You know, getting around the world, from A to B and wherever, it’s one of the main reasons I travel. I really enjoy the journey probably just as much as all the other aspects of travel. Readers will know that my absolute favourite mode of transportation is rail. I adore the clickety clack of the tracks as they pass under the steel wheels of a locomotive and its carriages. But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other ways of getting around, because the world has so many weird and wonderful modes of transport and I feel like a trip isn’t quite complete unless you can sample each and every one from the back of a motorbike – in some cities in Asia and Africa they pretty much replace the taxi – to today’s mode – the aeroplane.
Any sort of international trip from Australia is almost 100% going to need you to take to the skies because they are yet to build a bridge to Papua New Guinea and boats out of Australia are rare and not commonly taken – and not often taking passengers. There are boats from Darwin north, and people do take them from time to time, but it’s not easy to get on board.
So what are my favourite and least favourite things about flying? Well, let’s start in positive territory and talk about what I love about flying. Let’s start with comfort, and by comfort I mean the pleasure of flying Business Class.
I have flown proper Business Class twice in my life, and once I took the old SCOOT Business Class option which isn’t quite Business Class but more of a Premium Economy – to my best knowledge I didn’t get access to any lounges for example.
The main time I flew Business Class was with Emirates back in 2006 when there was a bungle with my ticket to Accra, West Africa, I got charged twice and when the processed the refund because of the exchange rate I didn’t get back the full amount, so they graciously upgraded me. I have seen a lot of videos on YouTube of people travelling Business Class today, and it looks incredible with the flat beds and all. In 2006 the Business Class on Emirates was not quite as luxurious, just large seats really. But this actually made a big difference because I found sleeping so much easier than any and every economy flight I have ever taken.
Plus the service is far more responsive, and you get treated like you’re some sort of VIP. Seriously. It’s bloody amazing and even though it’s been such a rare occurrence for me to fly Business Class, it’s something I aspire too and this pandemic and lack of flying means I have super-charged my rewards points so hopefully on the next big one… Also, the lounges are great (but variable) and you can grab a free feed and drinks before, after or between flights.
But to the actual experience of flying – I HAVE to have the window seat. I hate it when I don’t I just love looking out the window down below and seeing the world from a high vantage point. I love landing, the experience of watching the pilot pop the plane right and right angle to touch down on the runway, the feeling of getting off the plane in a brand new country. Crossing by land you see gradual changes, but when you fly you can end up in a place so very different from the one you left 10 hours or less ago.
Also, I actually rather like take off these days, and find it more exciting than I used to because I used to dread the first 10-15 minutes of any flight. I would feel my body telling me that a mega-tonne aircraft can’t possibly get airborne.
On the flip side though, well, there are elements to the aviation experience which are as pain staking and as frustrating as any way of getting around. Checking in at airports, security, lines, waiting and waiting, delays. Sitting on the tarmac waiting to leave the gate, but because of other factors you just sit there for two hours (happened a couple of times) going nowhere. And the worst? Waiting for them to open the doors to get off the thing.
Everyone gets up the second the plane stops and ignores all the requests by staff on the plane. They open the overhead lockers, switch on their mobile phones and stand in the aisles like they are waiting to begin a bloody race! And then it takes 10 minutes for them to open the doors anyway. Generally, depending on a few factors, some passengers have no regard for the instructions and protocol which drives me bananas. I remember leaving Georgia in 2011 and three quarters of the plane refused to turn off their mobile phones which they were all using. How about when they call up people by rows to avoid the logjam behind passengers putting luggage away? Yet the staff often let people on as they arrive rather than waiting for the rows so they can board from the back to front which helps load passengers faster and more efficiently.
The economy seats can be squashy, especially for the legs. That’s usually with budget airlines but more and more full fare airlines are cramming people in as much as possible. If you get a dud entertainment system, well, there’s little they can do. The ability to choose a seat, albeit you usually pay a price for better ones, though has helped these issues – if you can afford it!
And then immigration. Some places are blissfully easy, which usually comes as a surprise, and others take for ever to process everyone. Still, that feeling after passing immigration, getting your bag and being ‘out’ is a great feeling! And you’d lose that if it was simple and easy!
Finally, I struggle to deal with turbulence. It unnerves me a lot. It is a normal part of flying, and understanding that has helped me a lot, but still if it goes on too long for my liking, it really affects me. I remember flying domestically in Ethiopia with the small plane basically bouncing up and down in the sky, being the only one with a panicked face, and others looking at me like ‘what are you worried about’, and then being told by my friends this was pretty standard. Hopefully one day I can totally convince myself turbulence is nothing but a minor inconvenience.
At the end of the day though, air travel is fast! A little pricey at times, you get what you pay for, but it is the single reason why we are able to travel so freely and to so many places in the age in which we live in. Oh wait – I forgot the BIG negative.
Yes, air travel is horrible for the environment. You can carbon offset though these days which is something and they are working hard on improving the emissions from planes to lessen the impact on the environment. I will say although I do care for the environment…. To some extent, I am NOT an environmentalist. However I do hope that within a decade they can really make serious progress on improving emissions from aircraft.
Anyways. I thought this was something, in regards to this post, I couldn’t ignore. All in all I do like air travel, there are more aspects that are negative than positive overall, but the positives I feel still outweigh the negatives. I need to commit to paying into carbon offsets to negate the damage. Thanks for reading – comments are always welcome (please be nice!) Thanks and May the Journey Never End!