If Teleportation Were Invented, Would You Miss Flying?

Reader Eric left an interesting question on the “Ask Lucky” page the other day, which I’ve been putting some thought into:

I’m in Chennai for business, having flown BA in WT+ via LHR. I’m 46 now, and I finally came to realize, as I was suffering in what is essentially a glorified economy class, that I just want to get to my destination. Hours spent in an aircraft, while a miracle of technology and which has opened up the world, is just not enjoyable. Granted, I was thinking this in premium economy, with my 6’6″ frame stuffed into a small seat.

I was asking myself – if teleportation was invented tomorrow, would I miss flying? I’ve been lucky enough to take a lot of revenue and award travel internationally in business and first, and I wondered if I would miss flying if I only flew in the comfort of these cabins.

I weighed the pros and cons. The fatigue of traveling, of transiting airports, of waiting for flights, of delayed flights, of 10+ hours spent in high altitude, dry air of the cabins. I realized that at my age, I’d rather avoid that if I would be able to arrive in the snap of the fingers.

Question to you – if this technology was invented tomorrow, how would you emotionally and intellectually respond? Your whole life, your passion is about the journey – granted a very specific kind of journey (premium international air travel). If it were to disappear tomorrow, would you grieve? Would you miss spending 100s of hours at 40K feet? Let’s dive deeper into this purely fantastical scenario. I know you love the romanticism of air travel, but – if for whatever reason, if the only alternative was economy class travel – would you choose flying over teleportation?

I’m curious. Is it the luxury that is attractive to you? The exclusiveness? For me, I realize that traveling is all about comfort. I love the destination, but if the journey isn’t comfortable , and it becomes less so at my age (even in first class internationally, the air is dry, I’m stuck in a plane for 10+ hours, I still have to connect at airports – I don’t have the stamina of my youth), teleportation would be an amazing alternative.

I’m bored here in India at 4am with Jetlag. Thus this topic came to me. 🙂

The more I think about it, the more interesting I find the question. In pondering it, let me first of all take out of the equation that the “getting there” part of travel is kind of what my job revolves around. But since this is all so highly theoretical, I think I can reasonably take out that “bias.”

In theory the “getting there” aspect of travel is what most people hate. But it’s also possibly the part of the journey that I most enjoy. But that got me thinking… why do I enjoy it so much?

I guess it ultimately comes down to three things:

I love airports

If teleportation were invented tomorrow, I’d really miss spending time in airports. As much as they can be a pain, airports are probably the most special place in the world for me. I get this child-like excitement and sense of adventure every time I go to an airport, even if it’s just for a run-of-the-mill domestic trip.

People say that cities are melting pots. Airports are that times a million. You have people in such a small space going to literally every corner of the world. It always puts a smile on my face to go into an arrivals hall and see so many families waiting with balloons, signs, etc. You know everyone has a story, and you get a small glimpse into that at airports.

Singapore-Airlines-Private-Room-42

For that matter, just looking at the line-up of planes at an international terminal excites me. For example, at O’Hare in the afternoon you have flights to Abu Dhabi, Delhi, Hong Kong, Stockholm, Rome, etc. Thinking that in less than a day people from that airport will be in every corner of the world leaves me in awe.

I love flying

Flying in a plane is like being a bird without having to move your arms. The views from above never, ever, ever get old. Ever. It gives you such perspective on the world, and how insignificant our individual existence is.

View-from-above-

I really can’t put into words how much I enjoy watching sunrises and sunsets from a few miles above the earth’s surface. I have weeks where I see a sunset every single day from a plane, and it’s equally exciting every time — it’s one of the few areas in life where there’s no diminishing marginal return, in my opinion.

View-from-above-2

Yes, luxury is cool as well

Flying in and of itself is cool enough, but there’s no denying that some of the awesome premium cabin experiences we’re able to have thanks to miles & points are pretty awesome as well.

A sunset from a seat in the last row of economy is awesome.

A sunset from a fully enclosed first class suite while sipping Dom right after returning from a shower and right before heading to the onboard bar is just slightly awesomer. 😉

Emirates-A380-First-Class-001

I don’t think it’s about the luxury as such, but rather that it’s happening at 35,000 feet. In other words, I don’t giggle when I get in a shower or go to a bar on the ground, while I do when flying.

There’s something that never gets old about an onboard shower, onboard bar, etc.

My conclusion

I really would miss flying if it were eliminated in favor of teleportation. Would it be nice to have the option between the two? Sure. But I actually think the fact that flying is “forced” is almost a good thing. As humans we often don’t take enough time to slow down, and I think being in the sky while watching a gorgeous sunset is one of the best ways to really take time and think about life.

So while Eric’s question is sort of ridiculous, I enjoyed it because it sort of forced me to think about what I really love about flying.

How about you — would you miss flying if it were eliminated in favor of teleportation? If so, what would you miss?

Comments

  1. I am an economy flyer- but there is still some nostalgia such as (check in, taxiing and landing, the food (really?!), and nice service), which would keep me in the air.

  2. While flying up front is certainly preferable, I don’t think I would miss it. I am basically the same age as Eric, but a good foot shorter. I like airports and all too,but for me the destination is the thing.

  3. My favorite part of flying is the takeoff rush down the runway and the magical moment of becoming unstuck from the earth. That never gets old, no matter how old and crappy the plane or how tiny the seats. BUT if teleportation were available (and affordable), I would be on that in a heartbeat for long distances. I don’t like losing 2 vacation days in just getting somewhere. And I’m 100% certain airplane hobbyists would still exist, so you’d never have to give up the joy of flight.

  4. Would you be able to do teleportation mileage runs and earn premium teleportion status and MS teleportion points for free teleportation awards? If no, maybe I’d stick with flying although the environmental benefits of teleportation would be very good.

  5. Great post Ben! I’m with you on the points about airports and flying. You can’t beat being up in the air, in a comfy seat, with a good meal and drink and a great view. Above and away from the world ( if theres no wifi!)

  6. I would greatly miss flying, it is majestic and the anticipation of getting to your next destination only makes the experience more enjoyable. It also allows to get away from the world for a few hours (or a lot of hours) to enjoy the simple luxury of life. Airports are also amazing, to be able to see people excited to be travelling around the world, wether it be to go somewhere warmer or to experience new cultures, it is all in one place.

  7. I’m going to open this up to a tangentially related question: after we returned from Buenos Aires this year I thought, well, I liked the city a lot but it was an awfully long way to fly for an experience that wasn’t terribly exotic. I think if B.A. were a 3-4 hour flight away, I’d visit often. But I am unlikely to go back all that way again just to visit the city. Whereas to me, Asia is so exotic and fascinating and unlike everywhere else in the world that it “justifies” the 14-hour voyage.

    Are there places you’d travel to if only the flight were shorter / cheaper / required less miles?

  8. I only do this for the destination. I’m actually irrationally phobic during any turbulence. I even had a seat mate with the same problem on a transatlantic recently. It’s pretty cool that you still get really excited about it all. Since I don’t drink, the allure of the alcohol up front doesn’t excite me. I bet I’d enjoy the food, but I really just want to get back on earth asap. A shower in the air would probably take my mind off the boredom so it would be fun.

  9. I wouldn’t miss flying. Then again, I’m not someone who enjoys it – even though I’m younger (and shorter!) than Eric, I hate flying. I love to travel, though, so I deal with it in order to get to some cool places.

    @Nick – yes, I think that certain places are so unique that they justify the long flight. Other places, I’d be inclined to visit or revisit if they were near me, but I’m not hopping on a 14 hour flight (or even an 8 hour flight) to check them out. Your question does make me pause, though – I’m debating between a week in Buenos Aires or a week split between Lima/Machu Picchu/Cuzco this fall and can’t decide. I love cities, but worry there aren’t enough major attractions in Buenos Aires to make my trip feel worthwhile. Any opinions, I’d love to hear them. I know a lot of people seem to love Buenos Aires.

  10. There is too much vested interest in the aviation and airline industry to allow an alternative (and some might say better) technology to be developed and implemented on a scale that will facilitate mass consumption.

    Only a cataclysmic event in earth’s future, that has disrupted the status quo, will provide the impetus for such technology to flourish.

  11. i guess if teleportation were regulated (e.g., you could only teleport 5 times in a calendar year) i’d be enthusiastic about it. but if you could teleport wherever, whenever, i just imagine a world of chaos. i would never be able to stay in one place.

    as it is now, i am rarely able to stay in one place. but i guess if i had to pick a few things i’d miss about flying, it would have to be the thrill of landing in a new country, emerging from the plane and walking determinedly towards immigration, the brief interrogation by passport control and then that wonderful moment when you enter into a packed arrivals hall and begin planning your way into a new city.

    equally, i’d miss that feeling of descending through the clouds and suddenly seeing the manhattan skyline and knowing i’m back home. if i could teleport from my bedroom to shibuya and back in a snap, i dunno, it would be great but there’d just be something that would be missing from the journey part of it all.

  12. @Nick

    I’m actually with you on this. The first time I went to Europe, I went to Amsterdam. My first thought after getting settled in was “I fly 8 hours in coach for this. Really?” Then my next trip was to BKK. Now *that* was cool. I was able to fly out in J, but back in Y (I broke the trip up with a night in Tokyo, and had a bulkhead seat, so the flight was really tolerable.) Since then, I’ve seen quite a bit of Asia and enjoy it every time.

    That said, I’m heading Down Under next months. While Australia will be more like Europe than Asia, it’s still really far away from home. Plus the stars lined up and I got good seats.

    “Getting there” really is part of the journey for me. I once bought 100,000 miles from Alaska so I could get CX J over the pond, and if I were to run out of points, I’d do it again. I find something really soothing being up in the air at FL350, hearing the hum of the engines and the woosh of the air passing buy, with a glass of something alcoholic in my hand.

    And then when we land, the hellishness of jet lag sets in. I could do without that.

  13. If teleportation were invented, everyplace would become New Jersey and there’d be no reason to travel anymore. It’s the diversity and distance between us that makes connections between places so powerful.

    And I agree that window is magic. I’m a cattle class flyer and I’ll never understand the aisle people. When some six-three three-hundred forty pounder is breathing hard playing candy crush the whole flight in the middle seat, pouring over the armrest above and below, how can I feel squeezed with the freedom and space of the whole sky right there in my window?

    I guess the aisle people must be a tragic result of an epidemic of overactive bladder syndrome in this country.

    Teleportation would make an explosion in the scenic overflight, skydiving, hang gliding, aerobatics, aerial photography, and GA industries overnight.

  14. One of the first scary movies I saw when I was a kid was The Fly; so having said that, I don’t trust teleportation at all.

  15. Dr. McCoy from the original Star Trek comes to mind. He expressed disdain for stepping onto a transporter pad, being dematerialized, having his molecules beamed across space and hopefully having them they reassembled on the other side.

    I agree.

  16. OK, I’m probably older than 90% of the readers here (65 in a couple of months), and 40 years ago the flying was something I enjoyed as much as the destination (Laker and Iceland Air were GREAT fun back then). Redeemed my first award seat (economy) in ’89 via TWA on AA metal for my 2nd trip to Europe – and that is still the absolute best trip I ever took. But as time has passed, and I’ve grown less limber and gained circumference, the flying has grown less and less pleasing (regardless of the cabin or the “deal scored”), and the destination has become more important than the journey. That said, one flying ritual that I still keep faithful to over all the years and all the trips is that upon returning from a roundtrip international journey, time permitting, I always return to the same gate I departed the US from, sit down, and reflect on the trip I have just completed. My wife used to think it was silly, but now she says she understands.

    So, Ben as matters stand now, I’ll differ with you and take teleportation…….

  17. it’s equivalent to asking if you could skip your entire life and go straight to death/afterlife, would you miss life? Umm…

  18. I definitely enjoyed this post – not everything needs to be trip reports and the same news that is going to show up on dozens of other blogs.

    I especially liked the section on airports. You put into words precisely the experience I have when I’m at the airport getting ready to travel somewhere (anywhere). I think I’ll save a link to this post, as I often find myself trying to explain to friends and coworkers exactly what it is I love about the whole airport/flying experience, even when I’m just flying domestic short-hauls for work.

  19. Great post! I recognize my own opinions in what you write. I think the question – and more its answer – illustrates my attitude towards travelling very well. For me the travelling sometimes is the journey. Often have I taken same-day return trips all over Europe from Norway (day trip to Manchester to watch soccer, a day on the beach in Spain, a saturday evening in Athens ect.) – even weekend triås to the US from Norway. All because I love chasing points, taking advantage of good fares, going through airplanes and viewing the world from above the clouds. I feel home when travelling.

    One of the most memorable moments of my life so far was the first time I fell asleep over the atlantic in the LH B747-400 First Class bed viewing the sunset after a magnificent meal with champagne, caviar and much more. And I am only an average 20 year old student, who reached 120 flights just last year before I turned 20.

  20. I’d agree to give up flying forever if I could get the time otherwise spent in airports and in the air back in order to spend it with my loved ones. At the end of the day, you have only one limited resource in life and that is time. It’s great fun to fly everywhere until you reach a point where you begin to realise the finite nature of time – not just your own but that of others. If I could save the hours I spend flying to visit family by teleportation instead, I’d make the trade in a heartbeat.

  21. I kind of feel similar like you Lucky. I also love to be at airports and it was strange/funny to realize during my first vacation with flying business class, that in the middle of the vacation, I was actually looking more forward to the return flight than to enjoy the time at site.
    But this goes only for business and first class …so the luxury is also an important part.
    I remember my first C flight (LH’s old product)…I was just smiling the whole flight and was immediately addicted 🙂
    So, it is pretty cool for you, that you can do this hobby for a living…and I have much respect that you did it, and are not just dreaming like most of us.
    On the other side, I’m fine with doing nice trips maybe 3-4 times a year…so I’m always really excited each time before.
    Also, I love to spend the time with my wife/family…unfortunately, she is not so much into flying like me.
    I wonder, when you meet a person you love (and who is maybe not as crazy about this hobby like you)…how your life will change?
    Sorry, I am just assuming now, that you haven’t already because I cannot imagine that with your life we see on the blog…or is this person always flying with you???That would be really awesome!!! 😉
    Regards
    Thomas

  22. I love flying, also love airports. There’s something about airports that really intrigues me. Thousands of people’s lives collide in one confined space, right before they all jet off to god knows which corner of the earth. It’s a fascinating experience every time. The luxury of flying in Business/First is just icing on the cake. I love waiting at the airport, not feeling the dread for a long trip in Economy but rather looking forward to be pampered before i get to my destination.

    So in short, I would totally miss flying. I would use the teleporter to get me from my house to the airport check in, and from the arrival hall to my hotel. 🙂

  23. Yep, I’d absolutely miss it.
    And I wouldn’t only miss flying itself but every single thing connected to aviation, because, let’s face it, almost all of it would be gone if teleportation was feasible and affordable.
    I’m an aerospace engineering student and that’s (well, besides becoming a pilot, perhaps) literally the only thing I could ever think of as a career choice since I was about nine years old. It’s the one thing I love and I’m really good at. Therefore, as much as I am a geek and a huge fan of scientific and technological progress, I sincerely hope for teleportation to never see the light of day!
    Regards
    Lukas

  24. I think I’ll send this article to people who said to me I’m wired about love airports and planes. 🙂 Even not flying ofeten as I like, I always came up with excuses to go to a near airport (friends love to call me when arriving in the city haha).

  25. @Brandy: do Lima/Machu Picchu/Cuzco over Buenos Aires, candidly. Buenos Aires is a lovely city but not full of too many attractions and not distinguishable enough from New York / Paris / Rome / Mexico City and the other alpha cities of the Western world. If you’re going to get yourself over to a new continent, I say do the things that are uniquely South American — I have heard nothing but raves about Peru, and you’ll get a unique culture, cuisine and experience there than you’d get anywhere else, on top of breathtaking scenery.

    With Buenos Aires, you get a city doing a pretty decent job of pretending to be European. For that, I say just fly to Europe. (And if Bs.As. was a third of the distance away, I’d say its uniqueness and value are deserving of its own trip, but for flying halfway around the world, it isn’t, at least IMHO. Others may and will disagree.)

  26. I’m with Eric – I wouldn’t miss flying, airports, TSA, Flight attendants that should have retired in 1986, Airplanes that should have retired in 1976, pissy gate agents, res agents who learned geography from a cartoon or having to change planes in ORD or PHL.

    Hell, I’d pop over to France for lunch a couple times a week, maybe hit Bangkok on the weekends for a few beers. As for the Luxury part? Who says I can’t dress up in a tux and sit in a fancy chair drinking Krug in the teleportation booth? Unless you “reconstructed” inside out or inside a wall or got mixed up with Fly DNA, what’s not to like about instant travel anywhere versus standing in a security line at IAD on a Thursday night?

  27. Flying has always been my passion, and even if I had to fly 10+ hours in Aegean Airlines Economy (btw no IFE) I would, because there is something truly special about flying, which I would never give up for ANYTHING. Teleportation would be cool, being able to arrive at your destination in a split second, but it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey (even in Aegean Airlines Economy).

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