Pulse Purple Duck
The World’s Most Travelled Man Checks-in at Pulse
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Flying on the Concorde turbojet a record-breaking 718 times put Fred Finn in the Guinness Book of World Records. His charm, willingness to share lessons about life, and what he considers are the most important reasons for his success is what put him in the captain’s seat here at Pulse one afternoon.
Fred Finn is a world-famous traveller: he’s flown across the Atlantic more than 2 000 times, clocked an impressive 100 000 miles with United Airlines alone, and visited more than 150 countries. With such credentials, if you didn’t know him, you might think him an arrogant high-flyer. As he sits and details some of the exploits of this more than six decades of professional success, it becomes quickly apparent that this lively 81-year-old couldn’t be more down-to-earth.
Good Customer Service
“Travel was injected into me,” Finn says one late afternoon in October as he speaks to an eager group at Pulse. “If I don’t get on an airplane, I get withdrawal symptoms,” he says incorrigibly.
Finn’s first foray into travel goes back to his days when he was still a boy in school. Studying by day, he worked the Glenhouse Club at night, where he parked cars for about £100. “That was a lot of money in those days,” he says. “And if I saw a good punter come in, I would run to the door to get his car, which was worth a good tip.” Those early interactions taught the young Brit much about “how to live and make do and how to give good customer service.”
Moving quickly to concierge of the club and even quicker on a flight to the US after some encouragement from local patrons, Finn found himself in New York City one winter. In search of a job, he took on a position with a group that made magnetic signage for advertising on cars. Looking to expand operations, his boss asked Finn if he thought the gig might work in the UK. Finn says he wasn’t sure but was willing to look into it. “I flew to London on a Friday night and walked up one of the high streets near the airport. I got four orders from four shops,” he says and told his boss, “It’ll work.”
His next job landed him back in the US where his love for cars was fanned with a company Oldsmobile Cutlass, $400/week in this bank account, and an empty credit card. His task? Drive to every major city in the country and see if he could sell catering equipment. It took him 17 weeks, but he did it and says this time allowed him to learn a lot about himself. “My job was communication first – just as it is yours,” he says speaking to this small group of marketers. “If you can communicate, as I’ve had to learn in different countries, you’ve got it made.”
After his quick jaunt around the country, Hasbro got wind of Finn and his talents. Headhunting him to take on a new assignment selling educational equipment to developing countries, he was travelling 11 months out of the year, talking to government, private enterprise, and ministries from that moment onward.
“No Special Guy”
Before the Concorde, travel took precious time from busy calendars and money out of the corporate accounts of potential clients. With the arrival of this incredible feat of engineering, Finn could get to wherever he needed to be within almost 24 hours. “On a typical day I could leave New York around 09.00 and land in London around 18.00. By 22.00, I was on another flight to wherever I needed to be: Nairobi, Uganda, Tanzania, Singapore. It saved me and the company with whom I was meeting time and money.” But that’s not all, says the avid frequent flyer: “Concord was fun.”
With a seat on “the finest airplane ever made”, Finn says that even though he’s “no special guy”, commuting on the Concorde, which was a “high-profile aircraft”, got him noticed. That and his enthusiasm to communicate. “I’ve flown with prime minsters, royalty, celebrities.”
As Finn tells it, he and Johnny Cash became good friends, Bruce Springsteen used to regularly ask ‘how many flights has Fred done now’, and a good deal of his collection of lewd jokes has come from Dolly Parton. One of his favourite stories involves John Denver flying on Christmas Day. “Denver asked, ‘shall I play a tune?’ and I said ‘yeah, of course!’” recalls Finn. Asking after his favourite song, Finn told him: “Country Road. With a glint in his eye, Denver says, ‘me too!’ And of course it was – he wrote it! So we had a sing-song all the way to New York,” Finn recalls smiling.
I Love Ukraine
While Covid has kept the 81-year-old grounded over the last couple of years, Finn doesn’t seem too worried. Finding his feet in Ukraine over the last 20 years or so, he’s married to a young lawyer, and says: “I feel at home here.”
Considering he’s got friends in all corners, it’s easy to see why. “I keep a little logbook with me and I was flying Ukraine International one day.” Finn gets out the little worn red book and reads an entry from the captain that day: “The crew are glad you are aboard. We wish you will be healthy and wealthy and hope we will see the world’s most travelled person book with us.”
Finn turns a few pages and finds another entry: “It’s a pleasure to have flown with you and it’s a rare honour to fly with someone with more airborne hours than the entire crew combined,” writes the same captain from UIA 10 years on. “I love that little airline,” says Finn, “and I love Ukraine.”
Respect Doesn’t Cost Anything
With the closure of Concorde, his entry as the world’s most travelled person, in good part thanks to his record 718 journeys on the supersonic airliner, is secure. What’s really spectacular about Fred Finn, however, is not how many miles he’s clocked or how many times he’s broken the sound barrier. It’s his customer service attitude, which shines even as he sits telling stories about his life, the various jobs he’s held, and the various plunders he’s made in marriage (which he jokes about readily).
“I talk to everybody. I think communication is the answer to most things in this world. Respect doesn’t cost anything. It’s good to smile, it’s good to say please, and it’s good to say thank you.”
That’s pretty good advice coming from someone who has been around the world more than a few times over, and something we here at Pulse cultivate every single day.
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