MADE BY MEMBERS • August 2021
London literary royalty, Pom Harrington took over his father’s famous bookshop to become the head of the largest rare and antiquarian book dealership in all of Europe. Turns out, he’s as well travelled as he is well read. This month, we talk to the Gold Member about climbing the ranks, the most expensive book he’s ever sold and how to avoid jet lag
When did you first become Gold?
I’m not too sure, but it was eight or nine years ago.
Favourite thing about being a Gold Member?
The unexpected upgrades! Flying to LA a couple of years ago I was bumped out of a Club World seat to First at the departure gate. Once on the plane I went to see who had my seat and it was Gary Lineker. Made me smile.
Favourite thing about flying with British Airways?
Consistency of good service. In normal times, I fly long-haul Club World at least once a month – normally to the US or South Africa – and the familiarity of good, friendly service makes the journey a pleasure, not a chore. I always bump into people I know in the First Lounge, and I am partial to the espresso martinis. Access to the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney is also a treat.
What’s your number one tip for other Executive Club Members looking to hit Gold?
I find the best value Tier Point routes are the US domestic business/first class routes that the oneworld® partnership gives you access to (and Avios for). Here, you can tot up a lot of Tier Points for the least amount of money. For example, fly into New York with British Airways for a few days, then use partner airline American Airlines to tag on flights to LA or Seattle.
What is your favourite route for keeping your Tier Points topped up?
I travel to South Africa a lot. Not the cheapest route, but strong for Tier Points! An advance ticket to Australia can also provide a sensibly priced ticket and you get plenty of Tier Points in the bag.
What is your most flown route?
London to New York. I love going to NYC and have many bookselling friends and customers there. We exhibit at book fairs in New York twice a year and on the way back to London there is normally a group that gathers at the Concorde Room at JFK for dinner and drinks before the red-eye home.
Qantas First Lounge, Sydney
What is your favourite aircraft?
I am going to miss the Boeing 747. I loved the bubble! The A380 is just not the same. I find it too big.
Aisle or window seat?
Window – that way you can watch the world! Whether it is the sunrise over the outback of Australia, glaciers over Iceland or the northern lights coming back from Seattle to London.
Where is your favourite leisure travel destination and why?
South Africa. I can be in London working all day, then head to the airport and catch the 21:45 flight straight to Cape Town. One dinner and a movie, a glass of wine and still enough time for a decent sleep before coming home in the morning. The best part? No jet lag! The views coming into Cape Town (pictured below) are spectacular
Top packing tip?
Ask someone else to do it? I’m a bad packer! But my best tip would be to get a decent lightweight suitcase on wheels. If I can get away with it, I will use just a travel-on and my rucksack.
Table Mountain, Cape Town
Where is your favourite business travel destination and why?
Hong Kong. I love the pace of the place. It’s very intense… I work during the day, go for dinners with colleagues or clients, then top it off with great, late nights! It’s three days there, then a late flight and sleep all the way home. No time for jet lag.
What is your best advice for sleeping on planes?
I have tried lots of things over the years, including taking my own pillow. These days I use a melatonin supplement, allowing for a gentle sleep.
What are the three packing essentials you take on every flight?
My iPad, Bose headphones and comfy clothes. My guilty secret is watching TV box sets on long-haul flights. Flying to Vancouver, I once watched a whole season of Game of Thrones in one go.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the Covid-19 crisis?
Take nothing for granted. And patience when travelling. I managed to get to South Africa last November for my first real trip and I have to say it was slightly strange at first, but you do very naturally get back into the routine of things. Everyone on board seemed so happy to be travelling again.
Where are you hoping to fly to once restrictions have eased?
All the regular international book fairs we usually attend have so far been cancelled, but I’m hoping we may be able to get back to the USA this autumn.
How do you get the most out of your Avios?
I use Avios on the more expensive routes such as London to Cape Town or London to LA, usually only for Club World or First if possible. However, the best value I got for spending my Avios was using the double Avios for the family to go Euro Traveller to Zurich one Easter. Prices had hit £4,000 for the four of us. Double Avios was under 100,000 and a few pounds in tax.
Isaac Newton’s Principia
Which is your favourite London neighbourhood and why?
I work in Chelsea, which is hard to beat! It’s surprisingly relaxed for such an upmarket area of London. There are some great local restaurants such as Ricardo’s and Il Trillo, and I like popping in for a drink at the Anglesea Arms around the corner from our shop on Fulham Road.
Which is the most precious book in your collection?
I collect Roald Dahl. My favourite is a copy of his first book, The Gremlins, which is inscribed by Dahl to his Mama.
What is the best thing about your job?
You never know what you are going to find next. It could be a first edition of Isaac Newton’s Principia, or a Frankenstein inscribed by Mary Shelley to Lord Byron. Anything can be anywhere. For instance, I was in LA once to see a friend, and he turned up with a set of four books from George Washington’s library for sale – all signed by Washington himself. It ended up being the most expensive book I’ve ever sold. There was also the time I bought a first edition by Galileo inscribed by him. This ended up in the Library of Congress.
What’s the one thing you would tell your younger self?
Pay more attention to languages. It would have been useful now.
Pom Harrington is the owner of Peter Harrington Rare Books (the largest antiquarian rare book dealership in Europe) in Mayfair, and its accompanying book bindery, The Chelsea Bindery. He has flown to 43 cities across 23 countries with British Airways