Column: Why you shouldn’t fly first class
“I just need a vacation,” she droned. A week later she props her feet up on a leather footrest on a first class flight to Uganda. Champagne in hand, she smiles for her Instagram.
Lodging for her consists of a snug bed in a resort that overlooks the Nile, with fresh-pressed juices waiting upon her arrival. Her accommodations probably don’t include a safari, but the average cost for one is $800 per night. She’ll definitely book that.
While running a business that purports to empower women, why would you push individuals further from you across the widening gap of wealth?
I personally declined a safari a year ago in Kenya, call me crazy, because I was interning at an orphanage and knew that the children would never spend that excessive amount on anything except a house. A house for one day in a field. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive with adventure, but I found that time with the children was more valuable than running from lions.
I’ve heard all the arguments about how tourism and excessive expenditures help “boost” the economies of sub-Saharan Africa — a region with historically low resources and infrastructure. I’ve also read the "Kenya Vision 2030," which highlights economic, political and social practices to foster growth in each of those sectors. One of the main efforts is to increase agriculture, retail and manufacturing efforts since tourism is increasingly unreliable after various events have placed Kenya on the State Department’s watch list.
My frustration with luxurious travel stems from my experiences and conversations. Completely delirious in the Kigali International Airport, I recall speaking with a woman returning home to Kenya. I was the only American who had trekked that far with her, and she wondered at the purpose of a first class ticket … to anywhere.
According to Expedia, the average flight to Uganda is $1,500. A first class ticket is anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 per person. Now we all know that flight prices fluctuate almost as much as the number of candidates in the presidential race, but a factor we cannot ignore is that the World Bank states that Uganda’s GDP per capita is $696.40.
You see, comfort and luxury are not intertwined. If you’re planning on serving, interning, assimilating or adjusting well in the country to which you’ve traveled, often you must disregard your wishes and securities.
Everyone’s reason for traveling is different, but I would encourage you to save that money you would spend on a first class seat, safari or resort and invest in local businesses or a project abroad. I guarantee you’ll recall the appreciativeness on the person’s face much more clearly than the leather footrest. International development is complicated, but I guarantee you the first step is not an Instagram photo.