If I was was to reflect on my travel this last 12months I would ruminate over some of the unexpected destinations I found myself heading towards, obscure places visited and always the remarkable people I have met. Some old friends. And some new ones. The process of getting there has been interesting as well. The nightmare which is now Heathrow Airport stands out. And so too packed aircraft. I can understand there being no spare seats out of Baghdad – that kind of makes sense. In fact packed aircraft are now the norm although the thrill of flying (I am still a ten year old boy in that regard) tends to outweigh the small seats, lack of legroom and awful food. (Can anyone beat freeze dried carrots in a small plastic packet (flight from LA to Dallas)?) With cheaper airfares, the demands of business, and 2001 receding into the background (though the chart here barely registers a minor blip in 2001), more and more people are taking to the skies. In fact the expectation is that commercial airline passengers will double in the next ten years, explaining the massive buildup of global airlines which are creating their hubs in the Middle East. And then there is China’s incredible airline expansion which has yet to really impact us. But it is not all bad. Being packed into a seat on a small MD80 making a connection from Philadelphia to Dallas earlier this year I got chatting to about six or seven American travellers in the rear of the aircraft. The cramped confines made for an intimate setting of sorts and we spent the couple of hours in the air talking about family and business but mainly literature. As we descended into the behemoth which is Dallas Forth Worth airport the woman next to me declared (imagine a slow southern drawl), for all the rear cabin to hear, “boy, with an accent like that you could get some.” There was much mirth. Sometimes being an Australian abroad can be good for the ego – even if you are getting mileage out of something you have no say over. It was of course a standout moment in 2007.
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