Travelfish #420: Now Everyone Can Fly—but probably shouldn’t

Some thoughts on getting on a plane as much as you used to

Hi everyone!

This week I’ve some thoughts on flying and well, should you as much as you used to?

Before anything else, I just want to give a plug to David Luekens’ newsletter, Thai Island Times. If you’re familiar with Travelfish and Thailand, you’ve most likely travelled off the back of his work. His newsletter is free, excellent, and a must have for anyone with an interest in Thailand’s islands and beaches. Sign up here.

Flying the flag at a disputed temple. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Also on newsletters, my go to Southeast Asia newswrap, Dari Mulut Ke Mulut by Erin Cook has a deal at the moment. She’s donating half her newsletter income for March to the Myanmar Students Association Australia. So, if you were on the fence about subscribing, now is a good time to do so.

Lastly, my newest favourite subscription is Secret Siam by Andrew Marshall. If you’ve a fascination with the Thai Royal Family, look no further.

Regarding the deteriorating situation in Burma, this Twitter list I put together can be quite useful to keep abreast of news.

On Free Couchfish last week I covered the ins and outs of should you take a coffee with a war criminal? I didn’t, but others have... On a lighter matter, my latest travels with the kids piece took us dugong spotting on Ko Libong.

On pay–to–read Couchfish I covered elephants in Surin, a long run to Anlong Veng, and then the bumpy trip across the top to Banteay Chhmar.

Thailand’s Ko Libong does sunsets quite well. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Don’t forget, paid Couchfish subscribers are up to Day 207 on the itinerary through the region—you can see the blow by blow here. Subscriptions start at US$7 per month.

As always, the photos are from last week on Couchfish—plus a coupla flying shots which seem on topic. And that’s a wrap!

Safe travels


Now Everyone Can Fly—but probably shouldn’t

I read an interesting story today—it is out of New Zealand, so a little out of our turf—but it has global implications. Quoting the Chief Environmental Advisor for Air New Zealand, Sir Jonathon Porritt, the story writes:

“Thoughtless, heedless” tourism has driven the irresponsible use of air travel, [Porritt] says, leading many to believe it’s a right rather than a privilege.”

He goes on to say that he is in favour of putting some people off from coming to New Zealand, saying:

“I just don’t believe in the idea that the number of international visitors to New Zealand can grow and grow and grow without limits. I just don’t believe that is credible and I don’t believe it’s right. So, if a higher price for the privilege of flying to New Zealand puts some people off, good.”

At this stage he doesn’t endorse a distance–based passenger tax. His comments were following on from from another, who suggested adding as much as NZ$155 to an economy fare from the UK to NZ. The revenue would be poured into climate–based initiatives.

Tallying the cost. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

The whole story is fascinating and well worth a read—while New Zealand centric, the logic is applicable worldwide. Go read it now—I’ll wait.

AirAsia used to fly from Bali to Phuket—I flew the route a few times and, from memory the ticket was around US$50. I once flew from Bangkok to Hanoi with AirAsia for US$40. More recently I flew from Kuala Terengganu to Kuala Lumper with them for a fare that was cheaper than the bus. When AirAsia says “Now Anyone Can Fly,” they mean it.

But should they?

Whenever I argue the costs of air travel should better represent the true costs—including the pollution—people push back. They say I’m advocating for a system where “only the rich can fly”. But isn’t that already the case?

Better on the gas than a 777. Photo: Don Morgan.

It is true LCCs like AirAsia have brought flying to millions of people who could never have afforded it with a full service carrier. That said, there are millions more who, even at AirAsia rates cannot afford to fly.

“Rich” is a relative term.

Pre Covid I was a frequent flyer. I was away a couple of weeks a month, a short flight here, a short flight there. Above average I’m sure, but plenty flew even more than me. My mate Theodora points out in her piece on cutting back on flights, writes:

“One return flight, even a short-haul flight, generates more carbon dioxide than the average citizen of some countries produces in a year. And, in England at least, 1% of fliers take almost 20% of international flights, while the top 10% of fliers take more than half of all flights.”

It might seem like I’m swimming against the current—it wouldn’t be the first time! Is now the right time to be arguing flights should become more expensive to deter some travel? Surely we should wait, till travel is happening again and then reassess?

I miss it toooo. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

Another quote from the Newsroom piece:

“Upton thinks they’re missing a trick. A change has to happen now, during the pause in international tourism, he says, as a climate tax will be less visible among higher ticket prices issued by weakened airlines re-starting with fewer planes and fewer routes than before.”

Then, quoting another piece from the same outlet, it writes:

“To absolutely thrive, the tourism sector needs to radically rethink its role in our natural environment, society and economy ... making carbon-neutral tourism a defining goal of our ambitious new strategy”.

I’ve written a bunch over the last few months about a slight silver lining to the entire Covid–disaster. Now is the moment to rethink travel and imagine how it can be improved. Flights are no different.

Flying the friendly skies. Photo: Stuart McDonald.

To my mind travel is a privilege—not a right. You’re being welcomed into another’s house and that is, without doubt, a privilege.

Good travels


Eleven things worth reading

The year Bali tourism stopped

“With the influx of tourists came a boom in new jobs. Locals were soon clamouring for their piece of the economic expansion.” A piece well worth a read.

The best masks for flying

Not all masks are born equal.

This man can read and write 30 ancient Indonesian scripts

“Upon completing his studies, he moved to Yogyakarta in central Java to work as a tour guide and English tutor in the city often dubbed as the cultural capital of Indonesia.” Next time I’m in Yogya I know who I’m calling!

How to include casual travellers in tourism’s recovery process

“Even with soaring visitation numbers, tourism’s reputation was tarnished when 2020 started. Flight shaming had gone mainstream, and overcrowding was pitting travellers against local residents in many destinations. ”

Cambodia’s dwindling fish stocks put spotlight on changing rivers

“But in recent years, the flows to Southeast Asia’s largest lake have at times been delayed, a factor blamed on drought and hydropower dams upstream on the Mekong.”

Going back to the sea to survive $

“Mr. Hung, 51, had been a deep-sea fisherman for many years on bigger boats. But he gave that up in 2019 to help his daughter run the beachside restaurant they opened in 2017 in Hoi An, a historic former port, to ride the city’s surge in international tourism driven by Western adventurers and Asian package tours.”

Shorter quarantine likely for vaccinated arrivals

“The spokeswoman did not say by how much quarantine may be shortened.” Other reports suggested it would be reduced to seven days.

To stay or go? Even with vaccines, travel planning remains complicated $

Vaccines are just one piece of the puzzle. Shifting hot spots, regularly changing state and country restrictions and testing requirements remain a concern for many would-be travelers.”


“That was enough for Mahoney. In the fall of 2012, he called Jean Holley, Robertson’s eldest sister, at her home near Tuscaloosa. “I think we’ve found your brother,” he told her.”

The vaccine arrives

Other questions remain, such as how much this is costing the government, and exactly how distribution will work”

Meet the young artists shaping Saigon’s creative underground

“Now, more than ever, the Vietnamese are celebrating their communist state, proud to call the country home as the government’s restrictive policies to combat the pandemic pay off.”

Thank you

Thanks again for supporting Travelfish through reading and sharing both this newsletter and the site.

Good travels