While I normally attempt to steer clear of internet drama (“attempt” being the operative word), there’s a story making the rounds right now that’s touched a bit of a raw nerve.
The articles and Facebook comments are pretty much what you’d expect: a soothing blend of saltiness, pearl-clutching entreaties to “think of Gaia!”, and just the right amount of conspiracy theories.
But here’s the thing. Had the journalists (and I’m using that term very, very loosely) bothered to do some basic research, they’d have realised this isn’t the “Marie Antoinette on a plane” story they were angling for. In fact, it’s much more wholesome: a young chap managed to snag a couple of ANA mistake fares (while ANA cancelled the majority of bookings, it allowed ticketed passengers to fly up to early May), and brought his mum along for a Mother’s Day treat.
How do I know this? It turns out he’s a member of The MileLion Community— let’s call him Amadillos per his TikTok handle— and he shared the full context in one of the groups. I’m writing this post (with his permission, of course) namely because it really doesn’t sit well with me how things went down.
For context, Amadillos brought his mother on a mileage run over the first weekend of May, flying SIN-CGK-HND-SFO-HND-CGK-SIN on a mixture of Singapore Airlines (to/from CGK) and ANA (the rest of the journey).
I know, I know. It’s not a mileage run in the strictest sense of the term- that would imply a series of flights intended to qualify or requalify for status. This was more of an “enjoy mistake fare run”, though that’s admittedly not as catchy.
But semantics aside, Amadillos made a TikTok post about the trip on 12 May, talking about the food, the seats (he managed to get a flight with ANA’s The Room Business Class product), the amenities, and the Polaris Lounge at SFO. So far so good.
Now, at some point a Coconuts writer must have come across this post and thought:
What do you do?
Ask for permission to repost? Nah, the interwebs are fair game, baby!
Proof read? Ain’t nobody got time for that! (apparently Amadillos travelled 22,9904 miles in 80 hours, about nine times the circumference of the earth and two times the speed of a Concorde).
Background research? Background what now? (apparently Amadillos travelled in First and Business Class, though it’s understandable how The Room can look like First Class to the untrained eye).
No silly! You hammer out a summary, take some screenshots, post it up and let the internet outrage machine do its thing.
The Coconuts article was published on 15 May with the following headline:
Weird flex but ok: Privileged Singapore mother-son duo boast three-day-long plane ride to collect air miles
Once Amadillos saw the post, he made his TikTok account private and contacted Coconuts to provide further context. About a day later, they edited their original article in four ways.
(1) The headline was toned down to a somewhat less provocative :
Weird flex but ok: Singapore mother-son duo go on a three-day-long plane ride to collect air miles
Note the removal of “privileged” and “boast”, the kind of words that you can’t help but feel were deliberately chosen to get people riled up.
(2) The cover photo, which originally had a full uncensored image of Amadillos and his mother, was edited to remove them (and yet they inexplicably left it up in the video thumbnail).
(3) An editor’s note was added:
(Amadillos) reached out to clarify that he was able to afford the tickets via an ANA error fare and that it was a treat for his mother who had never traveled in premium class before. We have edited the relevant sections of the article and apologize for any mischaracterization.
(4) The last few paragraphs were modified as such:
Obviously, with flexing of this level, there will be haters. But with the heatwave this part of the world is suffering – on top of the recession – it’s only understandable where the hate is coming from.
Many were shocked at the ostentatiousness of the trip. Taking quick trips to benefit on the miles and points is normal but to go to different continents and cross timezones to not get off the plane – eh, it’s a bit much.
Then again, it’s just our broke asses talking. To the higher SES crowd, is this acceptable?
Obviously, with posting activities like traveling without the actual travel, there will be some haters. And with the heatwave this part of the world is suffering (the video was uploaded on one of the hottest days in modern Singaporean history) it’s not surprising that there were some climate-conscious concerns in the comments.
Many were shocked at the ostentatiousness of the trip. Taking quick trips to benefit on the miles and points is normal, but going to different continents and cross timezones to not get off the plane is not exactly the ideal holiday is it?
Let’s pause here for a moment.
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see how the original post tries its hardest to stir the pot. OMG there’s a heatwave, OMG there’s a recession, and what does this guy have the gall to do? Take a trip around the world!!! It’s us versus them, the flexers versus “our broke asses”. And, in what suspiciously sounds like an invitation to rage, “it’s only understandable where the hate is coming from”.
The modified version tries to walk back the incendiary prose, but really isn’t much better. “Obviously, with posting activities like traveling without the actual travel, there will be some haters”– yeah, the ones you guys were only too happy to stir up.
And since he travelled on a mistake fare, there’s no recession angle to talk about. Let’s just focus on, um, climate change? People should get mad at him because… *checks notes*… this video was uploaded on one of the hottest days in modern Singaporean history! Derp. That is…I mean, wow. I’ll make it a point to check the wet bulb temperature before I board my next flight then.
Look. I’m not naïve. I know why these kinds of stories get written. It’s ragebait, an easy way of farming cheap outrage around a emotive narrative: look at how the one percenters are splurging and vandalising the planet, while the rest of us stew in this heat!
But the first line of criticism is already negated by the fact that it’s an error fare (and even if you want to argue that jetting around on an error fare is the sort of thing only the wealthy have time to do, well, the whole trip was over a long weekend, meaning minimal time off from work). Besides, I can’t think of anything more egalitarian than an error fare. How often can you fly transpacific Business Class for a few hundred bucks?
As for the second, I don’t see how this is any different from taking a cruise, where getting there is the highlight of the journey. I mean, replace “airplane” with “ship” and it’s pretty much the same, isn’t it? You enjoy the food, the service, the entertainment, all while taking a circuitous routing that sometimes lands you in the same place you started. In fact, cruising emits much more CO2 than flying, yet I don’t see the same kind of vitriol whenever someone posts highlights of their Quantum of the Seas adventure. Some people cruise for leisure, others fly. Different strokes for different folks.
So all this talk about saving the earth comes off as a red herring, a cynical attempt to peddle outrage in the guise of environmental concern.
It should probably come as no surprise that fellow bottom feeder AsiaOne showed up shortly after (now all we need is Mothership for the unholy trifecta of low-effort content spewing), pretty much rehashing the Coconuts post but with even more environmental hand-wringing.
Yes, the same AsiaOne which has no qualms about writing sponsored posts for United Airlines about…flying to San Francisco with your family (and before you say there’s a difference between flying for a holiday versus flying for flying’s sake, as far as I’m concerned flying is flying).
Say what you will about Coconuts, but at least they edited their article and posted an apology. AsiaOne has yet to make any changes (despite receiving the same clarification that went to Coconuts), and the Facebook post continues to receive some of the highest engagement of any post this week. Ragebait sells.
|Note: AsiaOne has now updated their article to “Man clarifies flying to US and back over 3 days with mum was Mother’s Day gift, not to earn miles”|
Why do I care?
Now, you might find this whole thing silly, and frankly you’re right. AsiaOne and Coconuts are content farms after all, not Woodward and Bernstein. Isn’t this like getting angry at a cow for mooing? Why is this even on your docket?
Well, “it’s something they do” isn’t much of a defence in my book, and maybe I’m just the slightest bit uncomfortable with a journalist thinking nothing of siccing a mob on you and your mum, just to meet their weekly quota.
Moreover, it could just as easily have been me in the firing line– or you too, if you’re into the whole miles game.
My parents are at the age where they only have so many years of unrestricted mobility left. This makes every trip I take with them extra special, and there’s so many things I still want to show them: The Private Room in Changi, Suites on the A380, even The Room on ANA, come to think of it. Of course, it’s not easy to do if you’re not willing to splurge. Premium cabin award space has been hard to come by, and error fares aren’t exactly something you can build a strategy around.
So in a way I really envy what Amadillos was able to do, because everything sort of came together for him. He got the mistake fare, he managed to travel within the short period it was honoured, and he was able to bring a loved one along for the ride.
For those of us who have been playing the miles and points game for a while, it’s easy to fall into a jaded sense of “been there done that” when it comes to premium travel. But to see a loved one experiencing it for the first time- there’s just something insanely wholesome about that!
The MileLioness’ first-ever Business Class experience was with me on our honeymoon. It was only a short-haul flight to Bali, but that 2 hour 40 minute plane ride remains a core memory. There were so many things I wanted to point out to her, and her excitement made it all the better. Look at this! Look at that! Do you like the lobster thermidor? Have you checked out the amenities kit? Yes, you can really have all the champagne you want!
Now, to have all those intentions, only to come home and get raked over the coals by a bunch of internet randos because some low-rent journalist thought your post was easy fodder for hate-clicking is beyond messed up. What even goes through your mind that you see a post like this, and your first instinct is “how can I farm the hate?”
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a Herman Yip situation where someone clearly out to make a name for himself buys 9,999 mistake fares, then blabs about it to the nearest reporter. This guy bought a pair of tickets, the airline decided to honour it, he had a memorable time with his mum, and made a post on TikTok (ew). If you get triggered by that, it seriously suggests the problem lies on your side of the screen.
At the end of the day, all I see here is someone who came across a good deal and wanted to treat his mum to something nice. This could just as easily have been one of those “awww” stories, but who wants to be happy on the internet?!
You can argue that this is a prime example of why you shouldn’t post publicly on social media, but (1) that’s setting an awfully low standard, even for online discourse, and (2) it’s going to be a sad day when we let mob rule dictate our posts.
So well done to Amadillos and his mum, hope you guys had a great time, illegitimi non carborundum and all that.
And to AsiaOne and Coconuts: I once took a long-haul flight to San Francisco, stayed for 17 hours, and didn’t even bring my mum. Do me next!