Interview: Air Miles with Sanjay Ponnapa

7 Jul 2019 by Michael Allen
Sanjay Ponnapa -- Air Miles

Sanjay Ponnapa is the founder of Fuel Espresso, a New Zealand-based coffee shop chain with outlets in Hong Kong and Mainland China.

How many flights do you typically take per year? 

Ten to twelve flights a year. I mostly fly to Korea, Shanghai, New Zealand, India and Europe. The last four are nearly always coffee-related trips!

Any flights in your life that particularly standout?  

The flights that stand out to me are the ones in the late sixties. It was quite a privilege to travel back then. The Coca-Cola back then tasted incredible (I was five-ish!) and it seemed like such an incredible treat to enjoy at altitude. I experienced some pretty scary landings back then too.

Most unusual place you have been?

The most unusual place I’ve been is a place just outside of Trivandrum, India called Neyyar Dam. I visited a teacher of Sivananda yoga. We travelled over a crocodile-infested river, alongside a lion safari and ended at a small but beautiful lake. I dove off of rocks and lay by the lakeside. It was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever experienced.

How do you survive a long flight?

Whisky and lots of films. I’m a proud action-movie fan when it comes to flying.

Top travel tips?

Travel super light. If I can, I’ll travel only with a briefcase.

How could airlines improve in-flight service?

Treating everyone equally no matter what cabin class, and by serving good espresso!

Loveliest souvenir you’ve ever come back with?

On my first coffee-sourcing trip to meet the founder of the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe, I picked up a couple of silk scarves to combat the cold. I still have them twenty years later. I always try and bring home the best bag of espresso beans I can find but it’s harder and harder to find anything extra special these days. Truthfully, I’ve never found a bag better than ours.

Indispensable travel gadgets?

My Bang and Olufsen P2 wireless speakers and my Bang and Olufsen E8 2.0 wireless headphones are always with me. Having the music I like accessible to me adds soul to my travels. Otherwise it’s just busy streets and sterile hotel rooms.

Ultimate dream destination?

Greenland, without my phone.

Unusual equipment you fly with? 

My lightweight cashmere travel blanket, which can double as a scarf, is invaluable to me. I can’t handle airline blankets which have been used by so many people.

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