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 stores 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 accessories in this travel store! [Sep 2018: it seems like they’ve closed all their Singapore outlets]
“It’s shaped like a plane,” Brad told me when I asked about the unique shop interior. The Flight 001 store design is inspired by travel in the 60s with a retro modern feel, “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 many travel anecdotes that spill out of him once he gets started. He was surprisingly chipper despite his many flights and transits before finally arriving in Singapore.
Travel to gain knowledge
While he’s the co-founder of a travel company, Brad didn’t actually start travelling until he was 17 – he grew up in small town West Virginia in the 50’s-60’s – and didn’t really travel until out of college and he went to the Caribbean with parents at 17.” Brad ended up in the fashion industry in his early 20s which was when he really fell in love with travel as he had to travel to Europe frequently for business.
These days Brad still mostly travels for work, but he usually gets his travel fix by extending his work trips, and don’t for one second that he might actually be sick of travelling. “Travelling is the most wonderful thing you can do,” he said, the passion evident in his voice, “You get a chance to see different cultures, meet different people, changes your mindset about the world.”
He is a big believer in the power of travel and that everyone would get a long better if we just travelled more. “People are afraid of what they don’t know. so if we knew each other better, we wouldn’t be so scared.” That same passion for travel was something Brad inculcated into the company culture of Flight 001 – they have an internal challenge to staff called to visit one new country every year, and give them a a stipend to do so. I think I need to go work for him now…
His favourite countries
Brad took awhile to ponder his favourite countries in the world. His home country Lebanon comes up of course, but he also has a lot of fondness for 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.” What about Singapore? Brad says it reminds him a lot 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 was less keen on places that he deemed 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.
Brad’s tips for travellers
As an expert on travelling, Brad had a couple of tips to help other travellers out.
“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. Brad told me that a lot of the products were borne out of his and his co-founder’s own experiences with travel, and not being able to find a solution for it in the market. “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 organised, 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 to try out, and I’ve been toting them around on my own trips to see 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. I think Seat Pak will be more useful on longer flights, but it works best for me as an organiser for all my various electronics, chargers, thumbdrives and wires.
Price wise these aren’t the cheapest products upfront, but if you are a frequent traveller and you want good quality products, these have done quite a good job [2018 update: am still using these products a lot. The Seat Pak in particular is my go-to electronics pouch]
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 [2018 update: they now have a 5-in-1 version with an extension piece with 2 USB ports] which means I still have to lug my phone charger plug around with me. When I made that comment, Brad remarked that this obsession with USB ports seemed to be a particularly Asian concern – it probably tell you something about our culture…
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 gave to me, but I love the brand’s spirit of wanderlust and think that their store has a great aesthetic and products that I personally have found very useful. Check out Flight001 online for more.