Gwen and I wrapped up our trip to Asia this morning with breakfast at the Red Carpet Club at Hong Kong International Airport.
I'll be posting some destination material on Hong Kong and Singapore soon, but before our flight leaves for Newark, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the breakfast itself. From an American perspective, after all, it is a marvel.
For years now, America's domestic carriers have been scaling back service. Everyone can see it on the planes, where complimentary meal service has shifted to a la carte purchasing, alcoholic beverages have gone to a $5 model (even on trans-Pacific flights, which wasn't the case as recently as 2008 when the first edition of Spontaneous Tourism was published), and pillows and blankets have been scaled back or removed entirely.
Relatively few of the millions of airline passengers who flow through America's passenger terminals on a given day, however, are aware of the cuts that have been affected in the airlines' private clubs.
Conditions in the clubs vary by brand and location, but even the best lounge -- Alaska Airlines' Board Room -- stands out by providing hot soup in addition to cold snacks and an open bar. Continental's Presidents Club, which is far more widespread, subtracts the soup. United's Red Carpet Club has a cash bar. And so on; in one Delta Crown Room I visited, there were sodas, pretzels, and yogurt-covered raisins, and nothing else.
Not so in Asia. Here at the Hong Kong Red Carpet Club, drinks are not only free but self-service from a stocked bar shelf. For breakfast, we did have danish, but we also had scrambled eggs, sausage, baked beans, and miso soup. Several kinds of cereal, finger sandwiches, and ice cream were there for the taking.
How is it possible that United -- an American carrier -- provides such better service here in Asia?
Simply put, Asians demand such service. Business leaders here rarely get the enormous bonuses that dominate our news headlines, but professionals are extended a level of respect that we would find surprising.
Think about that while you're choosing which kind of cracker to pick up after paying for your drink at a Red Carpet Club back in the States. It's striking.