As many of you know, I spend a good deal of my time travelling the world filming airport commercial excellence (ACE).
There have been many enjoyable experiences and lots of surprises – perhaps none more than my most recent trip to Belo Horizonte. From Istanbul it took 29 hours to get there via Frankfurt and São Paolo. Checking in at Istanbul, I was reassured that my baggage could be checked all the way through.
That didn’t happen, of course. It was removed at São Paolo and turned up – after a lot of help from the guys at BH – some six hours later.
Filming went well the following day and you will be able to see the ACE films we produced later this year. BH is a remarkable airport serving some 11m+ passengers a year, the majority domestic. The landside retail operation is exceptional, redefining what ‘sense of place’ at an airport can be.
The same night I was downtown for dinner with Rene Baumann and his colleagues (A, C & D). After dinner I shared an Uber taxi with two of the team to return to our respective hotels and homes. We had to take a detour to drop C off so she could collect her car which had been left in what turned out to be a very insalubrious area – darkly lit, semi-industrial and with hookers on almost every corner.
‘I thought you said this was a safe area?’ D said. C answered: ‘I was told it was.’ D quipped: ‘Maybe in the daytime.’
As we approached C’s car, from nowhere, two motorbikes appeared and parked in front and behind us. Suddenly a gun was pointed at our heads.
‘Oh s**t,’ someone said – ah, it was me, sitting in the back.
The guy holding the gun shouted something in Portuguese and C translated: ‘He says ‘Get out of the car with your hands on your head’.’ D, who has a pale complexion anyway, turned an even whiter shade. C was visibly shaking, and I was in a controlled panic.
We were all thinking that we were going to be robbed and then maybe shot. After a short while which felt like an eternity, we were told to walk away from the car. C, D & me
followed as instructed but the Uber driver ran off, well as best he could, with his hands clasped behind his head.
What followed was curious. Instead of us being robbed, one of the gang simply drove off with our car, leaving us stranded. Fortunately C’s car was still there. We shouted to the Uber driver to come back and we all jumped in.
We went to the nearest police station where we left the Uber driver. Two police vans were just exiting and we told them what had happened. Apparently ours was the third incident in the area that night.
Happily we were all safe, if shaken and stirred and I got to my hotel around midnight. We were all back in harness filming on Day 2 at 0800. I left on Day 4, facing another 29 hours of travel – an ordeal I was almost grateful for after the one I had just endured!