A friend shared a post about a seemingly unbelievable “opportunity” for the world’s ultra-rich — to “circle the globe on an inspiring and informative journey by private jet, created by The New York Times in collaboration with luxury travel pioneers Abercrombie & Kent.” On this 26-day itinerary, you’d be taken “beneath the surface of some of the world’s most compelling destinations,” which would be “illuminated” for you through “the expertise of veteran Times journalists,” including Nicholas Kristof and three others.
The cost of this “exclusive private charter for 50 guests”? $135,000 per person for double occupancy, $148,500 for singles. (I’m not sure what “double occupancy” means on an airplane, with “first-class, fully lie-flat seats.”)
Intrigued by the idea of flying “beneath the surface” (?) of such compelling places as Marrakesh and El Rashidia in Morocco, Isfahan in Iran, Yanggon in Myanmar, Bogota, Havana, Easter Island, and Apia, Samoa, I decided to take the plunge.
I wrote in the website’s online chat box that I was “interested in this opportunity, but I’m afraid it would damage my professional reputation if it did not include carbon offsets for carbon emissions of the flights. Does the cost include this, or can it be made to include it?”
In less than a minute, Jaime wrote back to tell me that it wasn’t included, but that one of the “Travel Consultants from our Private Travel team” will follow up with me “to discuss the possibility.”
Soon enough, I received the following e-mail from Liz Huffmann, Senior Private Travel Consultant with Abercrombie and Kent, USA:
Thank you so much for your request and your interest in travelling Around the World with the New York Times and A&K! Please see the attached full brochure for this program. I’ve discussed with our logistics team and the answer is no, honestly, we do not include the costs for carbon footprint offsets on this trip. Through AKP – our A&K Philanthropy branch, we could certainly work on this and quote an amount for you to arrange this but it would be just for you and not obligatory for the entire tour group. Let me know if this is something you would like me to look into.
While the 757 jet is getting “better mileage” by being less full with only 50 guests, it is still takes a tremendous amount of fuel to use a full size jet for the tour. It sounds like it is important to you to be travelling on an environmentally conscious tour. I understand and the cruise ships industry gets very similar requests. I am not familiar with any private jet tour operators that attempt to offset their carbon footprint.
Our exclusively chartered jet features first-class, fully lie-flat seats, which come complete with a charging port, privacy screen and additional seating for impromptu get-togethers. Topshelf spirits and gourmet dining, along with a dedicated cabin crew who makes your aircraft feel like home, round out an elegant in-air experience. I’ve also attached the plane details for your convenience!
We are confident that this program will surpass all expectations. Please review the included information and contact me for more information or to ensure your client’s space on this unforgettable private jet journey with A&K.
Please see my contact information below and feel free to contact me at your convenience; I am in the office 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. central time, Monday through Friday.
I look forward to hearing from you!
To that, I replied:
Thanks for writing back. It sounds like a wonderful tour. But it is disappointing that the there has been no attempt made to somehow offset its heavy carbon footprint. I am certain that this would be a cost your clients could easily absorb, and with a little information about it, may well be more than happy to do. For instance, all it would take would be a short article by one of your accompanying New York Times writers, such as columnist Nicholas Kristof or former Science Times editor Cornelia Dean, to “offset” any concerns about the extra cost, which would be slight in comparison to the $135,000 per person price tag. If one or two clients balk at the cost for political reasons, the ethical or educational gain for the others should be enough to “offset” for that as well.
I trust that Abercrombie and Kent, along with the New York Times (whose participation in this is more surprising, given the Times’ record in informing the public about the value of carbon accounting), will consider these comments for future flight opportunities. While carbon offsets are somewhat controversial — considered something like papal indulgences by some, and as little more than charitable donations by others — they are a way to begin accounting for the environmental costs of air travel and to bring carbon emissions more in line with the commitments the United States made at last December’s Paris climate conference.
Sincerely, Adrian Ivakhiv
I’m still not sure what Liz meant by the 757 getting “better mileage” by “being less full with only 50 guests” — perhaps she was pulling my leg, too. (The less full a plane is, the more its per-capita carbon consumption skyrockets.)
What to make of the fact that the New York Times — whose print version is already saturated with ads — has come to selling these indulgences (not the papal, carbon-reducing kind, just the regular jet-setting kind)? I guess they really do need to come up with novel ways of paying their journalists and office staff for their labor.
Note: And with this, I inaugurate the “Humor” category of this blog. Thanks to Chas Clifton for alerting me to the wonderful “opportunity.”