I'd like to introduce you to Kerwin McKenzie, our next guest in the Solo Traveler Insiders Speaker Series. He'll be talking to us about air travel today on May 11th.
Kerwin is an former airline employee who is now a travel content creator, author, and speaker. With a Master's in Aeronautical Sciences, he worked in various capacities at four US-based airlines for over 14 years. He has flown with181 airlines and visited 140 countries/territories (105 UN). Kerwin is originally from Jamaica, and the first country he ever traveled to was Martinique.
Today, he runs several blogs, including Passrider, helping airline employees with their travel plans; Cruisinaltitude, where he shares information about airline travel; Unfamiliar Destinations, with details about 365 under-visited destinations; and Discovering Houston, which provides travel information for Houston, Texas. He also cooks Jamaican food at Cooking With Kerwin.
We recently interviewed Kerwin to learn a bit more about him.
Something that comes up over and over when I google your name is “aviation geek”. You have a reputation! Tell us a bit about your love affair with air travel.
I took my first flight at age nine and haven't looked back. I love to fly; I'm not sure why! I wanted to be a pilot, but couldn't afford it, so as soon as I could get an airline job, I did. I love the sound of a jet engine at any hour of the day! Nothing beats the view from above. Also, there are not many minorities in aviation, so I try to set an example for the younger ones.
You have traveled with more airlines than anyone I know. If cost was no object, describe where you would travel, and with which airline, for the ultimate flight experience?
I would fly First Class on Emirates from Dubai to Sydney, Australia.
What changes driven by the pandemic do you think are here to stay for air travel?
This is hard to say as many countries have stopped testing on arrival. It seems that being vaccinated in order to avoid being required to be tested on arrival or before arriving is the norm now and will continue for some time.
Without naming them, can you share one of your best and one of your worst experiences with an airline?
Aha! I can name the best one; it's Singapore Airlines. They brought me a little birthday cake when I flew with them on my birthday. It was totally unexpected. The worst experience…there've been a few. An airline famous for inflight service was terrible at ground service when we had a cancellation due to a lightning strike. The local handling company was terrible; it was like it was the first time they had ever handled it. They didn't empower the other agents, so you could only talk to one person, and they wouldn't listen to passengers when they offered other options for other flights. Plus, when you called the reservations number for help, they would tell you to call the head office and when you called the head office, they told you to call the reservations center. It was very chaotic!
What is the current rule of thumb for how far in advance to book flights?
There is none. You'll hear people say all kinds of things, but they are just guessing. Book when you see the fare you want to pay. Airfares are high now as the airlines try to catch up. You can get low fares the day before you want to travel as well as weeks before. There's no pattern anymore. Also, the destination matters when it comes to the fares. People need to realize that it's not cheap to operate an airline and we just have to pay for what we want. It's not the answer that people want to hear. Travelers always want to pay little or nothing for the airfare, but are prepared to spend lots of money on the hotel room and shopping.
We also saw that you like to chef, so in your expert opinion, what's the best meal you've ever had on a plane?
Umm… This is always hard to say. I can't do steak on a plane as it's never cooked the way I like it. I've had some great meals onboard, though; perhaps I'd choose Singapore Airlines as you can book the cook. I usually order fish and if that's not available, chicken. Beef in Economy class is good as the meat is actually cooked all the way through. And nothing beats a curry chicken on any airline!
Our May 11th edition of the Solo Traveler Insiders Speaker Series promises to be an interesting one! We’ll talk to Kerwin McKenzie about the nitty-gritty of air travel today: post-pandemic changes, getting the best seat for you, fascinating flight stories, upgrade strategies, and whether budget airlines are really worth it. Get your questions ready! To participate in our virtual chat and pick Kerwin's brain, join the Solo Traveler Insiders here. You can try it out for a month with no obligation to continue if it's not for you.