An Open Thank You Letter to Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker

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When was the last time you had a truly remarkable customer service experience?

One that was so incredible and made such an impact that you wanted to share the details with the world?

qatar-airways

 

Now imagine that experience was unexpectedly provided to you by the CEO of a rapidly expanding company that employs over 30,000 people and is number one in its industry.

This was my recent interaction with the CEO of Qatar Airways, His Excellency, Akbar Al Baker.

Qatar Airways Travel – Backstory

A couple of months ago my wife and I were coming up on a milestone anniversary. Although it was a momentous occasion we weren’t really planning on doing anything special. We had joked about going to the Maldives, but had never really pursued the idea or made definitive plans.

All of that changed one morning when I signed into Facebook and noticed an awe-inspiring photo of a Maldives’ surf break in my newsfeed.

surf-maldivesimage source: The Perfect Wave

The image you see above drove me to do some further research on the Maldives, how we might get there from the Caribbean, and what airlines could meet our needs.

Additionally, as this was a big anniversary and there were some long haul sections over the Atlantic, we decided that if we were really going to go to the Maldives then it would be in Business Class.

Qatar Airways – Time to Book

If you are a traveler then you know it’s hard not to start forming expectations and developing a perception of what you think a travel experience and a destination will be like—the excitement of our potential trip was certainly building!

When it was time to move past the dreaming stage of traveling to the Maldives and to actually book tickets and accommodation, I started with Google Matrix Airfare Search. The Google Matrix platform allows you to see all of the airfares for the airlines that are traveling to your desired destination in a very easy to digest visual manner.

While conducting the airfare search there were three distinct airlines (including Qatar Airways) that stood out for us in terms of business class pricing and scheduling convenience.

However, around the same time that we were booking, Skytrax named Qatar Airways the number one airline in the world. From that designation, and from reading about the incredible service, the decision to book with Qatar was sealed.

qatar-airways-skytrax

Now that we were booked in Business Class on the number one airline in the world, and as someone who has traveled frequently on many airlines, my expectations greatly increased about what the experience would be like.

Needless to say, Qatar Airways was going to have to really deliver for it to meet the attentive service and luxury we envisioned.

Qatar Airways CEO – Remarkable Customer Care

After our flights were booked for the Maldives I was so excited that I decided to send a quick email to the Qatar Airways CEO, Mr. Akbar Al Baker. (Note: Out of respect for Mr. Al Baker I won’t post his exact email to me but I will paraphrase our exchange.)

In my initial email I wrote:

I’ve just purchased Business Class tickets for a very special anniversary trip for my wife and I to travel on Qatar Airways from the US to Maldives in September.

We are excited beyond measure to experience the renowned service that Qatar Air is known for around the world.

Kind regards, and I hope you are well.

That was it. Simple and to the point.

I didn’t really expect a reply, as I’m sure Mr. Al Baker is beyond busy dealing with Qatar Airways and the expansion of Doha’s Hamad International Airport.

Much to my surprise, about a day or so later I had an email in my inbox from Mr. Al Baker himself saying thanks and inquiring about our dates of travel. When I wrote back I kept it brief and sent along our dates, and here is the starting point where the remarkable customer service began.

More specifically, during this time my wife had noticed that I accidentally booked the earlier flight that Qatar Airways has (leaving the Maldives) and I mentioned it to Mr. Al Baker. By the next morning when I checked my email the Manager of his Executive Office had contacted me to get confirmation of the departing flight time that we wanted so she could make the change.

Perhaps this was a straightforward task for them and completed with a couple of computer keystrokes. But to us – the customer – it was an extremely kind and helpful act that would allow us to continue to enjoy our holiday at the Four Seasons little bit longer.

four-seasons-kuda-huraa

Our travel commenced on September 3rd and to say that we were beyond ecstatic would be an understatement. I had a feeling that the reality of traveling on Qatar Airways Business Class was going to far outweigh my perception and high expectations.

To be sure, after checking in at Philadelphia Airport we went to the British Airways Lounge (shared with Qatar Airways) and while sipping coffee and eating some fruit we were graced with a surprise visit from Antony, the Qatar Airways station manager. He checked in on us and made sure everything was going smoothly thus far and told us to contact him if we needed anything before we took off.

Qatar Airways – Arriving in Doha to Unexpected VIP Treatment

qatar-airways-business-classWe began the long flight from Philadelphia to Doha, and as you would expect, the Business Class seat made it easy to relax and enjoy.

Also, the attentive service of the flight attendants and “a la carte” menu made it feel like we were in a boutique hotel/restaurant for the thirteen-hour flight.

It certainly was evident why this airline had just been named number one in the world.

Surprisingly, after such a long flight to Doha we were actually feeling refreshed upon arrival. When the doors opened to the stairs that led down to the tarmac, we were greeted by more unexpected generosity.

The CEO had arranged for us to have special “Meet and Assist” service. Meaning, while all of the other passengers boarded buses to make their way to customs and immigration, we had a private car with driver and a Qatar Airways representative waiting for us!

Once inside the vehicle we were whisked to a reserved immigration area (with refreshments and snacks) away from the hustle and crowds of passengers from the recently arrived flights. After completing customs we were then delivered by the Qatar Airways personal escort to their incredible Business Lounge in Doha.

qatar-airways-business-lounge

For those of you wondering, this is not your standard flight lounge with a bowl of pretzels and a free soda. The Qatar Airways lounge in Doha has a full open bar and both a sit down restaurant, where you can order gourmet meals off of a menu, and a buffet area where you can get all kinds of items to dine on depending on the time of day you happen to be there.

Needless to say, we were completely blown away by the unexpected gesture of the meet and assist, private car transfer, and personal attention from the station managers.

Qatar Airways – Return Trip to Doha and More Unexpected VIP Treatment

Just when we thought the customer care could not get any better we were about to be surprised again.

When our fabulous stay in the Maldives was over and it was time to head home our flight from Male arrived in Doha at 10:00pm but it did not leave for Miami until 8:30am the next morning.

We had planned to grab a room at the Doha Airport hotel to spend the night. However, as we were getting off the plane Mr. Al Baker had arranged again for the Qatar Airways rep to meet us with a vehicle and to go through the private immigration area.

When we got into the car the Qatar Airways assistant informed us that they had taken the liberty of booking us a room for the evening at the Oryx Rotana hotel!

Utterly amazing.

Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker – Thank You!

Delivering unexpected joy and happiness to customers, and treating them like humans is what develops trust and strong brand loyalty. Sadly, even though many large companies today profess to care about customer service, their actions prove that they lack empathy and can even be hostile towards customers’ needs.

Mr. Al Baker, your generosity helped to take what was a special trip to mark a special occasion and turned it into the best holiday we have ever had, and an experience that we will never forget.

In an age where many leaders at the CEO level choose to be distant and removed from their actual customers, you chose to epitomize what it means to delight and surprise by over delivering on great customer service.

A sincere thank you, Mr. Al Baker, for your attention to detail and personalization, and to all of the employees who made our Maldives trip a remarkable experience.

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Puerto Rico Tourism – 11 Amazing Activities (From the Local Perspective!)

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Are you thinking about visiting Puerto Rico? Great news! Despite all the negative news, Puerto Rico tourism is still going strong!

puerto-rico-tourism-rincon-beach

When it comes to visitors to Puerto Rico it’s not uncommon for tourists to follow a standard itinerary. Folks might stay at a big hotel, eat in familiar restaurants, and perhaps take one excursion.

But, they never have the opportunity to experience all of the activities that the island has to offer, especially from the perspective that the locals enjoy.

As such, and with the recent deluge of negative news surrounding Puerto Rico, I decided to reach out to eleven friends and acquaintance on island with a simple question.

“What activity are you truly enjoying in Puerto Rico right now that a tourist might not usually hear about or get to experience?”

The goal was to focus on some of the many positives that exist here on island, and perhaps more importantly, to highlight the fact that each of the individuals below are all working, in their own way, to change the narrative of how people view Puerto Rico.

1. Biking in San Juan

puerto-rico-tourism-condado-bike-laneimage credit: davsot

Biking in San Juan was suggested by José Padilla who is the co-founder of Blimp.

With respect to Puerto Rico tourism from a local’s perspective, José also mentioned, “I enjoy hiking on trails in Yunque, Roosevelt Roads, Cayey, etc…).

(Note: If you need to rent a bike while in Puerto Rico, check in with the good folks at Koishma Multi Sport Store.)

2. Old San Juan Children’s Museum

childrens-museum-puerto-rico

This great recommendation for families comes from Raul Colon who is an extremely talented photographer and the founder of Limonade Inc.

More info:
Old San Juan Children’s Museum website
Old San Juan Children’s Museum Facebook page

3. Exploring Brunch Options

la-mala-vida-puerto-rico-tourism

Axel Rivera provided this culinary activity.

Trying new places for brunch on Sundays. There are many new options in San Juan. So far I’ve been to Mala Vida, Tostado, & John Doe’s. There is also Abracadabra (was the first to start the trend) and La Waflera in Old San Juan.

Axel is an iOS and Ruby developer and he is the creator of the active Facebook Group Startup After Hours.

4. Professional Basketball Games

vaqueros-bayamonimage credit: Vaqueros Bayamon

“Cheap seats. Cheap beers.” ~Luis

Luis S. Herrero is the founder of Explorer Media and  works for the team Vaqueros de Bayamón.  He recommends attending a professional basketball game in Puerto Rico.

More info:

Promo video – https://www.facebook.com/vaquerosbayamon/videos/10153478846489668/

Baloncesto Superior Nacional or BSN (National Superior Basketball) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baloncesto_Superior_Nacional

Tickets – http://venta.prticket.com/

5. Surfing

surfing-rincon

The surfing recommendation comes from young entrepreneur and UPR Mayaguez graduate, Marcos Alonso Cruz.

“A great day for me would be surfing Marias on solid 6ft swell all day and finishing the day with a great smoothie watching the sunset at Tres Palmas.” ~Marcos

6. Jogging Around Condado Lagoon

condado-lagoonimage source: mherphotography

Carlos Cobian, founder and creator of Cobian Media & the H3 Conference, lays out a slew of fun Puerto Rico tourism activities from a local perspective.

“I like jogging every morning around the Condado Lagoon, going to La Parguera or Rincon during the weekends, spending the whole Saturday with the kids at Ventana al mar (breakfast in Ben & Jerry’s, lunch Di Parma and at night Ventana al Jazz).”

But wait… There’s more!!

“Thursday night dinner at Santaella, Lima, or Soda and then laugh your ass off at Teatro Breve.” ~Carlos

7. Getting Lost on Puerto Rico’s Rural Roads

rural-puerto-rico

The recommendation to get lost on Puerto Rico’s rural roads comes from my friend Joaquín Rodríguez Kierce.

“There’s something magnificent about narrow roads surrounded by vegetation and the branches of flamboyanes reaching to the other side. The mix of red, green, yellow, blue… There’s something sublime about it. And it reminds you to enjoy the journey.” ~Joaquín

Joaquín makes Neuron Igniters which are unique drawings that will make you think and contemplate positive action!

8. Bomba y Plena (Folk music)

el-boricua

The bomba y plena offering comes from the founder of Brands of Puerto Rico, Alan Mikahil Urayoan Taveras.

“I love a couple of things but my favorite has to be watching a live bomba y plena at el Boricua in Rio Piedras with friends….best bar ever!” ~Alan

9. Jogging Through Old San Juan (plus some bonus ideas!)

old-san-juanimage source: Prayitno

At number nine, Miguel Moreda, founder of Porto Capital, gives a virtual guidebook’s worth of local activities for tourists to do in Puerto Rico.

“I love jogging through Old San Juan and then stopping for brunch / breakfast / coffee in any of the local shops.” ~Miguel

Some added bonus ideas from Miguel!

– Shopping at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday at Old San Juan.

– Walking up to El Morro after stopping at the supermarket and having a picnic. Very nice.

– Other days I bike to Condado with my beach chair on the back… and after having breakfast / brunch / lunch / then stopping at Ocean Park and dipping into the Ocean.

– Another thing I do frequently is dine at the many local eateries in Old San Juan.

10. Balneario de Carolina (Carolina Public Beach)

balneario-carolina

The next suggestion for visitors looking to get off the tourist trail comes from Manny Morales. Manny is the Founder and CEO of Grasslark.

“I just had two very enjoyable Saturdays. I actually spent the entire day (8AM – 5PM) at the Balneario de Carolina in my oldest daughter’s Beach Volleyball tournament – Festivol. I believe it runs the next couple of Saturdays till mid August. It is very well organized and the beach is very nice.” ~Manny

11. Westside Getaway

rincon-puerto-rico

The eleventh and final recommendation comes from serial entrepreneur Ramphis Castro.

“I love the obvious ones: weekend getaway in Rincon/Aguadilla/Isabela. I like brunch at Cafe Loto in Santurce.” ~Ramphis

BONUS Late 12th Addition!

12. Toroverde Adventure Park

toroverde-adventure-park

Chief Button Pusher at Seriously Creative, Angiemille Latorre, had a couple  a couple of late additions to the list. Angie recommends Toroverde Adventure Park, Congreso de la Salsa, and La Ruta del Chinchorreo.

If *YOU* are visiting Puerto Rico and hope to experience the island like a local,  you now have enough ideas to keep you occupied for a couple of weeks!

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Ten Critical Points to Consider Before Heading Off as a Remote Working Global Nomad

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working-remotelyAre you thinking about packing up and working remotely from an overseas location? Do you long to have your office on the beach in the Caribbean or perhaps on a hillside in the Swiss Alps?

Having spent a good portion of the past eighteen years working remotely and internationally in places like Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tortola and Puerto Rico, I wholeheartedly support the pursuit of the remote worker dream.

With the advent of remarkable workspaces like Piloto 151 and emerging platforms like Teleport , there really is no reason (for most of us!) to report to the same work office every day.

However, if you have not lived internationally or worked from overseas before, I thought that I would provide you with some details that you might want to think about.

Ten Critical Tips for Working Remotely

1. Are you ready for challenges that come with living in a foreign country
Living some place is much different than just visiting for a week on a yearly vacation. This might sound completely obvious and like common sense, but during my time overseas I’ve seen many folks pack up all of their personal belongings and move 5000 miles away from home only to arrive at a destination and realize a week later that they can’t stand living there.

If you can afford to do so, a pre-move visit is always encouraged and could help you to avoid a potentially costly mistake.

2. Moving is stressful.
Relocating to another city within your own country is difficult enough. In fact, stress wise, moving typically ranks as one of the most difficult life changes an individual (or family) can make. When you decide to become a global nomad and move overseas you can multiply the stress factor on a scale of magnitudes—language barriers, new customs, and etc.

Part of the allure of living overseas can be the challenges that one might expect to face. However, you need to really consider if you are ready for the language difficulties, cultural barriers, and bureaucratic red tape that can that can be associated with an overseas move.

3. Are you ready to be away from family and friends (support network)
Working remotely seems glamorous. Certainly tools like Skype, Google+, and Facebook make it easy to keep in touch on an almost daily basis. But, homesickness and being away from family and friends around holidays and special occasions, and during serious illness, can quickly tarnish beachside living or skiing every morning.

Before packing your bags check to see if there is an existing expat or remote worker community to help act as your surrogate support network.

4. What are the immigration policies at your desired destination?
Many countries require you to show proof of an onward ticket before they will even allow you to enter. You need to find out:

  • How long can you legally reside in the country you wish to work from? (Is it thirty days, three months or one year?)
  • If you need to renew your immigration status is it as easy as crossing the border for twenty-four hours and coming back in again? Or, do you have to go back to your home of record?
  • Are there any passport stamp fees associated with an extended stay?

I have a good friend who overstayed his visa in one of the countries where I was working and he wound up spending eight months in the local prison. (Hint: Watch the movie Midnight Express to get an idea of what you might be in for if you decide to overstay your welcome.)

5. Can you legally run a business or work online at your chosen destination
Will you be required to get a work permit if you want to work remotely? Even if you are running an Internet based business, some countries do not want you working within their borders. Other countries will make you fully disclose the type of work you’ll be doing or the business you will be running and may require you to get a special work visa.

6. What will your tax status be?

Although you might not be working for a local company, you should check with the country’s treasury department to determine if you have to pay local taxes. Additionally, if you are a United States resident living outside of the states you will need to determine if you qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

7. Will you have access to medical coverage and medical care?
Nobody likes to think about a serious medical condition arising. If you’re heading overseas and currently have insurance you will need to find out if the hospitals and clinics in your new country of choice accept your policy. In the event that they don’t, try to find out if you can you get an international travel add-on from your existing insurer or purchase supplemental expat insurance.

Once you feel secure with your insurance situation, you might want to find out what medical care is care like at the destination you are heading to. Consider the following, do you have a particular medical condition that requires special treatment or medicine? Can you get the help you need at your new location? Additionally, discern if there are any serious health concerns such as malaria or typhoid and look into proper prophylaxis and immunizations.

8. How is the cost of living?
In your home city you might be so familiar with the prices for everyday goods that you don’t necessarily pay attention to the standard living costs.

For your new remote working location you may wish to research what can you expect to pay for every day essentials like rent, bread and eggs, a car, gas, and beer. Moreover, you might be accustomed to very low prices for water and electric utilities. Other costs to consider would be the price for mailing and shipping items.

9. Can you legally purchase property?
This question is for the hardcore, expat/remote worker, but if you are going to be in a country for any length of time it certainly is one worth considering for living or investment purposes. Although, it is important to remember three things:

  • Property ownership does not necessarily make you a resident.
  • In some cases countries will restrict the purchase of property by foreigners.
  • Always do your due diligence to check for clear title and hire local legal counsel.

For example, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) the government requires that you apply for what’s called a, “Non-Belonger Landholding License.” The whole process can take well over a year, and even if you are successful at obtaining the license, you are not allowed to reside there while waiting for it. Once you do have it, you are only allowed to live in the BVI for six months out of the year.

If purchasing a home or property is part of your overseas remote working dream, then check the real estate laws carefully.

10. Everything else!
If you made it passed all of the items above then you can actually begin to think about your in-country work needs such as, living arrangement, office space, and internet access.

Final thought, before you head off and begin working remotely, do your research and you’ll make out just fine!

image credit: flickr.com John Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

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