October 28, 2007

Boston Business

Evil is created when good people say, "it's good business".

- Boston Legal

October 23, 2007


Flying with Jetstar on an international flight is a bit like meat-loaf - you know it won’t be as good as a decent stake or lamb chops, but you end up disappointed by the experience none the less.

I'm convinced that most of the "low-cost" differences that characterise low-cost airlines are purely for show. They want you to think you're saving money by pointing out constantly that nothing is included in the fare - even a bottle of water will cost you a few dollars, your boarding pass is printed onto a receipt slip and your luggage can’t be checked through to the final destination without having to be re-checked at the next airport.

I recently flew Jetstar on a new international route and it was all just weird. For a start the plane was empty, so you had a mix of absolute poverty in the way of inclusions but total luxury from having four seats yourself. That's Jetstar for you - nice new planes and nice smiley staff, but I was still afraid to use the toilet during the flight in case I had to pay for that too.

What bugs me the most is that all this cheapness isn't actually necessary, it's just part of the theme. Remember those tacky restaurants where the music cranks up every 30 minutes and the waitresses have to line-dance? It didn't get your order back from the kitchen any quicker did it?

That's what you're getting on Jetstar – pretty girls, hokey music and a distraction from what could otherwise be good service.

Even the checkin procedures are a song and dance. You enter the departures at Melbourne Airport and to the left is Qantas who are forcing you to checkin with a touch-screen, and to the right is Jetstar who cattle prod everyone into the same queue for manual processing. It’s worth a reminder that Jetstar is owned by Qantas, so what’s wrong with this picture?

In a touch of irony the previous week I had tried to manually checkin to a Qantas flight and was told I couldn’t. Only business class or Qantas Club members were given a queue for checkin, all others had to punch a computer first and then queue to drop off their luggage. Again, impressions count and Qantas want us to believe that we’re getting a more modern experience and that’s worth paying extra for – despite the fact that we’re doing their work for them by checking in ourselves and then have to stand in a queue anyway.

Well I’m sick of meat-loaf, maybe it’s time to try something Asian instead?

October 13, 2007

Society of Spirit

The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) is a unique group of people who are incredibly talented, very intelligent and almost without exception full of generosity.

Two years ago it was suggested to me that I join the ASTW, and I was encouraged to come along to a few functions as a guest of some more established members. At the time I didn't realise what a lift-up I was getting for my career, or my personal confidence.

ASTW is full of writers, photographers and public relations people, but it's not just about mingling and networking. Anyone who picks travel journalism as a career is kissing away the opportunity to earn lots of money in favour of living a lifestyle that is less rigid and more expansive. These are real people making real connections, it's not about money.

These are also people who want to broaden their minds, most certainly where the journos are concerned. Most of the public relations members fit a similar mould, it's just that they have found a balance between travel and paying off debt. Most of them still get it, they still understand what a travel writers life is like and what they need to survive.

But the real gem that lies discretely hidden under the logo of the ASTW is the sheer kindness of the journos. Editors, staffers and freelancers who welcome new-people, share their experiences and help each other along the way. It's easy for freelancers to fall into a mode of competing with the world, but that's not the norm inside the ASTW. These are old souls, people who have varied experiences and have learned that you get more flies with honey than vinegar.

It's not easy getting into the ASTW, that is true. But the bar has been set to a standard that ensures only those who are dedicated can join. And dedication is what characterises the ASTW.

I was lucky to have the support of many members before I joined, and even more since. Last weekend I even won their award for Travel Photographer of the Year. As grateful and honoured as I am for being chosen, I also know that my selection says more about the ASTW than it does me. I wouldn't have been in a position to enter the awards if not for the spirit of ASTW members - past and present, old and new.

Thanks ASTW, you've made me proud.