In defence of flying for flying’s sake

Roar, went the internet outrage machine.

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.

You might have seen the following posts on AsiaOne and Coconuts about the guy who brought his mum on a whirlwind trip to San Francisco, spending less than 12 hours on the ground in the US.

AsiaOne and Coconuts articles (I’ve added the circles covering their faces for privacy; Coconuts didn’t)

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.

What happened?

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).

Top: original cover photo (I’ve added the circles myself) | Bottom: Revised cover photo

(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:

Original Modified

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!

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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robs

“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!”

omg i love it. totally feel your rage at this poorly researched, shabbily written article that tried to pass off as “news”.

Ryn

Good article that I didn’t know worth an article, until I actually read it! Good to clear the air and stand your ground with a view you believed in.

Shane

Very, very well written retort. Thanks for doing this Aaron.

AJ.

Lmfao what this proves is how salty and bitter the ≤bourgeoisie Singaporeans are

dkdk

Good to know the actual context. The initial article (if you read it) can be quite infuriating if it were the truth.

Thank god we have aaron so we dont need to be a real life detective to dig around for the truth. Much appreciated

Munger

There is nothing wrong with the initial article . There is something wrong with you .

Cliff

Thanks for this. I wonder why there are so many haters out there. Perhaps envy? Totally destructive.

Tony

Too much of these online character not behaving themselves and jumping into quick conclusions without the facts. And they degraded themselves into calling people all derogatory kinds of names especially on women. On one side taking the high and mighty position and at the same insulting the subject of their interest.

Timothy

“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? “

Exactly.

guest

good of you to clear up his name

Alian

Amadillos should sue for slander and misrepresentation. That’s the only way these “journalists” will learn to better journalist. Gotta make them pay school fees.

Too bad this is Singapore and not US where such lawsuits are more active

Londoner

Not the US surely, with their 1st amendment rights.

MileTiger

Actually, it’s libel, not slander

Libel is written

Slander is spoken

Kel

Hahhaha MileTiger…

Leonard

Agree with everything you say, but i’m not sure you should dignify them with a response. they are sewage and their audience are vermin, being mentioned on actually proper media lends them more legitimacy than they deserve.

Woshiprodevils

The internet is full of jealous people hiding behind keyboard..

Tit-for-tat is par for the course

I see a lot of parallels with what this article is trying to achieve and the Coconuts one 😏.

The irony is that Aaron points this out very succinctly but yet is oblivious to the effects of his.

Here comes the other side’s angry mob!

Tit-for-tat is par for the course

Did you reach out to Coconuts for their explanation? Or you just went with Armadillo’s explanation? All the examples you gave were not flying for the sake of flying- a honeymoon, taking aged parents on a trip etc. So these are non-examples to start with. You could have made the argument that the seats could have otherwise flown empty and it would be at least be better with paying customers in them but no mention of it. Your article was nothing to do in defence of flying for the sake of flying but more the bashing of certain organizations’ journalistic… Read more »

Lol

Really bad arguments here, but I’m in the mood to engage with trolls.
1. An anonymous comments section is not the same as personally identifiable social media account. Comparing the “abuse” here to what’s happening in this case (where photos of the individual and his mother were posted) is ridiculous.
2. Bloggers are not journalists
3. If you’re using spontaneous escapes as a criticism, you’re really reaching…
Good day sir

Tit-for-tat is par for the course

You know what the standard is when it comes to reproducing work that is not yours. It’s taught as early as at the primary school level. Apply it without excuses.

I’ve identified the post from LOL above as abuse (I hope name-calling constitutes abuse in your book). Let’s see what you’re going to do about it.

It doesn’t have to be just me being abused. Many others have been merely for asking innocuous questions. It says a lot about you when you allow your supporters to run riot in your defense.

And there in lies the hypocrisy of this article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tit-for-tat is par for the course
Tic Tok

“It doesn’t have to be just me being abused. Many others have been merely for asking innocuous questions. It says a lot about you when you allow your supporters to run riot in your defense.” LOL (pun intended). So now calling someone a troll constitutes abuse. “Whenever a less-than-glowing comment appears here, you do nothing to rein in your fanboys with the bashing. How are they any different from the ilk of Coconuts’ readers? Why do you think the comments section is an echo chamber with nothing but praise for you?” Are you now suggesting that Aaron is under some… Read more »

Tom

Agree with Aaron – this is a very poorly made argument bordering on bad faith / trolling

Just do it

Very filial son. I accumulate miles to bring my family especially my mom on trips. Totally understandable he wants to give back the best to his mom.

Just do what u do even if it’s the mistake fairs that got u here. Ignore the people who can’t do what u do.

christ

spot on

Lifshitz

I agree with a lot of this (and most definitively on how little attention coconuts and AsiaOne deserve), but then, if you insist to publish the trip with your mom for the whole world to see, maybe you need to expect some parts for the wide world (and the little red dot) to be very salty. Of all the wrongdoing you’re citing, usage of the ver ‘boast’ is justified when you put it on tiktok.

Miles

“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!”

LOL.
My own experience bringing my folks on sq biz class to Korea. They went onboard n slept 80% of the time hahaha. Although i didn’t ask how they felt for the whole flight, I felt really satisfying to bring them on the flight.

Leonard

I took my dad on Suites and he says it’s lonely and he prefers back in economy where it’s crowded. :S

Tom

Exceptionally well thought out response Aaron, couldn’t agree more

Rondo

Salty Singaporeans will always be the butt of jokes. One wonders how this sinkie pwn sinkie culture ever came about.

G___

Singaporeans just love taking a crap on anyone they deem more well off than they themselves are.

Environment_friendly_guy

I travel to new york in SIA longest flight in business class and stay less 3 hours at the airport before flying back. Quick contact me and write an article about me.

Abc

The problem is the absence of any real journalism in Singapore, and the proliferation of absolute gutter garbage that has taken its place. This outrage is all well and good but he is hardly the first person to be publicly shamed and humiliated in these sorts of fauxnalism websites. Stupid stories abound, from people whose masks slipped down to one chap who dared to fill up a jerry can at a Malaysian petrol station.

An important part of journalism is to look beyond the click baitiness and consider the overall public interest. But Singapore just doesn’t do journalism.

Jason

We have progressed little from Stomp’s reporting students making out in public hahaha.

Happy Camper

I can’t get angry with a cow for mooing..?

Alvin Ng

Hopefully the mother will not get further ‘bashed’ online or in person. A wonderful mother-and-son trip Shld not get dragged through the mud like this!

milesman

“Amadillos travelled 22,9904 miles in 80 hours,” you might want to change the number

Linh

Thank you Aaron for sharing this! Btw do you know anyone who’s received the official cancellation from ANA for those error tickets?

angst

reminds me of the whole flight to nowhere saga where environmentalists raged, and eventually claimed the “win” when SIA cancelled it, all the whilst everyone else were cruising / driving to nowhere.
A flight’s a flight, regardless of whether u stay the hour or a century at your destination.

T J

This has restored my faith in local reporting!

Pat

Look at the number of ads on that coconut and it tells you everything

Albert

Do you a cheapo?
LOL

ANON

I flew to BKK sometime this year and also was lambasted by friends for choosing to redeem miles(Or flying business in general) instead of “sharing” or “keeping”. Or getting the usual curt comments (you know, I know can alr. I dont wanna repost) 1) Miles were about to expire. So it would have been a 100% loss had I not used them then. (cannot “keep”) 2) Why should I “share” my hard earned miles when they find miles card a waste of time? Some of them who travelled with me sign up for CASH bonuses, cancel, rinse and repeat.. Can… Read more »