If you were expecting this article to be a pro-driving versus flying article? You were extremely wrong. Today is just me complaining about how godawful the state of travel in general in the 21st century is. Because it is bloody crap, and it's getting worse by the day.
I'm currently sitting in the domestic terminal at Sydney airport. I'm at the weird point in the waiting process whereby I don't have enough time to get comfortable in my typical lounge but I also cannot get on the plane yet. I'm sitting casually on one of those annoying benches on a sky bridge trying to get work done. It's not non-subtle either, I have a laptop sitting in front of my face and a coffee in the seat next to me. It's blatantly obvious that I'm trying to work.
So when a slightly heavy woman walks up to me with Air Pods in her ears and decides to loudly proclaim "EXCUSE ME" to sit down next to me on my 6 seat totally empty bench and instead of the other three empty benches further down the hallway. I get angry. In fact? I wasn't having any of it. "What? Am I on fire?" I shouted loudly back at the woman. Getting a shocked look in reply, the woman quickly found a seat at the other end of the entire terminal.
I want to get to the bottom of the terrible etiquette practices people have started believing it's okay to promote whilst partaking in air travel. Things like shoving a seat back into my jaw on a one hour domestic flight in an overly crammed Boeing 737. Or presuming it is okay to leave your mess everywhere at a cafe in terminal. Or putting half eaten food back in a business lounge or breaking something important for comfort and telling no-one about it.
Allow me to digress with purpose. I think I know why everything is just so awful in travel at the moment. IPSOS did a study last year and called it the World Luxury Tracking Study. In fact, they do this study every year. IPSOS claim the results of the study show that Australia in comparison to the US, UK and Asia place travel as one of the aspirational and important luxury purchases that most wealthy, elite or aspirational upper classers partake in. When you depress that annual household income below $130,000AUD per annum travel becomes above all else the most important luxury purchase that most of those participants will ever purchase in their lives.
Realising this trend was occurring, airlines back in the mid-2000s created the budget airline. An airline for short term, domestic or short international travel which strips away most of the luxury classically associated with air travel. However one thing they did not manage to strip away was the perception of luxury, and that shows in IPSOS' study.
So this means you have a mass market of travelers which is increasing year on year who are all spending well under $200AUD on flights and per flight but are expecting to be treated like kings and queens. Well guess what people, you aren't. In fact, for anyone who hates air travel and just wishes teleportation would be invented already? You are the most annoying person on earth. For anyone who is required to use air travel for work? You amount to evil.
And don't sit there and preach to me that you use air travel for work as well. Getting on a plane in your skinny jeans and Haviannas is not work. That's one of those moment's that you've justified a trip away with some poor excuse of an annual conference where you'll learn nothing. I'm talking about the guy that needs to wear a suit and jacket every day but still deal with the screaming child and your poor attitude when he politely asks the air hostess to switch seats for the sake of the extra 50 minutes of sleep he might get after the 3 days of continual travel that's been forced upon him.
Even business class doesn't hold the same prestige it used to have. If you fly frequently you'll know that politeness is normally the best way to have a hassle free travel experience. I'm a serial offender of forgetting my frequent flyer or club memberships when travelling. But normally a smile and a nice ask at reception in QANTAS club will have me whisked through and a glass of red in absolutely no time.
Much to my surprise when turning up to the business lounge on Tuesday I was greeted by an older woman and her partner screaming at the poor QANTAS business lounge receptionist because they had forgotten their own membership card. Let's slide aside how much you actually pay for a club membership per year for a minute and try to understand just how you might think it's appropriate to stand there and yell at someone for your mistake.
Or when boarding the plane how it's the airline's fault that you didn't weigh your own luggage, took the gamble and decided to see if you can cram everything into hand luggage to avoid a check-in surcharge. Don't get all teary when the lovely flight attendant tells you you need to board the next flight and check luggage instead.
"Why can't you just throw it in the luggage compartment?" The woman pleads looking at the attendant in dismay. I'm sorry love, but there was this major event on September 11th 2001 which changed international and domestic air travel arrangements permanently. Hence why larger bags get screened when checking them in and why a civilian cannot just walk out on the tarmac and to the rear of a plane to "chuck a bag in."
I started by saying I wouldn't claim that driving was better than flying. Because when it comes down to it I'd still rather 50 minutes of hell than 10 hours of exhaustion. The truth is though I don't know whether I can actually justify that statement with confidence. In my case the added benefits of my Range Rover Velar (bar the fact that it's so ridiculously comfortable and McDonalds invented this thing called drive-thru) far outweigh even first class on most airlines.
So my question to all of you is in an age of social media and a fake world versus the disgusting reality of society. Is the idea of luxury travel today just a perception? Has accessibility to travel matched with the perception that it still is very much a luxury product ruined the idea of paying a premium so that you don't need to wait in line, listen to a screaming child or eat your frankly disgusting moon meal which was microwaved in the planes crew section?
I've got one situation where it doesn't, but it's going to cost most people multiple kidneys. There has been a couple of times where I've had the pleasure of travelling privately on friends' Gulfstream jets. And I think that those who run private jet charters have nailed luxury on the head. You leave when you want to, you don't need to wait in a line to have your bags screened, the menu is whatever you want it to be and best of all you don't need to deal with another soul. It's just you and the people you want to be with you.
Private air travel though has been around for years, to me it's only become much more attractive in the previous five years and I think once again it comes down to the people factor. I never cared much for private air travel and was happy with business or first class on a plane but once airlines got invaded by the aspirational Instagram traveler all I ever felt like I needed on a plane was space. The best part about private jets as well is they actually significantly reduce travel time. Internationally it can be by hours.
So the essential solution to my problem is I need to get even richer so I can bugger off commercial air travel altogether and with it all of my airport based problems. Either that or I just start driving more. Maybe sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in my heated and cooled, plush leather, heated steering wheel, full digital dash, lumber supported, panoramic sliding sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane assisted Range Rover Velar isn't that bad after all. Maybe the future of air travel isn't air travel at all?