I am a road warrior. I am a traveller, but I am not actually a tourist. I travel for my work as a telecommunication consultant, but with a wee bit of fun thrown in for good luck. A short while ago, I achieved a major milestone for a business traveller. I crossed the one million mile threshold for a single air carrier. This is a lot of qualifying air miles from a single carrier.
Having just taken off from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, we then did a circling climb out to overfly the runway that we just departed.
Not all miles with this airline counted towards this goal. As an example, I once flew from Toronto to Jamaica and received just 86 mile credit for each leg based upon the low fare purchased and the new lower cost airline – Air Canada Rouge. So, I just earned 172 miles credit instead of the 3,578 air miles that I actually flew on this trip. Therefore, meeting these thresholds is getting harder and harder for Road Warriors to achieve.
Nor does it represent my true total. I have a second collection of an estimated one million miles gathered with a myriad of other airlines. Therefore, I figure that I have travelled over two million air miles so far in my career.
While I do loyally use my domestic airline, Air Canada, as my main carrier over the past 30+ years, I have travelled on many other airlines too. Economics, business needs, and routing drive carrier decisions.
Some mountains, some place. Likely the Rockies over Colorado, but not too sure. Spent a lot of time staring aimlessly out of airplane windows. In this case, an Airbus 320 based upon the wing tip winglets
The list of carriers beyond Air Canada includes some still operating and many defunct operators, including: United, American, Eastern, Republic, Lufthansa, Singapore, Olympic Air, Iberia, Air China, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Air Lingus, Nordair, Canadian Pacific, Eastern Provincial Airlines, Air France, KLM, British Airways, Air Transat, Westjet, Air Ontario, Pacific Western Airlines, Quebecair, Trans-Canada Airlines, Japan Airlines, Air BC, Air Atlantic, Royal Aviation, SkyService, Transair, Trans-Provincial Airline, Austin Airways, Canada 3000, Eastern Canada Airlines, NorOntair, Worldways Canada, Wardair, Time Air, First Nation Transportation, Air Ontario, Alberta Citylink, Harmony Airlines, Great Lakes Airlines, Air Canada Rouge, Air Canada Tango, Air Alliance, Air Atlantic, JetsGO, ExpressAir, Air Caraibes, Caribbean Airlines, BWIA, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, Endeavor Air, ExpressJet, Horizon Air, Piedmont Airlines, PSA Airlines, Skywest, All Nippon Airlines / ANA, China Eastern Airlines, Xiamen Air, Cathay Pacific, LAN Airlines, and more.
Some operators, like Eastern Airlines, were downright scary to fly. I once flew eight legs on Eastern in what was suppose to be one week. The scheduled duration of the eight legs combined was about 14 hours. We experienced over 24 hours of delay on top of the flight times and the stops for work, so my one week trip was extended to 1.5 weeks. Most of the delays were due to “mechanical” failure. They mailed me a voucher for a free round trip flight anywhere the airline travelled. It was not to compensate me for the delays, it was because I flew eight legs, that is what qualified me. I suppose that was something extraordinary for Eastern that a passenger would use them eight times, let alone more than once. I immediately discarded the voucher as the risk equation was deemed to be too high. Regardless, the airline went bankrupt about 45 days later. Yikes!
Air Canada Trip Toronto to Hong Kong: The Mapping system in the Boeing 777 is confident that we will eventually head west, as we continue to fly the wrong way to the east. It finally surrendered to our easterly route over Mongolia. I went 360° around the globe that week. Fun!
Other noted delays were mainly in Europe during the summer months. They plan their strikes for the summer months. It is most convenient for the strikers, albeit not ideal for the business traveller. Once I was stuck in Paris for a few days when Charles de Gualle Airport went on strike and during another summer trip, I was trapped in Madrid for several days when the French air traffic controllers decided to strike and shut down central Europe air traffic flows. Is there a French pattern here? Maybe. The joys of travel.
While meeting this milestone is an event of some sort, I am thinking that it is great to achieve a goal, but also this is a pretty pathetic goal to celebrate. I think that my business travel adds up to 4,500 to 5,000 hours sitting in an airplane seat. So, that is about two and half years sitting still while I fly someplace for work. I have crossed the international date line many times, one year ten times; and with similar frequency for the equator and the Greenwich Time Zone. It does not seem that long ago I was in school learning about all of the places that I have now visited in real life.
Air Canada has offered to make my frequent flyer status “Elite for Life”. So, maybe that is a good thing? They promise other mystery surprises too. But, I am suspect. Air Canada mystery surprises have not historically been pleasant surprises. If they do not want to tell me about these surprises in advance, then maybe they are just not worth that much. All I really want is upgrade credits. The fancy luggage tags get destroyed with use on Air Canada, so that is a paradox.
Since getting on an airplane, staying in hotels, and renting cars is not much of a reward for me, I often donate my points. While I have used a lot for personal fun, like going to a winery in Sonoma, California with a friend last year, I am donating more and more these days. Of course, when my Mother was alive, she enjoyed perhaps 20 worldwide trips on my points. My sisters have had a few too as has my wife. But, I have donated more than 1 million points to charities for animal causes. I find that to be a very useful way to burn these points by helping animals who cannot help themselves. Mostly they use my points to travel to locations to spay and neuter cats and dogs, so I keep my legs firmly crossed when I donate the points. My favourite animal cause is Pilots n Paws Canada. They do very good work for animals. So does the Canadian Animal Assistance Team and Iqaluit Humane Society, both are on the Air Canada approved charity list. These last two have received a lot of points from me. I wish PnPC would get on this list so I could help them more.
An Air Canada Vickers Viscount once flown out of Hamilton’s Mount Hope Airport
I have been on every model of airplane that Boeing and Airbus made since the late 50s and early 60s, as well as those from Bombardier, Canadair, Embraer, Antonov, Beechcraft, Bristol, Britten-Norman, Cessna, Convair, de Havilland, Dornier, McDonnell Douglas, Douglas, Fairchild, Fokker, Hawker-Siddeley, Ilyushin, Lockheed, Piper, Saab, Short Brothers, Swearingen, Tupolev, and Vickers. And perhaps a dozen more of the general aviation makes and models.
The Lockheed L1011 was my first love, I briefly lusted after the 747, but that ended as she was just to utilitarian for my liking and she drank way too much Jet-A too. Then along came the astonishing Boeing 767, followed closely by the long-legged Boeing 777. Of course, now, I smile affectionately at the Boeing 787, her upward flexing wings and serrated engine nacelles, they are so, so, so… well you know…. I am now awaiting my first encounter to travel with the new Airbus 350 XWB, she is so pretty and agile, like a graceful ballerina. It gives me the shivers just thinking of this European beauty. We will accept her as she is, perhaps a wee bit chunky around the fuselage, but a tantalizing aerial performer, nonetheless. lol
The new Airbus 350 XWB, which mean eXtra Wide Body. Okay, that is a good thing, right? I spotted her in the crowd at AirVenture 2015 in Oshkosh. It was love at first sight. Such a pretty girl! Yes, I go to airshows when I am not working.
The new Airbus 350 XWB, I mean, just look at those winglets, all I can say is, “oh la la”, those French girls have such elegant style.
While Canada is very big, I have only been to 10 of Canada’s 13 Provinces and Territories, and I still want to visit every one.
In the USA, I have been to 33 of the 56 states and territories, so there are still lots of places to visit there too.
Charlie and me in Tokyo. We found a German Brahaus on the Ginza Strip while our colleagues went shopping. We drank one litre steins of German beer while they shopped.
Yes, I have been right around the world. Not in 80 days like in the classic adventure novel by the French writer Jules Verne. Published in 1873 about the story of Phileas Fogg of London and his newly employed French valet Passepartout as they attempted to circumnavigate the world in 80 days on a £20,000 wager (equivalent to £1,600,000 in 2015) set by his friends at the Reform Club. I did it in just one week. In fact, I have circumnavigated the globe many times over.
Toronto > Hong Kong > Singapore > Beijing > Toronto. I have actually circumnavigated the world. It was done during a trip to the Orient. A lifelong dream has been accomplished. Sure, I have flown the 24,901.55 miles (40,075.16 kilometres) necessary to achieve this goal many times before, even 6 times in 2011, but it is not just about the miles. I never actually closed the 360° loop before this trip, so this was a dream come true. Phileas Fogg, was a rookie.
I have been to more than 50 countries around the globe that represent about half of the land mass on the earth. Some countries, like Japan, Australia, England, China, Brazil, Chile, France, and Germany, I have been too many times, perhaps more than a half dozen trips each.
Charlie and Me working in Sydney in the land down under
While I consider my style of travel as “hit and run” I have tended to be home most weekends. But, I have lived in 15 cities for more than a total of one year of my life, but I never really moved and still call Toronto my home. Some cities, like Las Vegas, I earned one week at a time over 60 trips to sin city, and I do not gamble.
Okay, just read the instructions to use the toilet. Oh My God! Do not panic! How hard can it be?
There have been perhaps 5,500 to 6,500 nights in hotel rooms and many thousands of rental cars, trains, LRT rides, bullet trains, plus thousands of taxis, vans, shuttle buses, and various other forms of local transportation, including pedal bikes, helicopters, floatplanes, rickshaws, and water taxis. Funny, I have never been in a “tuk tuk”, something to shoot for I suppose. In the Netherlands, I would rent bicycles on the weekends to discover the local sites when I stayed there during several three week long trips.
Air Canada on Final Approach into Sao Paulo, Brazil. The density of this city rivals Tokyo
While most places are safe, I have been robbed several times, once in the Dominican Republic, twice in Mexico, and once in London (UK). Knives were used twice, a gun once, and the last time, it was a bait and switch diversion tactic of a two person team. Nothing was ever recovered, so leave your stuff at home. I have cheap travel watches and separate my credit cards and passports for safety now. Use the safe in the hotels.
The German Inter City Express or ICE Train. It moves along at a swift 200 kph
During the last decade, I have filled two passports with stamps. Thank goodness the USA no longer stamps my passport upon entry. I have entered the USA so many times that I would have filled many passports if they continued to stamp me every time.
Watching the shipping traffic flow past the window in the hotel in New Orleans. The olde Mississippi is a busy waterway
My best and favourite places always had some delightful little restaurant or bar that allowed me to sit outside overlooking water. Favourites included: Nice, Monte Carlo, Greek Islands, Marina Del Rey, Key West, Naples (FLA), Brighton, and San Francisco.
One of my great pleasures from all of these years of business travels has been the ability to ride on the fastest bullet trains in the world. I have been on perhaps 20 different trains and systems. From the Shinkansen (above) in Japan, to the ICE trains in Germany, to the TGV in France, the Shanghai Mag-Lev Train, and the world’s longest line of 2,298 km (1,428 mi) Beijing–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway. One of my passions!
So, while there are many great memories, there has been a lot of my life wasted waiting for traffic, waiting for flights, waiting to clear immigration and customs, waiting at luggage carousels, and waiting on buses and trains. Lots and lots of waiting…
In Japan taking a swift 350 Kph ride on the Kyushu Shinkansen Bullet Train
So, what do I do in my free time when not travelling for work? I fly small general aviation airplanes of course. Why not?
Me, the amateur pilot flying a Cessna 172. Okay, she is no A350 XWB, but she still makes my heart skip a beat
All photos are taken by the author, except for some of the selfies taken by tolerant work colleagues, gracious restaurant servers, and random tourists with happy faces who were willing to help out, using my cameras.
The image of the Vicker Viscount is from Jim Griffith blog entry called, The little Viscount that coulda, woulda, shoulda – but didn’t? (2016). Air Facts. retrieved on April 9, 2016 from, http://airfactsjournal.com/2016/03/little-viscount-coulda-woulda-shoulda-didnt/
Wikipedia. (2016). Around the world in eighty days. Jules Vern. Retrieved on April 10, 2016 from, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Around_the_World_in_Eighty_Days
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About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V). He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.