An interview with Derek Lai, Vice Chair of Deloitte China | Finnair Hong Kong
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An interview with Derek Lai, Vice Chair of Deloitte China

Finnair Region Head Stan Kwong sat down with Derek Lai, the Global Belt & Road leader and the Vice Chair of Deloitte China to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on business travel. Derek, as a loyal customer of Finnair, also shared his personal experience with Finnair services.

With more than 30 years of experience in accountancy and corporate restructuring, Derek Lai is currently the Global Belt & Road leader and the Vice Chair of Deloitte China. He is also the leader of Deloitte China's Value Creation and Crisis group. Derek is a loyal customer of Finnair, who has witnessed the growth of the company for many years. We had a chat with him about business travel.

Stan (Finnair): How many long-haul flights do you take with Finnair on a yearly basis? Can you share three of your favourite European cities with us?

Derek (Deloitte): I take more than ten Finnair flights a year, mostly to Europe first, and then I might head to the United States. As for my favourite cities, I like Helsinki a lot. I like to spend an extra two days there on weekends and stroll around the city centre when I get a chance. I especially appreciate that the Finnish people are very polite and helpful. Second only to Barcelona in Spain and Rome in Italy.

Stan: What’s your view on the impact of COVID-19 on business travel? Will there be any changes to your company’s business travel policy in the future?

Derek: The mandatory 14-day quarantine period for persons returning to Hong Kong or their home jurisdiction has a great impact on business travel. Now all my colleagues in our firm must self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to the office after a business trip. We allow flexible work from home arrangements. Everyone became used to video conferencing during the epidemic, so I believe that might reduce the demand for short-haul business travel. However, the nature of my work also requires face-to-face meetings, which helps to build trust. Hence, I believe the demand for business travel will continue.

Stan: As a frequent flyer, will you make any special preparations for hygiene and epidemic prevention during your next business trip?

Derek: Washing your hands frequently is very important. Wear a mask during the flight except when you’re eating and drinking. Before eating, use a sterile wet tissue to clean the tableware and the tray table. Also, try to avoid taking off your shoes. Last but not least, choose an airline with a modern fleet of aircraft.

Stan: As you know, the Finnair flights from Hong Kong transit through Helsinki, and you can fly to more than 110 destinations in Europe and North America. What attracts you to transit via Helsinki Airport?

Derek: The refurbished airport feels brand new and is very clean. There are many shops at Helsinki Airport where I can buy Nordic souvenirs. The airport staff are very helpful and the food in the Finnair lounge is always delicious. The efficient ground-handling team shortens the time between landing on the runway and reaching the transfer area in the winter, reducing the time for passengers' exposure to the cold air. The wheelchair rental service is a great benefit and truly demonstrates a commitment to caring for passengers. It can be operated by oneself, without the need to seek designated airport staff to accompany the user, which offers more privacy.

Stan: What do you think about Finnair’s service?

Derek: I personally think that the quality of Finnair's service is very high, and this includes the Hong Kong sales team, airport ground handling team and flight attendants. It makes me feel like I am home every time I fly. I also like the fact that Finnair is a member of oneworld so I can access the benefits of other member airlines. In terms of areas of possible improvement, I suggest Finnair consider adding more content to the In-Flight Entertainment system. They could also sell more corporate gifts onboard. I’d like to see Finnair strengthen their network to Africa, South America and other key cities outside of Europe.

Stan's testimonial after Derek’s interview: during this one-hour interview with Derek, I can truly sense his serious attitude towards both his job or as well as travel, and he is always well-prepared. It turns out that he had quite an extensive knowledge about my industry, so I would have been tested by him if I hadn’t done my homework before this interview.

Sincere and special thanks go to Deloitte China Vice Chairman Mr Derek Lai, Finnair Region Head Mr Stan Kwong (host) and Finnair Senior Manager Ms Joey Tse (editor).

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