Welcome to APG Radio, Episode 21

I’m Paula Williams.  Today, we get to listen in as Captain David Santo continues his conversation with Shashank Nigam about his adventures flying different airlines.

Airline Travel Adventures David Santo: You’ve flown around of course a lot. You talked about an international company that you’ve started and are running. You must’ve had some interesting in-flight experiences. Have you had chances to share some of your own personal in-flight experiences or conduct interviews during some of your flights?

Shashank Nigam Yeah. To date I’ve flown on 91 different airlines, and I’m hoping to hit that century number this year by all means.

And fingers crossed. But I think one of the most interesting incidents happened when I was flying down to Auckland, New Zealand, to do all the interviews for airline executives which are featured in SOAR as well. And I was boarding the flight from Singapore. It was a 787-9 all-black plane that they’ve got, and I was seated in seat 1A, right up front, next to the cockpit, and I had a little chat with the pilot.

Was feeling pretty good about this futuristic cockpit that niners got. Came in and take a seat and realize that in business class, there are eight seats empty. That’s all right, that’s a light flight but it was a day flight so I thought it might be the case anyway.

But then a minute or two before the door closed, a stream of well dressed men walk up in the cabin. And they’re all suited, they’re all wearing ties, they all have Muslim flags, pins, on their lapels and they all take a seat. And I was like okay, interesting, now the flight is full.

Eight men just walked in and the door closes behind them and the flight is full. In particular, this gentleman behind me seemed to be the most popular. Because one by one, different people from different seats would come in sit next to him, talk for a bit and go back.

And then the next person come in, talk to him, and then go back. And this was carrying on for a couple hours until the meal was served. And I was like, I don’t know, maybe he’s just the leader of the group or something like that. He’s the boss or something.

And then Air New Zealand, by the way has this in-flight chat system on their in-flight entertainment system. I get a creepy message from the passenger sitting on the other side of the plane. And he sends me a text message on my face screen which pops up and says hi, do you know who you’re sitting next to?

And I’m like no, who would that be? And he goes, that is our honorable Prime Minister Mr. John Key. I’m like, you mean the Prime Minister of New Zealand? He says, yes, that is the Prime Minister of New Zealand whom you are sitting next to in 1B. I’m like, okay, that’s interesting.

SOAR - How the world's best airline brands delight customers and inpsire employeesAnd, what about the gentleman who just walked over? He’s like, our Honorable Finance Minister. What about that guy who was talking to him before that? Our Honorable Tourism and Travel Minister. Okay, what’s up with these guys flying commercial? Well, all of our foreign ministers, including the Prime Minister, fly commercial.

And I was pretty excited. So then I turn around and shook hands with them, had a nice chat with the Prime Minister of New Zealand who seemed a very down to earth person. And suddenly made my flight memorable, because he asked me what I was going down to New Zealand for, and was it my first time?

And I told him that, you know what, I’m writing a book called Soar and there’s a chapter on New Zealand, which he got very excited about because he was previously the Travel Minister, the Minister of Tourism and Travel in New Zealand. And New Zealand was very close to his heart.

So we ended up having a nice chat and I think that was one memorable flight I had.

David Santo: Wow, that would be memorable, basically your saying that you rode on the equivalent of New Zealand’s Air Force One.

Shashank Nigam Well I guess that is what the plane had become given that there were eight Parliamentarians on it and the other people.

David Santo: That is awesome. You know I have had the chance to fly all over the world. A lot of times to go to conferences and It is very interesting if you get the opportunity to meet and talk with the other people sitting around you. Some of the amazing people and their lives and their life stories that you learn about as you cross oceans and break bread together in a small little cabin stay, yeah it sure it.

Shashank Nigam That’s the power of travel. In fact, just since you have me thinking, I remember one of the other most memorable flights was actually when I flew from Boston to Pittsburgh in November of 2006. This was right after I interviewed for my job, which I got later, in 2007.

And on the flight back, this was US Airways A320, I believe, at that time. I might be wrong, but I think that was the case. And it was a late night flight, last flight of the day, and I go onboard and I’m completely exhausted because I had seven interviews that day and I was, you know, completely exhausted.

But then I go on, I put my coat and and as I take my seat, guess what? I’m seated next to a reserve pilot and I’m excited like a kid! Because I have a pilot sitting next to me and I love planes and I have spent the next two hours or so talking to him nonstop about his life as a pilot, what he enjoys, how he sees his family.

He used to live in Pittsburgh so he was going back home after flying for the whole day. And just had a very good most technical chat possible at that time about different aspects of flying. And I remember him telling me that his favorite airport to land at was Sint Maarten because he would almost be touching raised hands on these people at the beach.

So that was another interesting conversation I had.

David Santo: That approach into Sint Maarten, I think for a lot of pilots, is very fun and memorable. And there’s actually if you get back there, Shashank, there’s a little restaurant bar just off to the side of the runway.

Shashank Nigam Yeah, the Sunset Bar.

David Santo: And you can listen to the, that’s right and they have the conversations playing and the aircraft on approach which is a lot of fun.

Shashank Nigam I absolutely love the plane there.