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Friday, December 7, 2007

A Celebration of Air Travel and the Democratization of Travel

I actually enjoy air travel, especially long haul. I'm not a fan of take off and landing, but when I'm up there I still love looking out the window at the incredible cloud formations. Especially at sunset or sunrise. I like to savor that first glass of wine and salty crackers, to discuss the menu with my husband and decide what to eat, and when I'm flying Emirates, I enjoy flicking through their impressive entertainment program and deciding on the films, tv programs and radio shows we're going to kick back to. Which is why I relate to travel writer Pico Iyer who celebrates air travel in 'The Golden Age of Travel' over on Jetlagged: Navigating the Unfriendly Skies, the New York Times' new travel blog. Iyer argues that air travel has never been as comfortable, easy or as affordable as it is now. My husband and I get on and off planes like most commuters do buses and trains - you don't want to know how many flights we took last year - so, aside from the increasingly bad airline food we've experienced of late, I have to agree with Iyer. Criticizing those who complain about airport security and lost luggage, Iyer wonders whether it isn't "the democracy of travel that many of us are objecting to these days when we speak of more crowded planes and long lines at the airport". And I think he has a point. I like the fact that in the UAE, for instance, most of the passengers using the excellent low-cost airline Air Arabia are labourers, construction workers and truck drivers travelling between Dubai and their homes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, and so on. Their check-in luggage includes, alongside gifts for their families (boxes of dates, toys for the kids), rolled-up foam mattresses, blankets, and enormous containers of clean water - the necessities most of us take for granted. The cheap flights mean that rather than flying home once every year or two, these guys can now fly home more frequently. And take back with them goods their families might otherwise miss out on. We rarely see any white well-off travellers on these Air Arabia's flights, and that's a shame. Or is it?

1 comment:

Erica said...

I always make sure I get a window seat, because looking out the window is definitely the best thing when flying.