So I've arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (aka KLIA) and I love this place. I love the Starbucks coffee but more so that this is a hub to so many places in Malaysia and Thailand.  That said we normally have a Double Whopper with cheese irrespective of the time of day. The intricacies and logistics of working in an airport are like nothing else. 

Back to the UK where I gain a greater insight behind the scenes.

London City Airport (LCY)
I take over the hospitality contract and it is an eye opener and not that dissimilar to Alcatraz, once you are in it is difficult to get out. No one wants to employ you because you work in an airport, nobody can see what you have to offer (because you are airside) and you get no recognition. The logistics are insane. We have a CPU (Central Production Unit) located 100 meters away from the airside entrance which is expected to deliver food to the terminal from 5.00 until 22.00. To increase the logistical complexity food can only be delivered between certain hours (outside the peak for travelling customers). The slots are 5am - 7am and 2pm - 4pm. Run out of milk and you are struggling. That said we know that today there will be no fewer than 13,000 pax (passengers to you and I) and if you were at Heathrow Terminal 5 you can expect this to be more like 50,000 daily.

Anyway, it's my first day and I arrive at the airport in a cab. There are two reasons for this: one, I am not used to starting work at 6.30 and two I had a few drinks last night as a final send off. These combined however do not bode well for the focus required when starting a new job especially with the extreme complexities of which were about to become part of my everyday life.

As I get out of the taxi I see what I can only describe as an entourage of 15 Dryopithecus (the first ancestors of man and ape that started evolution) leaving the CPU each with chilled units containing part prepared food. As they came closer to me and the terminal I could see that their backs had straightened and the confidence had grown, much more like the Homo Sapien (or human) which we know today. 

As they reach the security entrance every case of food cooked within a whisper of been being ready to eat is taken individually from the units, meticulously placed through the scanner and repackaged at the other side (airside) then rushed off to the individual units.

I am met by the mobilisation manager and whisked off to the ID centre to get my ID pass. This is an ugly piece of plastic (nonetheless because it has my photo on it) hung around my neck on a ball beads chain. This contraption is like gold dust - you can't go anywhere without this and your passport, they are the key to getting airside and without them you ain't going anywhere. To make matters worse for the first 3 months or until you CRC (criminal record check) and 3 years of referencing come through you need to be escorted everywhere. Go to the toilet ‘where's my escort?', go for lunch ‘where's my escort'. Whilst I understand the security requirement this level of stalking makes me paranoid.
So, we are escorted airside and immediately bump into the client. She is a short, East End girl, who lives and breathes the airport (or at least this airport), her face is stern but with a rye smile, and because she is not educated spends most of her day clearing tables and pulling in favours to make her job easier. In this instance she tells me she is the shepherd and I am the sheep. When I move through my career in airports covering Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Milan I realise clients are all the same. They are large in size (to show authority), they are always right and you are always wrong, a response doesn't need a reason and they are of the same bullying breed. Most pertinently they love airports, they are injected in their veins. My advise, avoid them at your peril or just say ‘yes definitely' and you'll be fine.

It's now 7.30 and security is rockin', the sound of those bloody grey trays hitting the conveyor belt will stay with me forever. 80% of the passengers are on business, it takes them 20 mins on the DLR from the city and they arrive 40 mins before their flight takes off. They are in a rush and dive into the closest coffee shop or restaurant and want serving, quickly! Food must come in 10 minutes and it must be the highest quality served by the prettiest blond Lithuanian, fast. I now realise why the food comes from the CPU part- cooked as it is simply finished in the satellite kitchens and served. On this particular shift this means 800 poached eggs (before 9.00), then in the evening over 1,000 burgers. It's a monster of a machine which requires precise planning and careful but fast execution. Tricky but it works.

I spend over 3 years at LCY before being headhunted to work at rhubarb Food Design overseeing their Travel division. Whilst the locations are different the daily challenges are the same. I can't see a way out.

Then finally the day comes. Our CEO, a tall, stern Dutch character, not that dissimilar to Herman Munster in physique and looks, with a personality like Ivan the Terrible, summons me to a meeting with HR. We go to a basement room and the lights aren't working and we have a conversation which starts with ‘we are parting company', no reason or explanation but in effect I'm been let go to reduce costs - seemingly this is a part of the lifecycle when working for a private equity backed firm, when it's good you reap the benefits, when it's bad it's ruthless. I return later that day to receive my severance package and there is a feeling of relief. Finally…..I've escaped!

I get home and book my flights for 2 weeks in Malaysia.