Planes, trains and magazines

Image of Tyler Brûlé

For the past few days I’ve been engaged in what has become an annual new year exercise: delivering a list of ideas to colleagues. Soon after the clock strikes midnight, my mind starts to whirr with various thoughts about business growth (a bigger set-up for our team in Tokyo; a new bureau in Istanbul, say) or infrastructure improvements (a greenhouse for meetings at our London office; a proper set-up for cyclists, for example). As the train I am travelling on makes its way around the curves from St Moritz to Chur, I clatter away on my laptop, drawing up lists to be sent the second I hit a wi-fi zone on the higher-speed line from Chur to Zurich. As I watch the various stations slip by and start making the mental shift from the snowy Engadin to southeast Asia, where I am next heading, I decide to widen my list to include the chief executives of companies with which my business spends a lot of money. No better place to start than a note to the head of SBB (Switzerland’s rail network).

Dear Herr Meyer,

Greetings from one of your fine pieces of rolling stock (good lighting by the way) as it hurtles towards Zurich on New Year’s day. A couple of thoughts for 2013:

●Could you introduce comfy club cars on your busier routes?

●Is there scope to introduce a sleeper service from London’s St Pancras to Zurich and Geneva, maybe even going on to Chur for skiers and hikers?

●What about snapping up some rail franchises in the UK and showing the Brits how trains should be run? I’m sure you would make the Queen’s honours list for your efforts.

●Can you work on cutting the travel time between Geneva and Zurich to 90 minutes?

●Would it be possible to introduce first-class seats like the ones in the green cars of Japan’s bullet trains?

Dear Herr Hohmeister (chief executive, Swiss International Air Lines),

Happy new year from one of your older long-haul aircraft – an A340-300 bound for Bangkok. I think you’re doing a fine job with your airline but this is the moment to pull ahead of the pack. As you might know, I worked with your carrier 11 years ago, after the collapse of Swissair, and it would be good to see Zurich own the title of best hub in Europe. A couple of ideas from seat 2G:

●I know you’re looking to replace these A340s with something a bit bigger. I’m voting for a real wide-body aircraft, such as the Boeing 777-300ER.

●My mum doesn’t like flying Air Canada from Toronto to Zurich. Can you please open up Toronto as a route? While you’re at it, what about adding Beirut, Tallinn, Vancouver, Seoul and Taipei?

●Bravo on opening up Singapore again. What about carrying on down to Sydney? Singapore Airlines has the worst pillows and I’d rather not have to change carriers.

●What about shaking things up by offering a proper short- and mid-haul business class in Europe? If anyone has a clientele who would pay, it is you. For inspiration, check out the domestic offering on Japan’s ANA.

Dear Mr Clarke (incoming chief executive, WH Smith),

Congratulations on your new post and best wishes for 2013. As a consumer and client (you stock my magazine and this newspaper), I have some ideas for shaking up your chain of shops. Here’s a small wish list:

●Print is not dead. Really! Why not learn to love magazines again and broaden your range. There has been a boom in new publishing but none of it is on your shelves. WH Smith should be a place to discover new titles and not just find the expected.

●Lighting. Turn it down a bit. Your stores should be warm and inviting.

●Wood. A bit of oak or ash here and there would be a nice addition.

●A few smaller kiosks might be an interesting idea – focused on the best in print. Put them on platforms, streets and airport concourses.

●Better stationery please.

Dear Mr Slosar (chief executive, Cathay Pacific),

Greetings sir. I do hope you had a good holiday and all is well. As you might have noticed, Hong Kong has become an increasingly important transit point for my colleagues and I over the past year or so. As I spend a lot of time in your lounges and on your aircraft, I’ve scribbled down a few ideas for your next board meeting:

●Bring back John Pawson to oversee the design of your lounges – if not him, what about Kengo Kuma? The offering is generally good but it needs some focus.

●Some fresh linen for first class would be great. See what Swiss and ANA are doing in this area.

●What about embracing more of HK’s international culinary scene on your menus?

●Some more routes for your consideration: São Paulo, Calgary and Washington.

Tyler Brûlé is editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine

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