Things have been crazy with a new job and a new schedule. Hope to finish trip reports soon. But today, another blogger posted something that may be the most morally bankrupt post ever, and it compelled me to take a break and stay up later than I should.
Some background first…. Etihad Airways is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, based on Abu Dhabi and owned by the government. The UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, have absolutely horrible human rights records. The United States and others look the other way because they have oil and foreign investment dollars. For example, homosexuality is punishable by 14 years imprisonment in Abu Dhabi — and the law is enforced. Check out HRW’s latest country report here.
Etihad Airways is also one of the Gulf carriers that has pitched itself as a luxury carrier. It’s most recent step in that direction was announced this week is the creation of “The Residences” on its A380 planes — a class above first class. For the low price of about $21,000 for 1 or 2 persons, you can fly from London to Abu Dhabi in a 3-room, 125 sq foot cabin, “with a living room, separate double bedroom (1.2m wide), ensuite shower room and personal butler, trained at London’s Savoy Butler Academy, as well as a travel concierge on hand, plus a chef to cook whatever passengers fancy.” The flight is about 7 hours, the same as a flight from the East Coast to Western Europe.
Now, if you want to spend your money on this, go ahead. There is no “need” for anyone to travel in this sort of luxury, and I think giving this money to the UAE is itself morally questionable. But flying in luxury is nice, and I’ve enjoyed the two flights I’ve had in International First Class (from Bangkok to Paris, and Munich to New York), and I’ve also enjoyed business class flights when coach was really a perfectly reasonable alternative.
But can you imagine *fundraising* to get *other people* to pay for you to fly this route? I could see if your grandma worked for 50 years in a garment factory, has a back condition, has never flown, and wants to see family in Abu Dhabi — then, maybe then, you could ask people to chip in for the ticket. But what if you were in your mid-twenties, basically engaged in luxury travel for a living, and fly First Class internationally dozens of times a year? Throw in that you are currently blogging about spending an entire year living in 4 and 5- star hotels? Would you have the audacity to ask other people to pay for you to to fly there? What if these were the same people who you already make all your money off of, by acting as their travel agent, and/or getting them to click on affiliate credit card links?
Well, it’s not a hypothetical, as Ben Schlappig, aka “Lucky” of One Mile at a Time has started a Kickstarter campaign to do exactly that: begging for people to bankroll an entirely undeserving person flying from London to Dubai in ultra-luxury mainly so he can say he did, and snap some pictures and put it on his blog. Why should you pay for him to do it? Because, in his words “I’m the only person that has independently written reviews of every single A380 first class product currently in service, and have self-funded every one of those flights using miles.” Well, someone call Pope Francis, because there’s a new martyr needing sainthood.
Maybe this is a case where someone is young and hasn’t quite realized the value of money, that having a sense of place, home, and community is worthwhile, and that a job where you contribute to society rather than talking about your luxury travel experiences is really a fulfilling part of life. Or maybe I’m the naive one, thinking that other people would think this is the height of outrageous, greedy behavior? After all, he has already gotten over $7000 in donations.
Unlike many other people who blog about points, miles, and travel, I have a full-time job in public service. Luxury travel on vacations is something I recognize I am extremely fortunate to do, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to help the world on my day job, and then see the world on vacation. And granted, I have been spoiled and sometimes find myself complaining about stupid things that most people in the world could only dream of. But then sometimes, I read other blogs that engage in unethical sales practices, cheat companies or other travelers, or bring the level of complaining about minor luxuries to an insane level. And I hate myself for even being involved in this hobby. And then I see a post like this, and I think, what is wrong with the world?
Personally, I am going to make a donation to a human rights or poverty organization tomorrow. I ask you to do the same. I’ve posted some organizations in the comments, focusing on International Human Rights, LGBT issues, and poverty in Seattle — the area Ben has been “living” in — but feel free to chime in with your own.
*And to preempt some people who say this is an inappropriate personal attack. You are wrong. If I ever ask people on the internet to give me $20,000 — or even $2000, feel free to attack me about that request.
**Also note- he should pay taxes on this, as well as any other comped leisure travel he has been blogging about. I don’t think the IRS is going to say this was a legitimate business expense. Not legal advice, obviously. 🙂