Jun 21, 2009

My Book Launch ... and Some Reflections on Airports

A note of thanks, to all those of you who came to my book launch last Friday evening. I really enjoyed myself, and I hope you enjoyed yourselves too. The views at the venue were quite spectacular, were they not?

My book Two Baby Hands will also be on sale at Kinokuniya (Takashimaya), Select Books (Tanglin Shopping Centre) and Books Actually (Ang Siang Hill). You can also order it online from the publisher directly -there are no extra charges for delivery within Singapore.

One of the poems I read at the event was an old one entitled Changi Airport. But reading the Sunday Times today, it strikes me that the poem seems to have become rather topical again. One thousand and thirty-six people will receive extra training in how to clean toilets - all because Changi Airport slipped to 3rd place in the latest global rankings. What a fascinating country we are.

June 21, 2009
FALL IN RANKINGS
Changi cleans up its act
Retraining for cleaners part of concerted effort to spruce up image and keep the flag
flying
By Mavis Toh

All 1,036 cleaners at Changi Airport will soon be sent for retraining.

That is one action plan being taken by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in response to Changi's slip to third place in a global airport ranking exercise.

In the survey of 190 airports by British-based consultancy Skytrax, Changi scored its lowest ranking in eight years - behind Seoul's Incheon International and Hong Kong International Airport. It ranked second last year.

It scored highly - among 8,640,552 travellers from nearly 100 countries surveyed - in areas like leisure amenities, duty-free shopping and airport dining. But it lost out in categories like washroom cleanliness and security processing.

In an interview with The Sunday Times last week, the CAAS said it has identified two problem spots where toilet cleanliness may have fallen short.

Toilets at the 28-year-old Terminal 1, the 'grand old dame', are old. When some are being upgraded, more pressure is put on the remaining toilets.

Mr Foo Sek Min, senior director of Airport Management Group, said: 'We know that sometimes the standards there can't even match those of toilets at new malls because they're old.'

Terminal 1 is being upgraded. About 15 per cent of the work is done and the process is slated to be completed in 2011.

At Terminal 3, which was opened last year, three sets of toilets in the public area are also 'highly utilised' on Fridays and Saturdays. This could be another reason for the lower cleanliness score.

Mr Foo said CAAS will also enhance the monitoring of toilet cleanliness via technology. Full implementation will take six to eight months.

Changi Airport isn't dirty. The toilets are fine. Changi Airport lost to Incheon and Hong Kong International Airport, because these two other airports are also very, very good. In terms of actual points scored in the survey, all three airports were also very, very close - Skytrax itself said in a statement that any one of them might have finished first.

But you know the mentality of Singapore corporate management (where face is concerned, it's frankly not that different from the SAF's). Since Changi Airport had lost, even by a very little bit, therefore something - and someone, somewhere - needs to be blamed for the defeat.

This time the blame goes to the airport toilets. And also to the management person in charge of the toilets - you can be sure about that. Whoever he is, he can say bye bye to his bonus.

Anyway, below is my old poem Changi Airport. Seen in the context of the Skytrax airport survey, maybe the moral of the story is ..... please don't make a mountain out of a molehill. If the airport is safe, clean, modern, efficient and comfortable, that's enough.

Truly, no traveller is going to come back to Singapore more often, just because you upgrade the brand of the hand soap in the toilets ... or use a hi-tech machine to count the number of germs in each toilet bowl ... or provide 5-ply toilet paper for extra-delicate buttock skin.
Changi Airport

It is a huge clean box
with clear glass panels,

directions for its visitors
and tidy compartments

to contain the swellings
of a little nation’s pride.

How much can one love
an efficient process?

We are here only because
we are going elsewhere

we are pleased that
our luggage rarely gets lost

we like the purple orchids
and marine fish

and we would stay to watch
the whole world here,

if only it was not always
merely passing though.

26 comments:

Onlooker said...

sac: Who knows maybe they will find our STTA LBW in one of these Jambans :)

But then ,I digressed :)

Sassy said...

I thought every time we are no. 1 mah. How come now we lose to other people?

Changi Airport is our pride. Don't keep thinking about corporate profit.

mr.udders said...

Thanks for your post. It helped stimulate some thoughts which I've listed down over here.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Sassy:

Here is a simple analogy.

You score 98 marks in a maths exam. However, another classmate scores 99 marks.

Your mother announces that you're an idiot. Something has gone wrong! There is a big problem here. She wants to do a complete review of how you do mathematics. Aha, she discovers that you must have lost .... because you didn't drink your Brands essence of chicken everyday ; and didn't buy one assessment book that your teacher had recommended; and your tuition centre is not ranked as Singapore's No. 1 tuition centre; and you actually watched one movie per month!

That's why your Maths is so lousy! From now on, you must drink three bottles of Chicken Essence per day; Mama will change all your maths tutors; and oh yes, no more movies for you, until you graduate from university.

After all, you scored ONLY 98 marks! Your maths is damned lousy!!

Mr Wang Says So said...

Mr Udders: That was an interesting post ...

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, your post made me laughed. Singapore's obsession with rankings is simply ridiculous.

Winking Doll said...

But it lost out in categories like washroom cleanliness and security processing.

Er? Why not mention of any plans to improve the security processing category? E.g. an old uncle slipped boarded a plane using his son's passport.

Mr Wang Says So said...

In today's ST Forum, there is a letter by Harry Ng. His point of view is similar to mine.


"June 23, 2009
Let's not be uptight over Changi's slip in rankings

I REFER to The Sunday Times report, "After falling in rankings, Changi Airport cleans up its act".

We should ask ourselves whether a decision to visit a country centres on the impression that the country's airport makes on us.

Let's not get carried away. Tourists visit Beijing for the Great Wall of China and not for the positive impression that its airport may have on them.

I am also equally sure that Phuket and Bali attract tourists for their cultural heritage rather than their airport amenities. Singapore's push for tourists' money will be in serious trouble if Changi Airport is the only reason why tourists come here and nothing else.

Let's not be too hard on ourselves. Changi Airport is an efficiently run airport by any standards.

Harry Ng"

Mr Wang Says So said...

"Tourists visit Beijing for the Great Wall of China and not for the positive impression that its airport may have on them.

I am also equally sure that Phuket and Bali attract tourists for their cultural heritage rather than their airport amenities."



And that is what I meant in my poem, when I wrote:

"We are here only because
we are going elsewhere"

and

"and we would stay to watch
the whole world here,

if only it was not always
merely passing though."

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I thoroughly enjoyed your book launch. You really made the poems come alive, by the vivid way you introduced them and read them aloud. The event was certainly an eye-opener for me.

You would have made a very, very good literature teacher. :)

Anonymous said...

i think so too....maybe, Mr Wang u can be the catalyst for students to love literature for what it is and not another subject for grades....

Anonymous said...

I am amused that we should consider getting no. 1 for a damn piece of construct as "pride", when there are more important things than this damn airport. I guess it's typical that we should always aim low just to be happy.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahaha.....while the analogy is indeed quite funny, one should ALWAYS strive to be no.1. Why be contented with second or third? If the mentality of everyone is that second or third is fine, one day you'll find that we're no longer how we used to be. No. 1. Simple motto.

Anonymous said...

being no1 is not everything...

Mr Wang Says So said...

Yep .... I know that the thinking required here is somewhat subtle, many Singaporeans cannot handle it.

Here's a mini surprise. Look at the posts of readers like Sassy and probably Anon 9:45 pm.

I bet they think that Changi Airport has always been No. 1 for the longest time. But here's the simple truth. In Skytrax's airport survey:

Changi was not No. 1 in 2009
Changi was not No.1 in 2008
Changi was not No. 1 in 2007
Changi was not No. 1 in 2005
Changi was not No. 1 in 2004
Changi was not No. 1 in 2003
Changi was not No. 1 in 2002
Changi was not No. 1 in 2001

Changi has been No. 1 only twice in the past 10 years (2006 and 2000).

And so ...?

Anonymous said...

1. In primary school I used to be 2nd in class all the time.
2. In secondary school I scored 9 A1s for my 'O'-levels while a whole bunch of my peers had 10 A1s.
3. In uni I graduated only cum laude (2nd class) and not magna/summa (first class).
4. Now I am the COO (not CEO) of my organization.

But I still pull in half a million dollars a year easily, have several properties and a few german cars in my driveway.

I don't have any problems being Number 2, why should anyone?

Mr Wang Says So said...

The problem with many Singaporeans is that they feel compelled to compete for this and to compete for that .... without even knowing why they are competing.

It's like the Raffles Place crowd at lunchtime. Sometimes a long queue of people will form out of nowhere, in the hot sun. So you walk up to one of the people, and you ask: "What are you queueing up for?"

And the guy says: "I dunno. I saw a lot of people queueing, so it must be for something good. So I also queue, lor. Must be got some free gift."

Sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

Onlooker said...

Yes it is ridiculous and no one is immune.

Four leg gooood, Two Leg baaaaad.
AKA Sheep mentality of Animal Farm.

Anonymous said...

If Changi Airport were no. 1 for engineering feat, yeah sure why not?

But we are celebrating that Changi Airport is No. 1 for.. cleanliness and service in a country that values the latter little and cleanliness because of the army of cleaners paid at dirt rate? For perfidity is this? It is neither unique nor memorable and people are grumbling that we fell off the perch?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone knows what's the rewards for first place in Skytrax? 50% increase in tourist flow for that particular year? 1 billion in extra funding for CAAS?

Anonymous said...

Breaking news: They have just replaced half of the board at CAAS. I guess the directors failed try out the jambans there to know how the situation has deteriorated there.

Anonymous said...

No choice lah.

Must always strive to be number 1.

Slack mentality comes in we are dead. Look at our neighbours. With enormous mineral resources & manpower.

We must be like the Far Eastern countries of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, HK & China.

Otherwise . . .

Anonymous said...

Hey just to let you know. Deepak Chapro is having a seminar at the Esplanade in Oct. You can get the tickets at sistic.

No to said...

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Anonymous said...

"No choice lah.

Must always strive to be number 1.

Slack mentality comes in we are dead. Look at our neighbours. With enormous mineral resources & manpower.

We must be like the Far Eastern countries of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, HK & China.

Otherwise . . ."

You mean slack and stupid mentality? The Airport's usefulness is the ability of CAAS to attract airlines to fly through Changi. Cleanliness and the niceness of an airport is only a small factor in the entire decision matrix for an airline. If we want to be top, top soemthing else, not some... stupid low life ambition not worth caring about.

Anonymous said...

"You mean slack and stupid mentality? The Airport's usefulness is the ability of CAAS to attract airlines to fly through Changi. Cleanliness and the niceness of an airport is only a small factor in the entire decision matrix for an airline. If we want to be top, top soemthing else, not some... stupid low life ambition not worth caring about."

Surveys are conducted independently by international organisations. The key performance indicators are also provided. Therefore, Singapore has no choice but to comply, big or small factor. Surely, we aren't going to do something outside the prescribed KPIs given our kiasuism. Right?