It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Talking to Travellers article, but a little while back I was invited to meet up with Brad John, one of the co-founders of Flight 001. Named after the first round-the-world PanAm flight back in the 60s, Flight 001 (say Flight One) is a travel store that has all sorts of wonderful stuff to get you ready for trips, whether it’s luggage or packing essentials.
Brad and I sat down for a chat in a cafe at Mandarin Gallery Shopping Arcade, also home to one of Flight 001’s best performing store’s in the region and it’s hard to miss this store because everything in it is just so bright and colourful; no dull blacks and more black luggage and accesories in this travel store!
“It’s shaped like a plane,” said Brad, “The Flight 001 store design is inspired by travel in the 60s with a retro modern feel, and made to resemble the inside of airplane. The whole idea is to make travel enjoyable and a whole experience right from when you start planning your trip.”
Brad himself is also a rather colourful character, with his bright red pants and lots of great travel anecdotes once you get him started, and he’s pretty chipper despite a ton of travelling before finally arriving in Singapore.
HIS TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY
While he’s the co-founder of a travel company, Brad didn’t actually start travelling until he was 17. “I grew up in 50s 60s, small town West Virginia, and didn’t really travel until out of college. My first real international travel was to the Caribbean with parents at 17.” Brad ended up in the fashion industry once out of college that let him travel to Europe for business which was when he really fell in love with travel in his early 20s.
Nowadays Brad mostly travels for work and he usually gets his travel fix by extending his work trips, but don’t for one second think that he might actually be sick of travelling. “Travelling is the most wonderful thing you can do,” he says, and you can hear the passion in his voice, “You get a chance to see different cultures, meet different people, changes your mindset about the world.”
He has a great philosophy on the power of travel, “I think if the world travelled more, we would all get along better. People are afraid of what they don’t know. so if we knew each other better, we wouldn’t be so scared.”
And this passion for travel cascades down from Brad to the company culture of Flight 001 – Brad told me that they have an internal challenge to staff called 1 country per year to visit one new country every year, and are even given a stipend to do so. I think I need to go work for him now…
HIS FAVOURITE COUNTRIES
Brad had to stop awhile and ponder this particular question. He’s Lebanese, so that’s one country that’s a given for him, but another surprising place that he loves is Hong Kong. “I’ve been going to Hong Kong since 1979, and I saw it before the handover in 1997 and it was really different then. I don’t quite love it as much now perhaps, but it just has a lot of nostalgia for me.” Singapore, he said when I asked him how he was liking his stay so far, actually reminded him of Hong Kong, just “more upscale.”
Another country he adores is Italy, for the art, the food and the people. “It’s just a nice place to be in. I really love Rome even though most people seem to like Florence better.” He explained that he was less keen on places that were too touristy, like Venice, because it’s “like Disneyworld” and hard to take it in and get the feel of the place. “Rome is a city that people live and do business in. It reminds me of New York, with the very quick lifestyle and hustle and bustle.” Flight 001 doesn’t have a presence in Europe at this point as they’ve been concentrating on USA and Asia, but Brad says they hope to have stores in Europe one day.
HIS TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
As an expert on travelling, Brad shared a couple of his tips for fellow travellers out there:
- Be Organized: “It makes the trip so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about anything you have everything lined up before you go. Planning and organization is most important.“
- Enjoy the journey, not just the destination: “Most people find the journey part difficult, but I really enjoy the whole travel process. I’ve noticed that people in airports are always very frustrated, but it doesn’t change anything. I personally enjoy being in airports because I can catch up on reading.“
- Be Very Flexible: “If something happens, it happens, just go with the flow!“
We talked a little about the range of products that Flight 001 carries in its stores, and Brad said that a lot of the products came out of his and his co-founder’s experiences with travel, and not being able to find a solution for it. Recently they just came up with a series of luggage bags that he’s spotted in other airports around the world, much to his joy. He’s not done yet though, “I’m currently in search of the perfect carry-on-bag. I’m quite particular about it – it needs outside pockets, to has to be very organized, I haven’t found a perfect solution yet but I’m working on it.”
Flight001 also very kindly gave me a couple of their signature products, which I’ve been toting around on my recent trips to get a feel of, and whether they helped make my travels any better. Here are some thoughts:
Spacepak Travel Set (3 bags, US$98)- It’s one of their signature products and Brad calls this his favourite product, which was actually developed by co-founder John Sencion. Basically it’s a set of smart packing cubes, and my red colour set came with a large one for clothes (US$46), one smaller bag for shoes (US$30) and a mini bag for toiletries (US$30) with a mesh pocket. Overall the spacepak bags do quite a good job of compressing your clothes together, and I like that there’s a clean side and dirty side all in one bag – I usually just toss the dirty clothes in a separate bag which isn’t that space saving! You can apparently pack 2 weeks worth of clothes in here – here’s a video which shows Brad doing that exactly. The various Spacepaks are supposed to all kinda fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, which ultimately depends on the size of the luggage you’re carrying.
Seat Pak (US$28)- It’s a little pouch with a whole lot of zips and compartments, so you can pull it out of your carry-on and have your necessities close at hand in your seat pocket without having to rummage through your bag. My flights were pretty short so far, but I think Seat Pak will be more useful in longer flights, so I’ve also been using it more as an organizer for all my various electronics, chargers, thumbdrives and wires that I put in my carry-on because I usually have a tangle of wires dumped in a large pouch.
For those who have that need to be very organized, Spacepak and Seat Pak are godsends; for the rest of us, it’s a good way to stay organized without trying too hard! Price wise they’re not that cheap and I might think twice about buying a whole set perhaps, though if you are a frequent traveller and you don’t like to check in luggage, this could be well worth the savings in checked baggage in the long run. Also, pretty cool gift option for the traveller in your life 🙂
4 in 1 Adapter (US$25) – love the tiny compact size (smaller than my other chargers which are about fist size) and the lego concept of fitting all the plus into one little cube. Its only big miss for me is the fact that there are no usb ports on it, which means I still have to lug my phone charger plug around with me. Apparently this is quite an Asian need as Brad remarked that it was the first thing Singaporeans said when he showed them the product – tells you something about how we’re glued to our phones probably.
Thanks to Flight 001 for setting up the interview! I really enjoyed talking to Brad and meeting the Flight 001 team.
I wasn’t obliged to review the products that they kindly gave to me, but I love the brand’s spirit of wanderlust and think that their store has a lot of stuff which is both pretty and useful things for fellow travellers. You can check out Flight 001 in Singapore at Mandarin Gallery Shopping Arcade on Level 3 #03-21.