Patrick Smith (Where’s the innovation in the airline industry?)

In this episode of the Judgment Call Podcast Patrick Smith and I talk about:

  • Patrick’s scariest experiences flying planes for 30+ years.
  • Why is the B737 MAX a flawed plane?
  • Why innovation is stuck in the airline/airframe industry?
  • How the airline industry will look like post-COVID?
  • Patrick’s favorite airlines and places in the world.
  • Why tourism has been on such a ‘dark trail’ before COVID happened?
  • and much more!

You may also watch this episode on Youtube – The Judgment Call Podcast Episode #46 – Patrick Smith (Where’s the innovation in the airline industry?).

Patrick Smith is an airline pilot, air travel blogger and author. Patrick is the author of ‘Ask the pilot’ and ‘Cockpit Confidential’ – both available now on Amazon.


Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcast, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet. Risk takers, adventurers, travelers, investors, entrepreneurs and simply mindbogglers. To find all episodes of this show, simply go to Spotify, iTunes or YouTube or go to our website If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or subscribe to us on YouTube. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is my business. We do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the airfare deals that you really want. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% in the airfare. Those include $150 round trip tickets to Hawaii for many cities in the US or $600 life let tickets in business class from the US to Asia or $100 business class life let tickets from Africa round trip all the way to Asia. In case you didn’t know, about half the world is open for business again and accepts travelers. Most of those countries are in South America, Africa and Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium, go to slash MTP or if that’s too many letters for you, simply go to MTP, the number four and the letter U dot com to sign up for your 30 day free trial. So give us a background in how this all started. We know you’ve been an airline pilot for quite some time, which seems to keep most people very busy, but you also ventured into the journalism part. You have your own block that’s quite popular as the pilot. And you also wrote a book as the pilot, everything you need to know about air travel, which I think has been translated into 11 languages. How did that happen? How did you own life and career? How did you how did you plan it? Well, that’s a that’s a long story. Let’s start with the aviation aspect of it first. I’ve been into planes and into airlines since I was a little kid, going back literally before I can remember. Whether it was first grade, second grade, I don’t know when I got into planes, but I did and it’s just always been there from my from my perspective. But I was not into airplanes themselves so much as as the whole theater, if you will, of air travel, airports, airlines, airline culture. When I was a kid, I would I would study route maps and timetables of the different airlines, memorizing the places they flew and the types of airplanes they use. So it wasn’t just about planes and the hands on excitement of flying as much as I enjoy that. It’s always been the whole the whole business, everything from airports to like I said, airline culture. A lot of it is the airlines themselves, just studying the different carriers and their histories and where they’ve flown and which planes they’ve used and so on and so forth. But specifically, I did always want to learn to fly and to become a pilot, which I did and that was a just a very long process that had numerous pitfalls along the way before I finally got to the point where I was making a good living at a respectable airline. And I was in my 40s before it all finally panned out the way I hoped it would. And that’s not unusual for people in aviation. You know, I know colleagues who’ve worked for nine different airlines and been through multiple bankruptcies and layoffs and liquidations. It’s not an easy business. But for me, it eventually worked out. Meanwhile, to go back to the second part of your question, I guess I’ve always had a little bit of a creative side. Nothing too serious, but it would always let itself out in different ways. And then one of those ways was through, I guess, creative writing would be the best way to describe it. It was never anything I expected I could make a living from or even make money from. But what happened was after 9.11 when I lost my job for almost six years, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go take some crappy flying job making minimum wage again. So I just thought I’d try something else. And so I started doing these freelance pieces and selling them to online magazines. And, you know, the way that worked is the first one becomes two becomes three. And eventually I had a weekly column on the website, It was called Ask the Pilot. They came up with that name, which is where the whole endeavor came from. And I did that for a number of years. Had a weekly and then it was even the semi daily for a while. And it was quite popular. And it led to other freelance gigs and I would get assignments from magazines and so forth. The salon thing eventually I guess burned itself out. It was there for, I think, 10 years. And, you know, I was tired of doing it. They were a little tired of it too. And so eventually it went away as I expected it would in time. And I took the product, so to speak, and created my own website out of it, which is what Ask the is. And also along the way, there were two books. The first book was published back in 2004 using the Ask the Pilot name, which I always despise as the name for a book, but they insisted on it. And then a few years later, I sold a second book to a different publisher. That book is called Cockpit Confidential. And while I don’t especially like that name either, it’s worked. The book was a New York Times bestseller for a while and has been translated into, I think, eight or nine languages. I’m not sure exactly. The most popular of which has been Polish for some reason that I don’t understand, but whatever. And so there’s the website and there have been the books and various side projects along the way. Yeah, I can kind of guess why it was so popular in Poland. I grew up just like 50 miles from the Polish border and like half Polish. So the aviation geekiness runs high in Poland and also in the DNA. Yeah, it’s something that is, I think in every boy’s DNA, I’d say that’s true everywhere, but it goes to extremes, I feel, especially in Poland. And I always wondered how you came up with the titles for these books. And now I know the story. I always felt like the titles are not as good as the actual book. I think the books are both from what I read are excellent. And they give you exactly this inside view under the cockpit and answer a lot of questions about what is actually going on there. And I feel flying from a cockpit perspective, from a pilot perspective, when we as passengers and people who are in the aviation industry, even if they’ve been in the travel industry like myself for the last 10, 15 years, we always feel there’s a certain aura of prestige that emanates from pilots. There is this idea of a pilot is like a big cruise ship captain, is the person who’s saving lives every day. And it’s kind of seen as something that is as far away from minimum wage as possible. So I’m curious, you just mentioned that. And I know this is something I just recently learned. It is a problem and a lot of regional airlines, a lot of pilots surprisingly don’t make a lot of money. That’s definitely true. And this is a huge topic we could talk all day about. Just to go back a second, though, I think that mystique or prestige, as you described, it probably isn’t quite what it used to be when I’m sitting in the back of a regional jet. And I just see people with their head against the sidewall just wishing they could just get the hell home and they don’t give a shit who’s flying the plane or how. I noticed maybe flying in other parts of the world, pilots are maybe still held at a level of more mystique. I don’t know. Anything I guess maybe that’s part of the evolution of technology, something that was once considered, once had this aura to it is now just so commonplace that the people at the front end of the airplane doing the work are just workers to a lot of people. Which, not to diminish my own impression, I don’t agree with that, but I think that’s how a lot of people probably look at it. Well, there’s this famous saying and I think it was Akbar Albakar from Qatar Airways, who was asked about pilots and unionization of pilots in the Middle East, which is kind of rare. Typically, the pilots and Kevin’s staff is usually unionized, at least in the US and Europe. And he was asked and said, kind of diminishing, I felt that he said, you know, this is just a driver, it’s a driver of the subway. So that pilot just pushes a button and I don’t care what they think, I want them to go on. I don’t know what the specific problem was, it’s probably the length of the shift and how long these pilots should work. And so it was very much the end of that spectrum. I was shocked by that. Well, he’s not the first airline CEO to say things like that. I mean, you’ve probably heard some of the comments by Mr. Olliri at Ryanair. Part of that is politics. I wish the job were that simple, but it’s actually pretty challenging at times. And there’s just a tremendous amount of knowledge and training and experience that go into the job that I think is, you know, I think that’s lost on a lot of people. And to your point about the salaries, things are better than they were. But entry level pilots, especially at the regional carriers, don’t have it easy. When I was flying regionals in the 1990s and even into the 2000s, no, 90s, early 90s, mid 90s, late 90s, I don’t think I ever made more than 25 or $30,000 in a year, you know, as a captain on a 30 seat turboprop. My starting payback in 1990, flying a 15 seater was about $900 a month take home. No gross, less than that take home. It was a long time before I made what most people would consider a decent living. Like I said, I was in my 40s before things finally stabilized and I could look at my paycheck and not be embarrassed by it. It’s a little different now. Regional pilots do better. A reasonably senior regional airline captain can make $100,000 or more. But it’s not until you get to the major carriers that the salaries really go up. The problem is getting to a major carrier. Right now, we’re in kind of a special situation. But even in normal times, when these carriers are hiring, the jobs are astonishingly competitive. There’s a relatively small number of openings and thousands of pilots applying. I’m known to make an analogy to baseball. You have however many young athletes who set out to become major league baseball players and how many of them actually get there. It’s a pretty small number overall. And it’s similar in aviation, especially now that the regional airline sector, and when I say that I’m talking about the different express and connection carriers, the small airplane affiliates of the majors, that sector has gotten so big. It now accounts for 50% or so of the business. When I started out, it was maybe 10%. So because of that, a lot of pilots will get to that level and that’s just where they stay, like never making it beyond the regional level because like I said, that sector is just so big and there are comparatively few major airline positions open. Is it still true that most pilots aspire, say, flying on a larger plane, a 777, flying international? Is that something that people really want despite the relatively grueling time change and the different shifts and the long layovers? Or is 90% of pilots, they’re really happy with, say, they fly a few hours out, but they’re really asleep at home most of the nights? That’s a great question. And as a general rule, I would say most pilots want to fly the biggest airplanes to the most glamorous destinations, but not all. When I was younger, all I ever wanted to do was fly a wide body jet internationally. That was the holy grail. That was everything I ever aspired to and eventually I did it. And I’m at the point now where I don’t necessarily have to keep doing it. I’m perfectly happy to go and fly short haul domestic routes. They’re not as fatiguing. You physically fly more, which is more fun. There’s good and bad to both kinds of flying, but having done the long haul flying, I’m less fond of it than I was when I first started doing it. What planes do you fly for? Well, I can’t say who I fly for now because not identifying who they are allows me to do this and to do what I do. But I work for one of the larger commercial carriers. Let’s put it that way. I fly a 767 and also the 757. The 75767 is one of the few examples where a pilot can be qualified on two separate models because they share almost identical cockpits. It’s an old plane, an early 1980s vintage, but very reliable and I still enjoy it. And that was the story, I think, with the Katara Vizio. There seems to be always a lot of talk about how long haul pilots can actually be in the cockpit. So from what I remember, there used to be two shifts at least. So it was three hours or four hours and then there was a mandatory break time about the same. And that was changed later on. So a lot of pilots, and I noticed from a friend who used to fly from Lofthansa, they used to have two shifts and two sets of pilots when they went to the east coast from Europe. And then one day Lofthansa said, we’re not going to do this anymore. You’re going to stay by yourself in the cockpit. It’s just two, maybe one relief pilot, but I think they got rid of the third pilot as well. So it basically flew at nine hours to about nine to 10 hours from airport to airport, but they still had that for the west coast destination. I think eventually they got rid of it for the west coast destinations as well, which is like an hour or two longer. How does this work in most planes? Is it really the same pilot still who flies these long distances or what were the typical shift hours? The protocols on this really vary. It depends on the country whose regulations, you’re operating under. It depends on the airline. It depends on the airline’s in house policies or the union policies. There are differences. As a general rule, any flight more than about eight hours is going to bring along at least one extra pilot. And you’ll work in kind of a rotating shift. There’ll be always at least two pilots in the cockpit and one pilot on break. Then that pilot comes back and a different pilot goes on break. So in the end, you work about two thirds of the flight and have the other third to rest. On flights of 12ish hours or greater, you will usually have four pilots working in two teams of two. And they will switch either to half and half of a flight or take multiple breaks. It can be done different ways depending, like I said, on the country, the airline, whatever the union stipulations are, the contractual stipulations, it depends. I’ve seen pictures and I think they made their rounds in the last couple of years of these really luxurious looking rest areas for pilots and for cabin staff. They look better than first class. Maybe a little more crimped, but they look perfectly lifelike and cozy. One thing that I always wonder, being that I’m pretty jet like most of the time when I’m flying somewhere, so it’s not just one flight, it’s a series of flights, I always feel like I would have a hard time falling asleep. I can’t sleep on a push of a button. Some people can do this. I can’t do it. It needs to be at least 13, 14 hours and then I can fall asleep. So I always feel if you have these minutes of rest periods, how likely is it that you actually get some sleep? I’m like you. I find it very hard to sleep on a plane, especially if I’m working the flight. As a passenger and I’m maybe watching a movie and drinking some wine, it’s easy to fall asleep. But when I’m working, it’s a different feeling, a different mindset. I don’t sleep easily, so I will use my break to eat dinner and watch a movie or some TV shows. Occasionally, I do fall asleep for a period of time. It depends on the direction of the flight, the time of the day, how tired I was or wasn’t to begin with, whether I’m on the first break assignment or the middle or the last one, it can vary. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I don’t. And the quality of the rest compartments on the plane, I fly, it’s just a business class seat with a curtain around it. Other airplanes have quarters downstairs in a module, others upstairs under the ceiling. There are bunks, sometimes in the back, behind the near the aft bulkhead or down under it. It varies on, again, on the plane, on the configuration and which options and rest modules an airline happens to buy for that airplane. There are all different ones. When you look back into your flying career, which is now about 20 years, is that right? Well, I started flying commercially with my first regional airline in 1990, and here it is 2021. How many years is that? Do I need a calculator for that? I think we can cock this, so it’s quite some time. What I was curious, what do you feel was your closest encounter with a somewhat dangerous or unexpected situation where you felt, whoa, this was pretty close. I’m asked that all the time, and the closest answer I have to that is an incident where we came relatively close to hitting another plane in midair. The asterisk being it was in 1986 when I was 19 years old and flying a little four seat Cessna under what we call visual flight rules. It was sort of a close call, but it was also operating in a realm completely removed from commercial aviation. As a commercial airline pilot, knock on what? I don’t have anything to compare it to. There really hasn’t been anything that jumps out of me. Yeah, I’m curious about this close call situation you had. I was on the flight to Jakarta, and we were holding outside of the airport, not for long, maybe five minutes. This was a large plane, it was a 777, and there was another Turkish Airlines. It’s seemingly maybe less than 200 feet below us and maybe 500 feet away from us. So I could literally see the passengers through the windows. Is that something that’s still within the normal frame of what you would expect because is it safe enough? It seemed extremely close. I’m not sure if you were flipping through my book and may have picked up on a section that talks about this, especially your comment about seeing passengers through the windows, which is completely impossible. This is something I hear all the time. Passengers have a habit of misjudging and vastly exaggerating the distances between other planes air to air. Planes look closer than they really are, especially when you’re remembering it. It’s very uncommon to be closer than 1,000 feet vertically with another airplane. In fact, I have a picture in my archives that was taken out the window of another plane 1,000 feet below and slightly offset, and you would never believe that it was 1,000 feet, but it was. So there’s that. It’s not people’s fault. They just aren’t good at judging vertical or horizontal separation distances with other planes. Part of that is how you’re wired in that moment. Oh my God, there’s a plane that’s right there. Well, it’s not actually right there. And as far as seeing people through the windows, which if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that, I mean, you can be 20 feet away from an airplane at the gate and you can’t see people through the windows. So, you know, trying to see somebody through a window in the air, looking at another plane in the air, you know, 500 or 1,000 feet away, it’s just completely impossible. Yeah, might be quite a trick that my memory plays on. So 1,000 feet is kind of the save range, right? So it couldn’t be in the same 2D sector, but it should be 1,000 feet apart. Well, again, this varies if we’re talking about the cruise part of flight, arrivals, departures, on approaches, you know, there are times going into San Francisco, for example, where you’re on a close in parallel approach with another airplane that’s just you’ll be staggered, but horizontally, very close to the other plane. And if you look on the interwebs, there are thousands of pictures of pictures of planes taken out the window of other planes landing at San Francisco with captions like, oh my God, we, you know, nearly collided with this plane. Well, no, you didn’t, but it is unusual to be that close, but there are airports where that happens. Yeah, well, it seems like from my observation, this wasn’t controlled. So the other plane was there, but it had its own course when some were completely different. So we weren’t in parallel approach and we weren’t even in the same holding area. So it went somewhere completely different, eventually went to the same airport, but on a different approach path, we had to wait a little longer. So it’s possible that something was off and that was some sort of unintentional near miss, but I seriously doubt it. I think the airplane was just further away than you think it was. Oh, that’s absolutely possible. So but I’m just trying to find the minimum altitude. It depends where you are and which realm of flight you’re in. Chris flight, a thousand feet vertical separation is about what you’re the closest you’re going to see. There was this incident, I don’t know if you remember a couple of years ago, there was an A380 flying just west of the Maldives. I think west of India, I don’t know where the specific location was, but it was an A380 and there was a small private golf stream. I think that was the plane model, which is about a dozen passengers. And it was right underneath the A380 and apparently it created such turbulence that the plane had trouble staying in the air, at least that’s the myth from what I remember. And the plane declared an emergency and eventually they got it under control relatively close to the ground. That must be really rare, right, because you only meet those every couple of years. It is very uncommon. I did have a wake turbulence encounter once landing in Philadelphia back in the early 90s. I was flying a 19 seat turboprop and we were landing behind a 757 and 757s are known to have especially violent wakes that spin behind them. And we got caught even though we were within or beyond the minimum separation distance. We got caught in the vortices and the plane, in my mind it felt like it had flipped us 90 degrees. In reality it was probably a good deal less than that, but it was startling. And the plane was going that way and there was nothing I could do to make it not go that way until we exited the vortices and were able to move the plane back to level flight and we actually continued on and landed even though we were only at, I don’t know, maybe three or four hundred feet when this happened. The whole incident took maybe three seconds, but it was relatively harrowing I suppose. Not on the level of when I was in the Cessna and almost collided with the other little plane, but still something that I remember vividly. And that was the early 90s and here we are in 2021 and I can’t think of anything else. Yeah, for a while this kind of demonstrates how few and far between these types of incidents are. Yeah, I believe you, but these guys were really busy right until early last year. Now they’re not, fortunately or unfortunately, depends on how you look at this. I think unfortunate, it’s very unfortunate. How do you think this whole COVID crisis will play out? Will we go back to the same route networks? Will we go back to the same passenger volume? Will it all look quite different compared to what we’ve seen or what’s your personal expectation? I really don’t know. To this point, and I was pretty pessimistic when all of this started, it’s turned out to be much worse than even I guessed it would be or forecast it would be. Eventually the big picture will look pretty much the way it did before, but certain things probably will always be different. There are just so many moving parts with this, whether we’re talking domestic US flying, international flying, short haul, long haul. It comes down to what different governments and different parts of the world are going to do as far as opening borders and relaxing quarantines, how long that takes, and where it happens, where it doesn’t happen. Nobody really knows. Because of all that uncertainty, it’s hard to predict not so much what will happen but when. By that, I think at a certain point, this will be a memory and flying will be normal again. But how long that takes is what we don’t know, and how much damage will be done along the way. Airlines going out of business, people losing jobs, and all of that. I’ve been lucky. I didn’t lose my job, and ironically, the past six or eight months, I’ve flown more than I have in any six or eight month period for as long as I’ve had my current job going back 20 years. That’s because I’m senior enough in my position, in my fleet, in my seat, where if I want to fly a lot, I can. Other pilots, though, have not been flying at all or very little. A lot of variation. Yeah, I would assume you are active in the cargo sector right now because that seems to have taken off quite strongly. Actually, I know almost all of the flying I’ve done is normal passenger flights with a couple of exceptions. Many flights are full now, as we say COVID full, because seats are blocked and then there are fewer flights overall, so flights are consolidated. But I’ve been flying a lot. Other pilots, not so much. Yeah, well, that’s good to hear. I mean, I definitely hope it’s going to go back to normal or to the new normal. I despise that expression. Don’t say that. It has become a lot. I have a whole list of just COVID related words that I just don’t ever want to hear again, and that’s up here at the top. Maybe a good plan. I like that. Talking about the 737 MAX, it seems like it’s dead in disguise for quite some time after these two horrific incidents. I flew it before, but before it was grounded, and I flew it after that. Do you think it’s going to come back for good? I know it’s been widely being pushed in service now. It’s being recertified. Do you think we did the right call there? Yeah, I think the airplane will be back. I mean, Boeing has so much invested in the thing, and there were so many outstanding orders. Not a lot of room there for it not to come back. At a certain point, I think most of this will just be forgotten. Now, should the 737 MAX exist in the first place? That’s a different conversation, maybe. I have this issue with 737s in general. It’s not a safety issue. The 737 was designed in the 1960s, basically as a regional jet, to fly 300 mile legs with 75 or 80 people. It had a set of stairs that came out of the fuselage because it was designed to fly to airports that didn’t have jetways. Boeing over the years, over the decades, has pushed and pushed and pushed that plane into roles it was never really designed for, and they’ve kind of made a monster out of it. You see the thing now, it’s stretched out, it’s got fins sticking off it. I call it the Frankenplane because they were too lazy to go and build a new error frame from scratch to take on those roles. Instead, they just kept forcing 737s on everybody. There have been 10 different variants of that plane, bigger, more powerful. The culmination of that was the MAX. Instead of Boeing building what would have been the 797 10 or 15 years ago and introducing that, they just kept pushing and stretching and stretching and monsterizing the 737 and created this beast out of it. Is that why the MAX disasters happened? No, but there’s something in that that I think should be a wake up call to Boeing that, okay, enough with this plane. Let’s move on to something all new and more modern. I have a picture up on my website. I don’t know if you saw it. It’s a photo of the nose section of a 707 from 1958, and next to it is the nose section from a 737, next generation 737, just a couple years old, and the two planes are nose to nose and they are identical. The architecture is exactly the same. It’s unchanged since the 1950s. The 737 still has the same 707 windows and you notice the rivet lines are even in the same places. They’ve just stuck with this design and they’re trying to convince people that a plane conceived in the 50s is the future. I think they should just stop going there and let’s come up with something new. What do you think there is a little innovation in the aviation industry when it comes to planes especially? I know that there’s a lot of computerization, there’s a lot of automation, there’s a lot of stuff that happened there, but what do you think the plane design and Boeing made that step and Everest made a two with the E380 and the Boeing with the 787, but in general there seems to be a very haphazard innovation the way it worked and very little innovation. What do you think that is and how can we change it? Everything now seems to be variants of existing planes rather than all new cool airplanes. When I was a kid you had the 707, the 727, the 747, the DC10, the DC9. These planes were so distinctive that you could spot one six miles away and you knew immediately what it was just because of the profile of the plane. It just seems like so much more care was put into the design of these airplanes and that’s probably looking at things too romantically. Modern planes, even the 737 MAX, they’re very sophisticated, there’s a lot of technology and hard work that went into building them, but somehow it’s just not the same. The last all new airplane that Boeing came up with was the 787, which is now how old? It seems like there’s just nothing out there on the horizon except just more variants of what we already have. Well it seems there isn’t enough innovation to come up with a different airframe design that is within the specifications by the airlines. We want a plane that’s more field efficient, we want a plane that’s more comfortable, we want a better air, that’s a little bit of what we got with the 787, there’s more human air. So that seems to be the the airlines are really focused on their bottom lines. Well that’s always been the case, I mean that hasn’t changed. But you would think that they would be on the lookout for a plane that’s revolutionary better because yes not all the airlines would buy it, but there would be one airline because it’s so competitive would say okay let’s try this out like British Airways bought like 207, 87, 37 max even when they were grounded. So one of them will buy them, but somehow with the A3 we saw that. Stop right there, the story that you’re telling right there is in a lot of ways the story of the 747 back in the late 60s. Juan Tripp, the CEO of Pan Am, he wanted that airplane, nobody else really did and he you know being the visionary that he was kind of talked bowing into building it and check this out that the 747 when it debuted in 1969 was more than double the size of any existing plane. Yeah, it’s a massive plane. It’s a massive plane but in its day especially, I mean to be you know you had the 707 and the DC8 this was twice the size and this is pretty remarkable that plane the 747 went from a drawing on a napkin it was literally sketched out on a napkin to an actual flying airplane in two years. I mean that’s just just incredible. I mean nowadays you can’t even get a version of an existing plane into testing for that long. Never mind it would be as if somebody said let’s take the A380, double the size of it and have it ready in two years. Completely impossible in today’s aviation culture I guess is the best way to describe it. You know the way the airlines and the regulators and the airplane makers all kind of tie in now it’s such a everything is just kind of frozen it seems. Well a lot of people blame it on regulation exactly and I think that’s a real issue it’s almost impossible unless you’re Boeing or Airbus to get anything through the FAA or through the European counterpart and Boeing and Airbus have this kind of cozy oligopoly that they created and there isn’t a lot of interest especially after the A380 demise that they haven’t created something really new. It works as well and until like a year ago they couldn’t even finish the orders they had like there was no need for them to really experiment with anything. So it’s a typical outcome of an industry that’s heavily regulated until technology goes to a completely new level. Electric aircraft maybe now smaller aircraft or maybe supersonic that might get as a different level of regulation for a while at least so someone can actually experiment with something new again. That’s true and everything I said a few minutes ago not withstanding you know the kind of romantic why can’t we have a cool looking plane angle you know we may be up against a certain limit I mean we have pretty much every combination of range and passenger capacity figured out you know we don’t really need something completely new in the way that we’re thinking except when you get into you know alternative ways of powering an airplane I mean it’s just you know very paradigm shifting scenarios of you know moving into sustainable fuels and then different kinds of engines you know there’s you see these sketches and mockups now of these kind of flying wing designs there’s all these conceptual ideas that I don’t give them a lot of hope at least now because aviation is so glacially slow moving and you have so much infrastructure that that is built around airplanes just you change an airplane you have to change all of that also and that’s part of why things kind of stay the way they are for so long well there is this massive amount of planes now that we don’t use so I’m curious what will happen to them I hope they’re going to go back to service they are not just being scrapped of which happened to the a380 surprisingly early seems to be the the symbol for ways so to speak do you think we’re going to see most of this fleet coming back or it’s just going to going to go straight to the junkyard I don’t know I know that right now Emirates you know has what a hundred a380s in storage something like that what what is going to happen to all those planes I don’t know will all of them come back will some of them come back and over how much time it goes back to what we were saying a minute ago about how long this all takes to come out of and what the recovery looks like and what it doesn’t look like it it it’s hard to say one unfortunate outcome so far has been you know almost the total demise of the 747 I think at the moment air china and maybe his loftons are still operating a small number of them carrying passengers I I don’t know but all of the rest are gone and you know they were scheduled to be phased out even before this began but this you know kind of slammed the door and suddenly basically all of the 747s were grounded yeah it’s the 787 and the a350 are the only ones are being flown long haul unless you have triple sevens which probably are out there mainly for cargo it’s here there’s a lot of routes I see a good number of triple sevens the 200s and 300s out there right now carrying passengers and freight a350s a330s pretty much everything except the 747 or the a380 though I did see a china southern a380 in Los Angeles a few weeks back who knows how many it seems to be the only one that’s back yeah yeah I had the same impression you know I was stalking you a bit on your Instagram and it seems like we have the same love for some airlines so Qatar Airways is definitely one one of my favorite if not their favorite and you also seem to be liking Emirates I saw a couple of pictures what do you feel is the winner of the next 10 years within that you know relatively small but prestigious premium segment there’s also Singapore Airlines there’s Cathay some of the American Airlines and especially American Airlines wanted to move into this what do you think will be say in 10 years or this is the best airline in the world that’s a good question and I don’t know because of everything that’s happening right now can can upend the industry in such a way that when we come out of this things could be switched around and airlines that used to be what we considered the premier service carriers you know could be suffering so badly that that’s not the case anymore I don’t know I really don’t know it’s it’s kind of frustrating because you know for the longest time the US Airlines were notorious for just having crappy service compared to the European and Asian and Middle Eastern Airlines and starting from early 2000s up to when all the the pandemic began you know that had really changed and and you know first in business class service on the US carriers was comparable in some ways better than what you would find on a lot of the foreign carriers that were once you know hailed as the best with certain exceptions and you know now all that’s kind of out the window and and whether it comes back that way I don’t know but I was I was really happy to see the US carriers you know upping their game to the point where they became competitive with you know the the the the cafe pacifics and the Singapore’s of the world um no they’re they’re never gonna have beds in first class with rose petals and showers and then and all of that but you know for for the the average business traveler they developed a very good product all three of the big US majors did and all that is kind of on hold right now yeah it seems like that the premium segment isn’t doing so well and no I’m very happy that Qatar has at least kept up the frequency to most of their destinations would they have kept up the destination but reduced the frequency so to speak and they only fly a couple of times a week instead of couple times daily that seems to be a relief but they seem to be the only ones who are kind of well they don’t have to travel with the bottom line right there so they seem desperate or interested in it’s easy for the golf carriers to keep their game up because you know they’re they’re government funded and sure it’s you can’t really compare I keep looking at Emirates and Qatar and then and wondering so much of their business virtually all of it revolves around the transfer of passengers between continents and and that’s that’s stopped right now here in the US we we’re lucky we have a relatively healthy and getting healthier domestic network these other airlines don’t everything they do depends on long haul intercontinental flying and and nobody’s doing that right now and there doesn’t seem to be much improvement on the horizon for that I you know looking ahead I just don’t see any trends in that direction I do see strong trends for as far as domestic travel here in the US picking up and probably travel within Western Europe too but as far as you know Asia to North America and the other combinations that these other carriers rely on and that’s that’s the golf carriers it’s airlines like Singapore and then Cathay and even the big European airlines Lufthansa or France it’s so much of what they do depends on long haul connections and and not just leisure traffic but business traffic and and there’s just not as I just said I just don’t see any movement on that and you know so how long they can they can wait this out I don’t know the golf carriers obviously can probably wait as I wait it out as long as they need to because the government just will always support them but what about Air France British Airways Lufthansa you know they don’t have as much support and they don’t have as much time well I think they’re becoming more and more a state funded entity in its entirety and I think there’s going to be another bailout and another bailout I cannot see of the scenario where Germany will not bail out Lufthansa is never going to happen they might have 100% of the equity you know the whole 99% of the bonds but the country can do it like at Infinitum and I was flying Lufthansa last October and the flight attendants and the flight was completely empty in economy maybe 10 people I was a little more busy in business class and I asked the flight attendants if that’s normal and they’re like yeah that’s actually a pretty heavy load for this A350 on that day so it’s been going on for six seven eight months prior to that last October and I don’t think anyone worries about that so maybe the cargo pays for it but it’s essential for a country like Germany to maintain certain connections and they will never give up on this even if the flight is 100% empty you could well be right in the case of Germany on Lufthansa but I don’t know if that’s the case across the board you know not every country is going to prop up its national airlines for an indefinite period of time it’s just it’s not going to happen and then when you go back through history you know countries have let their airlines fold a swiss air Sabina Malav other examples too Alitalia it seems to be a continuous bankruptcy and the airlines Alitalia has been bankrupt for 60 years I think yeah it’s every time I see an Alitalia plan I laugh yeah it seems to be their business plan to just be bankrupt all the time and I think there’s a it’s there’s a strong motivation to do this obviously we’ve been talking 50 years probably it’s not going to happen but then at that point nobody’s ever going to travel anymore if the travel the night stays so low we’re back to like the 50s or like you know second world war time we’re barely anyone could afford to fly well that way that that that itself is a great a great topic a good point and I think maybe you’ll agree with me that it’s one that’s lost on a lot of people today and that is how cheap air travel is you know back when I was a kid in the late 70s yeah you know in my in my school class I was probably one of only 10 kids who’d ever been on an airplane and the main reason for that is flying in those days was expensive it wasn’t something that you know everybody just went and did the way they do today you know I’ve seen different graphs different charts and you know I want to say one I’ve seen the price of air travel today and when I say today I mean pre pandemic into kind of where we are now is about half of what it was 25 or 30 years ago and when you go back to the 60s and 70s it was even more expensive than and I don’t think most people realize that you didn’t just you know hop off to cancun for the weekend with your friends and things like that didn’t happen okay perfect but flying on the whole flying is much much cheaper than it used to be and and that that includes after factory again all of those ancillary fees that people hate so much fees for baggage fees for food or whatever add ons but the way I look at those ancillaries is it’s it’s a way of keeping fares low across the board certain people can pay for certain things they want and then those who don’t want them don’t have to pay for them and that that allows fares to remain affordable for everybody I think it’s an underappreciated psychologically I don’t know that it works because people you know they feel taken advantage of and they feel nickel and dimed and usually it’s younger people who don’t remember when it cost three thousand dollars to fly to London because that you know the today’s generation doesn’t remember the pre deregulation airline business and how expensive it was to fly and how most people didn’t do it well I agree with you it’s an underappreciated fact that how the aviation industry has changed in that aspect but I think what people have learned and this is the sign of times is that the the expect the similar trajectory like the iPhone so you get a better device for the same price every 18 months right and it’s just it’s twice as good it’s not just a little better it’s twice as good and that’s the expectation a lot of youngsters live in that world but but this seems to be it’s Moore’s law we call it that way now it seems like a natural law and I think they look at the aviation industry and I’m not 100% sure why it is but they look at the aviation industry in a similar mindset so they want something better for the same price and relatively quick scaling trajectory or they want something from much cheaper and there is good solutions for that and I think the the airlines have profited from the internet quite a bit right so their ticket sales became much easier much more efficient and they have some new planes also and the price of oil is down at least compared to the 70s it’s still fluctuating all over the place but I mean there is only so much space you can cram people in and there’s only so much you can do to make a route more efficient so I’m quite surprised how far we’ve gotten right so we we probably are 50 to maybe 60 percent maybe even more efficient in the airline industry than we were in the late 70s which is quite great but it’s not that infinite scale that we had in semiconductors one where we are like several thousand times more efficient than in the late 70s where you know an iPhone is the same CPU power as a whole supercomputer you had in the 70s so that’s why I’m hoping there is more to it and now we see it with the electric planes maybe that are maybe on a similar scale it will take some time to take off but once they do the innovation can be really quick because we just enter a whole different curve that’s kind of the hope that a lot of people have about aviation it definitely hasn’t happened yet but you know Peter Thiel’s famous saying is we want the flying cars what did we get we got the 140 characters on twitter and that’s that’s something that is to a lot of industry observers including me it’s very frustrating I feel like we should have these wonderful jets we should go to space but none of this happened in the last 40 years I can’t really say whose fault it is I want to blame it on regulators but they will blame it back and say well we made it the safest industry ever so flying is safer than driving which is really surprising because you sit on a on a fireball literally it’s it’s very safe seemingly right in terms of statistics and it seems very counterintuitive that it’s so safe maybe and that’s just me maybe and I’m curious about your position if you wouldn’t have this crazy drive to make it so safe which makes sense right some people are scared of flying but if you just take a smaller subset of the population who’s not scared at all it would be more dangerous but maybe could go supersonic or maybe could go to space and then come back I would like that I certainly not a hundred percent of that of the addressable market but maybe 10 20 30 percent hmm now there’s there’s a lot to unpack there uh that that was all well said uh yeah I think though that we’re we’re a long way from electric commercial airplanes and and going back to supersonic flight for any number of reasons one of which is just the general and inertia that is aviation yeah um what you were saying about passenger expectations and and and all of that I you know part of this psychology there is people just love to hate the airlines um and that’s never gonna change I don’t think people are ever gonna be satisfied I think it’s mutual the way the way airline employees hate passengers is is epic is really epic and I don’t hate passengers that’s like baseball players hating the fans I mean that that’s well you are exempt for the cabin cabin staff and the ground staff it’s so a friend a friend of mine worked at the airport and she was not in love with any passengers or any of their demands and it was very palpable so I don’t know what it is but it seems the industry that’s most antagonistic I can think of any other industry where people hate each other so much I yeah I don’t I don’t know that I would agree with that but yeah you’re you’re gonna find bad examples at the airport um and uh I don’t know the you know the part of that is that we’ve managed to make the air travel experience so much more logistically difficult and tedious and time consuming than it really needs to be um and just just starting with airport security for example and so much of of flying from city a to city b is just standing in line and just waiting for things to happen and and being yelled at through public address announcements and all of that kind of hassle and then tedium has created just a kind of level of frustration for everybody and that includes employees and maybe that’s how it manifests itself I think airlines were getting better at that too um and and it’s it’s too bad because now everything is kind of on hold or being reset there’s a part in my book where I talk about um you know patch and passenger frustrations and airlines you know telling the truth and being forthright and honest with customers uh people always seem to think that the airline is lying to them and then you know really that’s that’s not the case well what happens is you have so much compartmentalization at airlines you have all these different departments that have their own priorities their own goals their own languages in some respect and when when something happens say it’s a maintenance delay here the way the the details and the specs of that situation get passed from department to department before the message is finally delivered at the gate over the microphone things get scrambled up um garbled misinterpreted and and and people are often left not really knowing what the story is and and the airlines aren’t doing that intentionally but there there’s kind of that inherent dysfunction in the way they’re put together and you know that’s something that that some carriers are better at than others at addressing and on the whole I think there was some good positive movement on on um just getting better at that until all of this happened and then who knows where we’ll be next well I think we all realize that airlines just like banks are too big to fail right and that usually brings with it even more regulation even more money that rains down from from above and you don’t have to worry you don’t have to compete and it it makes it a state business sooner or later and for a while because sometimes it was good we we kind of denied that reality and realized that banks should not be too big to fail and we don’t have to rescue them but in the end we have to because we need those institutions we kind of can switch around between different airlines but if all the airlines are in trouble which is what happened in march or most of them maybe the exception spirit but it’s not an airline you’re so proud of um so there isn’t much of an answer that anyone comes up with and we can all rail against the Fed and the easy money and and what happened to the tech industry but the problem is there is a moment when things are too big to fail on an institutional level and you always think oh it’s just a year or two and then we’re going to be fine and then the next crisis comes around I think nobody has a good answer for this that we are running between these cycles of oh let’s just fix it for now and it’s going to be fine and then it is fine for like two or three years and then it’s over again so we’d be kind of making these airlines into banks they become a soviet union and I left in eastern germany I know how this game ends but it ends pretty badly because we end up with very stale uncompetitive industries that are they produce something but it’s not competitive with anywhere else in the world and I don’t know if anyone has a good solution for this because we see this across many industries and we kind of need a shake up and and to live without this but I think we’re too rich for this shake up so someone needs to show and I think China is helping us a little they’re showing us what you can do if you put entrepreneurship in there basically a soviet union style country right but they still have embraced um it’s so much idea behind us right so they didn’t have these huge airlines to contend with 10 15 years they are really enough showing us what to do which is pretty ironic well if it is ironic I don’t I don’t know how completely true that is and then you know our situation thus far is this hasn’t been about saving an airline it’s been about saving an entire industry yeah that drives you know x amount of the economy and employees you know however many hundreds of thousands of people uh what choice did they have it’s not that it was one or two airlines that was that was at risk it was the entire industry yeah um there’s simply no way you can you can allow that to to collapse um let’s see your point of what that you know may turn us into industry wise at some point um I I don’t know I think they’re going to be state run most big airlines going to be state run very quickly again everywhere in the world anywhere in the world and then there’s a bunch of LCCs that kind of are nimble enough and lucky enough because they are not as effective because it’s mostly domestic flying anyways to to be competitive I think that was kind of what we had before but just now it becomes more stark more extreme they kind of merged a little bit both of these sites um I think this will go away uh that that could be um it’s it’s interesting you’ve seen certain LCCs that were are popular and I don’t know if successful is the right word but but doing brisk business anyway uh norwegian uh air ajax um you know long haul LCCs that got into the international market which is a very difficult thing for any LCC to exceed to uh succeed at and once this all happened they they basically collapsed um but already there’s talk of new long haul LCCs jumping in to replace them um you know norwegian wasn’t doing well to begin with so they didn’t have a lot to work with once this happened they were kind of doomed but that doesn’t mean that that doesn’t mean the model is doomed it’s always going to be a challenging model low cost long haul but it’s it’s it’s something that the right airline could be very successful at and could be as you were saying you know pushing us towards this this industry where you have the airlines at the very top and then LCC is doing everything else and kind of no in between yeah I think in LCC long haul LCC LCC will work what they’ve done obviously they have a small capital layer and they didn’t get as much state bailout but you can diss routes and I’m sure in some of the region routes they’re highly profitable just not the whole network because they were growing so much also and they had these big plans but if if you just focus on those if there’s no passengers around sometimes these passengers are of course all evaporated but if say you go norway to cancun or norway to Mexico City I think you would you would easily fill seven in seven as it is there’s new routes that have come on that nobody really serves that might make a killing right now so it’s it’s very hard to forecast and I mean it’s if you think of it more as a charter airline and you don’t have to schedule out 12 months in advance and you could be a more flexible I think there’s a lot of money to be made it’s just this hybrid between you know you want to be chartered because it’s so flexible but you kind of want to be also be sold by a GDS you want to show up everywhere which charter islands usually don’t do and most of these marketing channels if someone can figure out a hybrid in the windows I think there’s a lot of money there maybe and we just don’t know yet how the the logistics of air travel are going to are going to pan out as we come out of this the consensus seems to be reasonably that that leisure travel is going to be the first and strongest to recover we’re already seeing that and that’s both short haul and long haul whereas business traffic particularly long haul business traffic will be lagging far behind whether that by itself is enough to drive the kind of changes you’re just talking about I don’t know yeah you’ve been to to a lot of countries that are definitely on my list to go to so I wanted to kind of get your your your lay down on them you I don’t know what role maybe it was an official role as as a pilot you went to Liberia in Africa you went to I think Afghanistan is that right no no not Afghanistan Pakistan but I have I have been to Liberia yeah I was in the Liberia how much how much time did you get around well let me let me back this up I I like to fly I like to travel those are in some ways the same thing and in some ways very different things when I was a kid it was my my love of air travel that got me into geography and I think it came directly from studying airline route maps and memorizing the the capitals of countries and that became an interest in wanting to actually go to those places and so that that kind of grew out of my love for aviation my you know desire to travel and see places and that’s that’s also part of why when I became a pilot I had my ambition set on flying long haul international because I wanted to visit as many countries as I could so you know probably half of my traveling has been on the job work related and then half has been stuff I’ve just gone and done on my own but the the two are related and in an interesting way I think and you know a lot of pilots believe it or not just don’t like to travel and you know maybe wouldn’t even have passports if if they weren’t required to you know for me it’s it’s it’s hard to have one without the other but for other pilots it’s it’s more just the the hands on thrill of flying in and of itself and where you happen to be flying too is not important where for me it that always has been it’s been you know half the almost half or whatever of the of the experience it’s it’s not just how you get there but where you’re going and so yeah because of that I’ve traveled a lot I’m asked sometimes well what’s your favorite place and then there’s no way to answer that because you travel to different places for different reasons the the Liberia experience you mentioned was just literally three or four hours on the ground in between flights doing a turnaround and then I was there with a crew and and the plan was just stay on the airplane for four hours and and then we would turn around and fly back to Ghana where we had come from and I couldn’t do that I’m in Liberia and it’s it’s right there on the other side of the airport fence I have to get out get out of this airport and see it or I can’t it just wouldn’t feel the same I can’t put the pin on the map and what I ended up doing is we we paid uh um actually it was the it was the airport manager at Roberts field in Liberia who I kind of got a little friendly with and and you know ran this past him and he said hey I think I can work something out for you and he called a driver in and you know we paid this guy $50 or whatever it was and he he smuggled us out through immigration and customs and into the back of his pickup truck and off we went for four hours just driving around some of these uh small towns in in Liberia you know meeting people and taking pictures and then back to the airplane uh an hour before departure I remember walking back through the airport with mud all over my pants and my shoes just all caked in mud and dirt um and I went back there two or three times and and did kind of the same thing each time and interestingly one of those trips was at the height of the Ebola crisis back in uh 2000 help me out I think it was 13 you know 11 yeah over a couple and that was one of the times when we didn’t leave the airport because Liberia was you know one of the country’s hardest hit by Ebola and it’s it’s eerie now when I go back and look at those pictures and I have some of them posted on my website because all the airport workers had masks on and everybody was afraid to go near everybody it was it was uh eerily uh uh precursor to to kind of what we’re dealing with now yeah I show people those pictures and they think they’re were taken recently but they were you know eight years ago yeah yeah that’s quite quite eerie um I uh well Ebola is a whole different kind of disease right but it’s very very deadly um it’s kind of it’s hard to contract once you have it it’s very deadly and um we kind of have the opposite now but obviously that’s still very deadly and we are not really used to that um when you when you think back to your to other countries where there were relatively few um travelers go and I think I saw Pakistan I saw I saw El Salvador on your list correct me if that is wrong and um I just had James Wilcox on a couple weeks ago he goes to Somalia every year not during covid but he guides tours to Somalia um pump land and Somali land so there’s a bunch of countries where we feel there is a natural apprehension to go there often for safety reasons or for reasons and you know I’m in extreme travel I’ve been to 130 different countries but there’s a few countries that make it a little harder they’re more expensive or you need more preparation it’s hard to get a visa um when when you think of those countries where you probably had a little bit of apprehension too when you came out on the other side um was it generally a positive experience where there’s a duration where you said oh man that was really hairy I shouldn’t have gone there that was a mistake um what’s kind of your overall picture on that I don’t think I’ve ever left a place and and thought you know oh I don’t ever want to go back there um there are places I’d be happy never to return to but I wouldn’t I can’t think of anywhere where I would you know actively avoid going because I felt unsafe or or was otherwise so turned off by a place and and it’s not always uh safety and security that that go into that it’s it’s just how you felt as a tourist you know how did did you feel welcome did you feel hassled where the things you saw underwhelming uh was it what you expected more or less um things like that it’s and as I said a minute ago you go to different places for different reasons um sometimes you want to see a city sometimes you want to go into the forest sometimes you want to swim um so it’s it’s it can be hard to to compare trips and experiences because of what brought you there in the first place yeah it seems to be a lot of travel anxiety um that’s pre covid or let’s see how it looks post covid comes from the fact that you are not aware of territory and you perceive it as dangerous and maybe there’s good reasons for this and it’s you know for every every person has their own steps out of a comfort zone you don’t want to do and I’ve talked about with other with this about with other travelers and what we generally agree on is that there is for a lot of people what they perceive as anxiety we perceive it as curiosity it makes us even more interested in going there because this seems to be something that is unique and nobody else has experienced which seems kind of odd right but it seems to be that has a certain part of the population has this exploration gene and is ready to just basically just not listen to this anxiety but say okay this is the most anxious place I can think of in order to go there so this is where I want to go and as you say most people a car coming back 99% I think of people are coming back and say well I maybe didn’t like it as much as I thought because I was more more excited um there’s sites that I’ve been to and I’ve thought it were a real lockdown and then I went to the Taj Mahal which I thought is totally overhyped I thought it was way better than the hype even says so you never know before you actually hit that place because it obviously depends on the time of day how people interact with right and it depends on the weather so there’s a lot of variables that go into this but I think this is a quite a quite a strong um feeling from all the travelers there is rarely a trip where you come back and say well I really regret making the trip at all maybe I wouldn’t go back as you said you know there’s countries where they they didn’t really talk to me um there’s places I went I’m like well I can’t really read anyone there’s nothing for me to do here um but I feel and that’s interesting as you say that once you change your perspective of this trip I went to a lot of places 20 years ago and was kind of not happy with them and then I went back 20 years later with a slightly different perspective still I wouldn’t necessarily live there but a slightly different perspective like I used to live in Delhi and then I went back a couple years ago and the place changed so much and I didn’t like it as much when I lived there but now that I visited it again had a lot of places I can associate myself with I thought it was wonderful one of the best places um to go back to for like two or three weeks so the perspective changes a lot but generally people say this is something I feel very proud of and it fulfills me living my life yeah I I think very few people even people who are squeamish at the outset regret traveling um it seems like almost always people are glad that they did it and again though people go to different places for different reasons and so much of it is just your your own mindset and set of expectations and then the way you interpret your example of going to Delhi um it shows that that it a lot of it maybe wasn’t the city it was you and and how you felt compared to how you when you had been there before and then somebody next to you may have had a totally different experience uh it’s it’s it’s hard to say and yeah also yeah the spells this spells positively for the general overarching theme right so I I said that before in another episode that I feel no one who who traveled a lot will come back and will nuke the place you just visited which just doesn’t happen right you you might not love it but you you respect the people there and you respect what they’re up to even if you go to like Afghanistan or Pakistan places that we perceive as war zones even if they’re not sure now I agree with that completely there’s a segment in my book where I talk about kind of the the negative of travel and then by that I mean you’re often exposed to a lot of things you just wish you didn’t see uh you know environmental destruction pollution poverty and and that can be that can weigh on you to the point where there have been moments when I’ve gotten home and just wanted to flush my passport down the toilet and never leave home again but yeah that that’s always kind of a fleeting reaction and then you know the desire to travel always comes back but you know you see great and amazing things but you also see terrible things but that’s that’s part of the experience and and should be anyway part of why you want to do it because you you’re you’re learning and and seeing things that most people know about only uh in an abstract kind of way well I think it’s harder it’s gotten harder for other people to ignore each other and as it’s pros and cons and I think your pro is that we we learn about how other people live in respect and we are facing that reality and I think the US is better than Europe but in Europe I think it lives in this bubble this mind bubble even if it’s relatively open economy it lives in this mind bubble of the european way the german way the french way the spanish way and they know other places exist but they do anything they can do to not get any information from these places like that nothing comes through into their bubble of comfort and the europeans are not the only ones who do this but I think they’ve built a very strong system around this and even do they travel they they travel in this comfort zone as you say as seeing these problems these problems exist irrespective of your visit or not right it’s it’s important that you confront the real world i always hope and not live in this this world you build up and now we do it with covid which is very unfortunate that we all live in this cloudified world of whatever we think is our our picture um the world is so it’s maybe so different and it might be so traumatizing to see this but i call it a positive PTSD right you come back and you you you experience other places and you’re also able to see what you are capable of once you you experience this it might be negative in the first place but i think it turns out positive and helps you to see the world in the real life and like you said whether or not you’re there it’s it still exists and in some ways i think it’s it’s incumbent upon you to actually go and experience it at least once or twice in moderation whatever but just to because that will in turn change the way you live your life and react to other things you know having experienced this first hand and seen these things that otherwise for most people just exist only on tv or on the internet it just it it does something to your level of awareness yeah yeah i i went to shanty town in camera room which was kind of the the most crazy i got with this but i felt like it was it was in the end it wasn’t a scary experience at all it was like a guided tour literally just went with a driver and was hoping to come back in the same the same state i went and i i did fortunately but it’s it’s something where you feel bad for a while but i think after a few years you reflect on it and you feel much better and more and more complete human and there is this this this very strong desire of people to explore and i think that’s always there but it seems to be we we put this on the avenue of of staying in our comfort zone i think this there was something wrong with the way tourism worked until 2000 early 2000 and 20 we we had a lot of people going more than ever right but they stayed kind of in their own mental mindset and they didn’t interact maybe for good reasons maybe for bad reasons they didn’t really interact with the real world out there it was this made up world of travel tourism marketing nothing that was really negative and you see this in Thailand which is very opposed to letting any foreigners in and i think this is a result of 30 years of i don’t want to say that word but 30 years or even longer to have very mixed experience with most tourists and they’ve seen it all right and Thailand is a very i want to say the great accepting country but they haven’t i think they have a strong desire to close this thing up for a decade and then maybe start very slow again so something went wrong when we designed this this tourism experience that isn’t in the mind of how travel should be and i can’t really put my finger to it oh like that i think you’re absolutely right and you know we created a monster out of international tourism and and you know if you’ve been to the islands in southern Thailand just as an example you kind of saw it at its worst or downtown Edinburgh in the middle of the summer or you just thought okay enough and now we have this time out and and how it it resolves remains to be seen but good points and to back up a minute you said something a moment ago that i thought was interesting you talked about experiences travel experiences being different just depending on on variables like what time of day you’re there or the time of year or or how many other people happen to be there you know that really can shift how you take into place just the the logistics of how and when and what time and to bounce this back to to the airlines i think that’s true with flying as well you know somebody would say oh i i hate flying on whatever airline they’re terrible and and all that happened is they had one bad experience on one flight at one time and yet you know somebody that same day at that same airline on a different airplane with a different crew could have a completely different experience and it’s it’s very hard to be categorical when you’re talking about airlines and when you’re talking about travel as well it’s so much just depends yeah yeah i went to Costa Rica last month first time for me and i was surprised how well dispersed and spread out tourism works there i i didn’t think it would be possible it’s not cheap costa rica it’s the same price level basically as the us but the weight of whole country is spread out and there’s little roads and there’s a little resort there and then there’s a little beach town there they somehow pulled it off and maybe it was because it’s so expensive um maybe it is because costa rica costa ricans are geniuses i don’t know what it is but they pulled off a tourism that seems to be in any kind of tourism it doesn’t have to be a fancy eco resort doesn’t have to be it can be a backpack or hostel i think whatever i saw was the the quality of tourism infrastructure was very high it was obviously depressed it wasn’t as crowded as it could be but it was it was so spread out um and so well done i was amazed and it was on a low level right it isn’t it isn’t a very poor country but it isn’t rich country either it’s somewhere middle income country and maybe that’s i don’t actually know how they do it um and maybe it was an accident but it seems to be a model how we could develop this globally and i was really surprised to see that so that it works so well well costa rica has always been they’ve always had a reputation of kind of knowing how to do tourism better than most countries um they they take it seriously and and they want it to be sustainable and and and done right it’s been a long time since i’ve been there um and they have they have the the money and the mindset to do and other countries don’t um a comparable example maybe would be baswana in southern africa um you know a relatively uh prosperable country for in the context of africa anyway um you know they specialize in in kind of higher price lower impact tourism and um you know that’s that’s i think a better more sustainable model than just letting everybody in on on you know cheap package deals and just crowding the place up as has happened in south africa or kenya and elsewhere um it sounds very elitist right so i don’t i don’t know how it sounds it right it doesn’t it does sound elitist but i like cheap too you know don’t get me wrong i like a good deal too so i’m i’m not opposed to this but there seems to be something what that innovation typically goes to a place where someone can do something better and cheaper right so this is where the hot spot entrepreneurial success but it seems for country and on the global or tourism level even regional level this this it seems to be broken maybe it’s just a time frame issue that over a long time frame these things will actually work out but we saw this in in philippines we didn’t see this in malaysia but we saw it in thailand and many places that kind of have been ruined for generations but i went to the southern um thailand’s in the late nineties it was it’s paradise and 10 15 years later it was one of the worst places i can remember so change very very quickly and i think i mean the thais maybe they’re too entrepreneurial but they are they’re great hosts right so they they they know how to to create tourism infrastructure and they really want to work with you right so i don’t think it’s it’s necessarily i wouldn’t wouldn’t pin it on the the Thai tourism entrepreneur so i really know what the problem is i’m sure the airlines are not the ones and i think at one point that was just amazing i think it was emirates alone they had eight or nine eight three eighty flying just from from um dubai to Bangkok every single day every day yeah i think one point they had six or seven eight three eighties a day i think it was yeah and i mean there’s a Qatar and at the end doing the same thing all the european airlines some massive influx so i wouldn’t blame the island of islands on it because you know they have to to go over the demand is but one day maybe i’ll know the answer i just know the question so far well Bangkok was what the most visited city in the world in 2019 and however many people flew into Bangkok and then branched out whether they went north or south to the islands or or stayed in the city but it was there’s there’s no denying the place was overrun especially the i mean the islands as you just described or you know borderline just intolerable um in how they proceed now and how other countries who were in the same situation proceed now remains to be seen but yeah we we did kind of make a monster out of international tourism and then part of the way that happened was people being able to fly as cheaply as they can or could but it just allowed huge numbers of people to go insane distances at cheap prices and as you’d expect people did it um how much of that will change i don’t know what that says about people so now we sound elitist again um it’s well we sound elitist but what’s the downside the downside is places get ruined um yeah i mean is that the price you want to pay to want to be elitist i i don’t know but the the locals um what happens even in Thailand and i think it happened in other countries too you know they shut down obviously the the Philippine island that they shut down for like a year or two before that that i think the locals have this stronger version to to tourists or anyone who’s non local and that that sooner or later boils over i mean maybe it’s the cycle maybe that’s what it is maybe it’s a boom and bust cycle so then it boils over things get closed for a couple of years and then they come back eventually maybe that’s that’s what we’re experiencing now that could be and then you know we’re cherry picking examples here but you can throw in um the Barcelona or Amsterdam or Edinburgh um you know places that just were just kind of at their limits what was going to happen if this didn’t happen if the the coronavirus pandemic didn’t happen um you know these places were already just ready to burst and and uh one way or the other maybe this or some version of this was inevitable you have yet Melissa on and she was saying a lot of people who are futurist people who think a lot about the future they’ve been turning very pessimistic and kind of thinking about prepping themselves for a disaster scenario all the way down to 2018 late 2018 2019 and she wasn’t very visible and she has a document to prove it like this was visible before so there must have been something else that really came up with this notion there is a disaster out there and i think a lot of my friends also they were ready to call it a disaster right when COVID first hit which kind of surprised me how quick they made up their mind because we didn’t know i saw it coming i i made that prediction as well and all my everybody i knew laughed at me and yeah but it uh i look at uh climate change as an analogy i mean you know here’s the evidence you know everybody agrees on this um you know this is going to happen and yet there’s it’s completely impossible to kind of galvanize everything that needs to be brought together to do anything about it and so it’s just going to happen well it’s just it’s probably the opposite guy why would say climate change it’s people people see there might be a danger to it but they don’t want to react and i feel the COVID it was the opposite it everyone was ready to jump on this and say okay this is the end of the world and um we would have found something else this might be or if it wouldn’t have been COVID and the Chinese would have kept it under control then we would have gone crazy about something else we would have found something um we were all ready for this which is really odd so this this boom and bust cycle this is more an economic thing seems to be ingrained in our lives so it’s what we need that it’s not just and soviet union didn’t have that right because it was preplanned but i think this economic boom and bust cycle something that works in our brains and that grounds us again which we are now doing right now and hopefully we’re going to see another boom in a couple of years yeah i think that um that could all well be a dispositive note patrick thanks for doing this thanks for joining us on the podcast thanks for taking the time really appreciate it yeah great conversation um i feel like we can do this for three more hours but thanks for having me on i enjoyed it absolutely absolutely i hope the next time um we can um touch a couple of different topics that we didn’t have the time to do that sure i think anytime all right sounds good patrick take care talk soon thank you bye

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