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#34 Planning Air Travel

March 14, 2011

This guest post was submitted by Max Baldwin, an NGO Expat Aid Worker, living and working in Asia at the time of writing.

Using local airlines to get there slower and in less comfort

Expat Aid Wokers love planning air travel.

As nomads, traveling all over the world is the essence of being an Expat Aid Worker. And as Expat Aid Workers like to travel to destinations (i.e. the field) that aren’t in the average travel brochure, they often have to take routes that double back on themselves, include several changes of airlines, fly on planes that are not entirely airworthy, and endure very long stop-overs.

The greater the combination of these variables, the happier the Expat Aid Worker becomes, as it adds to the sense of adventure and helps to establish credibility.

As a result, a true Expat Aid Worker should be able to double as a travel agent alongside his or her day job of saving the world, and will be able to tell you the quickest route and cheapest airlines that connect two cities that would normally have very little reason to be traveled between, such as Colombo and Dushanbe. Of course, the EAW will have already flown the route and will be sure to advise you on where to find your last cup of real coffee and wi-fi connection during transit before leaving “civilization.”

Remote Tajikistan: This airport is so obscure it doesn’t even have an IATA code

If you’re really lucky, the EAW will throw in a flying-related anecdote that highlights his or her cultural sensitivity, such as the panic/hilarity of flying on an airline that insists on announcing that “Inshallah, we will be landing in Dhaka/Dakar/etc. in five minutes.”

Inevitably if you already took a flight, the EAW will point out that there is a quicker way to have done it that would have saved your NGO hundreds of dollars. That’s because they’re a better Expat Aid Worker than you, which of course has nothing to do with actual ability to carry out their day job.

But wait! It doesn’t end there: even if you’re not lucky enough to travel across the world to mainstream gender, or cross continents to promote community participation approaches, you can still play the Expat Aid Worker party game whereby you challenge each other to come up with the greatest variety of routes between two destinations that are very far apart. Bonus points awarded for knowledge of airport codes.

Now, get to practice and work on these five (warning, one of them cannot be done using an online booker):

Luanda [LAD] – Islamabad [ISB]

Yangon [RGN] – Gaborone [GBE]

Jakarta [JKT] – Tashkent [TAS]

Maputo [MPT] – Dili [DIL]

Hanoi [HAN] – Kinshasa [FIH]

Note: When discussing trips with Expat Aid Workers it is unseemly to ask them to estimate their carbon footprint.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. tio permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:50 am

    reading me reminds me of one person in my office who kept saying expat should get business class during the mission ‘_”

  2. Melissa permalink
    March 14, 2011 12:35 pm

    You forgot telling travel agents how a trip should be routed after they present you with a completely inane booking :)

  3. March 15, 2011 4:36 am

    Even better is when the airline misplaces an entire country. The map on Air Malawi promotional posters (unfortunately not shown on their website) places Kenya where Ethiopia is, I kid you not.

    • March 15, 2011 3:14 pm

      Perhaps because there’s little reason for Malawians to ever travel to either Kenya or Ethiopia. The only people who take this route are, well, us.

  4. mr mlungu permalink
    March 15, 2011 12:53 pm

    Come on, Africa to Asia routes, too easy…. everything goes from Jo’burg with direct flights to Singapore everyday and then onwards to the Asian Location….

    • thetrblmkr permalink
      March 15, 2011 7:35 pm

      actually, i would dispute the typical JNB > SIN for LAD > ISB. the mideast carriers (emirates, qatar airways, etc.) keep expanding their routes across the continent at much lower costs than the european/global carriers, so a stopover via DXB or DOH onward ISB is very plausible.

      Note: let’s also mention that when discussing trips with EAWs it’s unseemly to mention that these carriers keep their costs low by ferrying in cheap asian labor.

  5. Karin permalink
    March 16, 2011 5:24 am

    Can you say where in Tajikistan that airport is please…?

    • March 20, 2011 7:10 am

      This airport is in the Pamir mountains, between Khorog and Dushanbe. It was not a scheduled stop (indeed I thought we were making an emergency landing and adopted the brace position much to the amusement of my fellow passengers). Everyone got off the plane, smoked a couple of cigarettes, and then the pilot got back on with a sack of apples and we completed the journey.

  6. Brendan permalink
    March 16, 2011 3:43 pm

    I tried for about a half hour online to find booking from Maputo to Dili, but I relent, it can’t be done. I’m not sure why, because one way fare was available from Maputo to Cairo, then to Sydney, then to Darwin then to Dili (took two full days in total). The timing also worked out, with minimal layovers, but my websites couldn’t put together a fare for me. However, I did discover a $9000 fare from NYC to Kahzakstan (Alma Ata) which was kind of cool.

    • March 20, 2011 7:17 am

      Good job Brendan. Hopefully that half hour well spent wasn’t supposed to be used to finalise a log frame. I would say finding the route through Darwin is fine, and if you used an agent they would be able to book you all the way through Quantas. When I tried to fly from Dushanbe to Maputo back in 2007 I had to book two separate tickets via Istanbul.

  7. Alex permalink
    March 17, 2011 8:57 am

    Sorry mate, you got Maputo’s airport code wrong; it’s not MPT but MPM!

    Gotcha! you are obviously an infiltrator, a spy, a mole, and not a true EAW!!!!!!

    • March 20, 2011 7:18 am

      Actually, this was a deliberate mistake to catch out the non EAWs who come on this site to make themselves feel better about their inferior jobs: i.e. PhD students who are research abroad, diplomatic interns etc.

  8. Brendan permalink
    March 17, 2011 12:42 pm

    I thought MPT was Maputo, while MPM was Maliana, Indonesia. I must have been mistaken!

    • Daud permalink
      March 19, 2011 12:03 am

      Brendan – bad news about your google search. Despite what those websites say the code might be, no Timorese person would agree that Maliana is in Indonesia – at least not for the past 11 years. Go Independence! But we all get points for trying to out-do each other. I personally think airport codes are over-rated (my inferiority complex of not remembering any) and that carbon footprints are a rather inconvenient topic for discussion. Thanks SEAWL for keeping our tongues firmly in our cheeks.

      • Brendan permalink
        March 19, 2011 1:38 am

        That is an excellent point. Being a geography mavin (and holding a degree in the same subject), I enjoy when others correct important mistakes. Mistaking the former country “Czechoslovakia” for its two current countries is indeed a grave error, as is not realizing that Maliana is on the Western border of the country.

        How would one book airfare to such a place, since my online searching proved fruitless? Maliana does look like an amazing place to visit, however!

  9. March 23, 2011 4:35 pm

    Excellent note at the end about the carbon footprint :)

  10. val permalink
    June 15, 2011 9:32 pm

    Book me on the next trip from Angola to Pakistan, thanks. With a stopover in Pyongyang.

  11. Michael permalink
    August 25, 2011 5:43 am

    Jakarta JKT??? Sorry mate, it’s CGK.

  12. Mary in PP permalink
    September 7, 2011 7:40 am

    Hi, This post is really good and so true! Actually I did it the other way around as I used to work for an airline and later on turned to EAW. I still use this “skill” as I’m the unofficial travel agent having good tips for all my colleagues ;-)
    By the way, JKT is city code, CGK is airport code for Jakarta, both should work in online booking engine (like Paris is PAR but with 2 airports ORY and CDG).

  13. Poacher permalink
    February 6, 2012 2:26 pm

    Surely if you know the airport code you’re not a real EAW – if you were you would never be seen looking at your ticket and your boarding pass would be marking your page in your dog-eared copy of Popper (which one doesn’t matter, as long as it’s got lots of notes scrawled in pencil – not pen – and bits of paper with maps and stuff on them marking ‘interesting’ pages). You would NEVER adopt the brace position but WOULD laconically instruct others how to brace correctly while assisting the co-pilot fastening the cargo net … as you hit you drawl ‘stay braced guys – you’re never landed at Bossaso until you’re out of the plane’ and go back to your casual viewing of the undercarriage, not forgetting the cheeky grin to the girl across the aisle … if you’re a real (male) EAW there is always a girl across the aisle …


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