Around 600 000 people are in the air at any one time, as passengers and crew of the 3 300 aircraft aloft somewhere. That’s more or less the same as the population of the city of Khumasi in Ghana, or Lilongwe in Malawi. Like all interesting nations and cities, the world’s population of fliers is very diverse and constantly changing: Shaun Pozyn, head of marketing at kulula.com, takes a light-hearted look at some of the tribes and what we can learn from them.
I personally have travelled countless flights locally and internationally but am still fascinated at watching how other people travel.OK that and the fact that I love people watching especially at airports. Every time I check out what are people wearing, the luggage they are wheeling around, their hand luggage in particular and mentally make note of these things for the next time I travel. I simply love how cool , calm and effortless some people make travelling look and then there is me on an off day looking like a hot mess.
Types of Travellers :
- The regulars: A little like George Clooney’s world-weary character Ryan Bingham in the movie Up in the Air, these folk travel a lot and the novelty of being served champagne while hurtling through the sky is long gone. I personally have watched this movie and love how George I mean Ryan has flying down to an art and makes one wish to travel like him always. They have tricks and hacks to get through check-in and security. Like soldiers trained to field-strip and clean their weapons in the dark, they’ve honed the procedures of removing laptops and – in the case of international travel – liquids in plastic bags as they pass through security. In their approach to travel these travellers hate wasting time and more than often they are heading straight from the airport to a meeting. They may time their progress from car park to airport lounge and look where they can speed things up. Some bemoan an otherwise flawless routine – perhaps even a new Personal Best – being thwarted by, say, a tour-group of pensioners. An offshoot of this tribe is the semi-grator, working in one city, usually on weekdays, and living in another, usually on weekends which is becoming a common occurrence in South Africa especially with low cost flights.
What we can learn: Streamlining. Some regular travellers may be a little preoccupied with whether turning left or right in the security queue is quicker – a few maintain that left is always quicker – but they do easy, genuinely useful things too. Online check-in, bag-drops, reserved seating and lounge access all make things a little easier.And my personal favourite is hand luggage only which makes life so much easier no waiting for luggage at the carousel.
- The A-lister: This regular traveller is secretly convinced that everyone in the terminal and aircraft recognises them from the tabloid mags’ social pages and their Instagram feeds. They may sport large sunglasses at any time of day or night and, as a result, have been known to try to order coffee at airport gift-shops or collide with furniture and people. They keep their phones ready to take pouty selfies with adoring fans as they head for yet another junket to sample a new line of cosmetics, along with their fellow social media influencers. Because of my love of people watching I have recognised some faces at the airport but NO I did not go and ask for a selfie.
What we can learn: Lounge access gives you access to bathroom facilities where you can make sure your no-makeup makeup is on fleek – as the A-listers would say – before boarding, or simply relax with a drink and a snack. Lounges, like the SLOW lounges at most domestic airports, are more likely to be able to accommodate A-lister requests for gluten-free-decaf-no-foam-almond-latte-double-shot-with-a-drizzle-of-caramel than the outlets in the terminal. Some lounges have showers.I love SLOW lounges so check with your bank what you do qualify for but if not it is OK to buy your own coffee at the airport.
- The globetrotter: This tribe comes in many variations, from the travelling vloggers tick-boxing through a dozen countries a year, to aid workers travelling light while saving lives. They all have their own proven ways of streamlining their journeys. Some pack a minimum of clothing and launder them along the way. Others swear by rolling clothes up rather than folding them or have an array of high-tech gizmos like solar chargers for their devices or to purify water for drinking. Tribal insignia may also include neck-pillows designed by NASA, which they wear at all times or dangle from a backpack, or that sarong that serves as a towel, blanket, parasol and changing-booth.And most importantly not forgetting huge backpacks that literally are the size of a small child.
What we can learn: Keep an eye on special offers and updates on baggage allowances and restrictions as these are known to change often. It is also a good idea to check domestic flight luggage allowances so that you do not pay extra before you board your international flight.Globetrotters know that these may vary between airlines and they make sure that they comply with the limitations while they head for the Bora Bora via Auckland and Port Moresby.The more I travel the more I realise I do not need to pack everything and have streamlined what I pack. Packing cubes and travel size toiletries are essential.
- The leisurely: These are often retired or empty-nesters travelling to see children and grandchildren, often to redeem rewards points. You’ll see them exuding Zen-like calm in lounges or browsing airport shops. They have the luxury of travelling in the off-peak hours rather than the early mornings and late afternoons when business travellers fill up domestic flights.These types of travellers can often be seen huge with hand luggage and cooler bags transporting food for their children like fresh fish , curry leaves and lamb sausages from specific butcher in Durban.
What we can learn: Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and through security. Although mornings and afternoons are busiest in domestic terminals, you’ll enjoy your journey more if you’re able to get airside and spend some time unwinding before boarding.I personally always arrive early at the airport as I live a distance away and am always afraid of missing my flight due to traffic.Arriving early also means I get to ask for a window seat and often a better seat and one day hopefully an upgrade lol. But arriving also means you have time for a coffee and a bite before you travel.
- The unusually proportioned: You needn’t be as tall as Boban Marjanović – at 2.22m, the NBA’s tallest player this season – to feel that you’d like a little extra legroom. This tribe often endures I’m-glad-I’m-not-him stares from fellow passengers, who may also dread sitting next to more generously proportioned fellow passengers.As a plus size traveller I often am very conscious of this and the fact that I need on some flights to get a seat belt extension , so hence I love travelling with my mum or cousins so they are next to me and understand me and my needs.
What we can learn: Know the trade-offs. If you’re tall, you’ll covet an exit-row seat for its legroom, but the inflight entertainment screens in those seats are usually smaller. So if you’re of average height or short, on a long-haul flight and enjoy your movies, select a seat away from an exit-row.And this is why I try to arrive early at the airport.
- The rebel: You’ll come across these folk in all walks of life, but on aircraft they’re the ones who regard noncompliance with announcements as a symbol of individuality. They’ll remove their headphones and switch off their devices only when told to in person by cabin-crew, and with direct eye-contact. “Oh, you mean ME? Are you sure?” They bank on the fact that other passengers are reluctant to Cause A Scene and, while the aircraft taxis and takes off, will furtively perform vitally important online tasks like adding puppy noses to their Snapchat selfies.These are also the travellers who arrive late after been called several times in the airport and then try to find their seats while knocking everyone around them with their hugely over stuffed bags and then start to climb over passengers to get to their seats.
What we can learn: There are always people who use cutlery to extract toast from a toaster, but airline safety instructions are in place for a reason. Just follow them.Word of advise do not be that traveller that everyone rolls their eyes at.
For me personally the basic tips for all travellers are :
- be a courteous traveller
- arrive on time or earlier
- stick by the airline/airport rules
- be kind to other passengers as well as the airline staff
Happy flying and do let me know which of these travellers you have come across on your travels or are you one of these types of travellers