to me that Covid has certainly presented challenges, particularly for tourism and hospitality operators. The catch cry “due to Covid” has become code for “get ready for a bad experience” , admittedly in some cases fully justified. However, our experience on this short break suggests that well managed leisure oriented businesses are in robust good health. May they long continue.

Mike Phipps F Fin
Director | Phippsfin Pty Ltd

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Mike Phipps

Mike Phipps