Based in Singapore, Okko Kuivalainen is risk management director at aircraft leasing company DAE Capital. Between work and personal trips, he averages 100 flights per year and has flown on a whopping 290 different airlines in his lifetime.
Most unusual place you’ve been?
It’s hard to pick one, but Djbouti, Tajikistan and Yakutsk in Russia stand out.
In between meetings in Dushanbe, we had time to explore and you realise there are not many other tourists. You have the chance to experience some place you know very little about. In Djbouti, we were travelling to the next town and the hotel’s 4×4 got stuck in the middle of nowhere in the desert.
In Yakutsk, my boss ordered a dish consisting of frozen pieces of fish. It was absolutely disgusting.
You’ve flown on 290 different airlines in your lifetime? Any highlights?
In February 2015, I flew on Canadian airline Buffalo Airways’ Douglas DC-3 from Yellowknife to Hay River in the Northwestern Territories. That aircraft had been active during the Second World War.
In 2014, I also flew the world’s shortest scheduled passenger flight lasting around one minute between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.
What is the most important thing about airline service to you?
I’m always curious to see any airlines’ product at least once. I just find it intriguing, but think it’s crazy when people obsess about things like amenity kits. You can get that kind of stuff from a dollar store. Those kind of details I don’t really care about, but by flying on so many airlines, you start to appreciate those that are running a good operation. I guess it boils down to reliability, short waiting times and predictable processes – and customer service should be smooth.
Favourite international airport?
A lot of things work well in Changi Airport. You have so much bandwidth in the process that the waiting times are really minimised and you can arrive at the last minute.
Top travel tips?
Fly with hand luggage only.
For lounges, having a card that gives you access like Priority Pass or any similar scheme is not a bad idea.
If travelling in places like Jakarta or Manila you might want to book taxis through specific recommended companies rather than finding one at random. This is safer, more reliable and just makes things smoother on arrival.
In China, if you are not a Mandarin speaker, you definitely want a hotel pick up from the airport. If you do repeat visits you get more comfortable and figure a way out, but if you go to a new city you want to make it as smooth as possible and should contact the hotel for assistance in advance.