Motormouth: Flying for the driving - clocking miles in the air and on the road

Published by on . Updated on 8 May 2024

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The luckier motoring journos get to experience the jet-set lifestyle when they are flown in business class to test the latest cars overseas, but there’s a risk of the privilege going to their heads.

Before I got my lucky break and became a motoring writer in 1995 with a Singapore motoring magazine called, uh, Motoring, I had only ever taken one return flight - Down Under during my national service for field training with my armour unit.

If I recall correctly, the battalion’s flight out of Changi Airport was on Qantas and the flight back was on Singapore Airlines. As it was an army-chartered flight which didn’t require red passports (we only had our military identity cards at the time), the national servicemen boarded the Boeing at the Changi air cargo complex, which gave special meaning to the travel term “cattle class”.

When I joined the motoring media industry, economy flights were the order of the day for automotive press trips. I was happy to get such assignments from my editor, and even happier when the car company flew the contingent on our national carrier. 

Then one fine day,  it happened - I received the proverbial golden ticket, delivered to my non-golden editorial office. It was a BMW media junket to Dubai for a bunch of journos to test the L7 limousine and we would be taking SQ business class. 

It was so comfortable and so enjoyable in the upscale J section of the airliner that I was on top of the world, in an SIA Megatop. 

After BMW spoiled the Singapore market, so to speak, for car companies seeking media coverage of their cars and technologies, business-class flights became more common in the motor trade. It was quite an upgrade for motoring journos who were mostly middle-class in life and cattle-class in flight. 

Soon enough, the chasing of cars internationally by this fortunate Singaporean was accompanied by the chasing of miles on the cheap as a frequent flyer. 

When Singapore Airlines introduced its KrisFlyer programme in 1999, I picked up a leaflet in the lounge, filled it up and submitted it to the staff on the spot. I could even choose a membership number from the bunch of KrisFlyer application forms on the countertop. 

Aaah, the days of paper, printing, and analogue processes. 

Somehow, I managed to progress from KrisFlyer basic blue to Elite Silver, then to Elite Gold, and even qualified for PPS (Priority Passenger Service) at one stage. 

“Spending” S$25k per year on SIA flights in premium cabins to become a PPS Club member was more than half my salary as an automotive writer/editor without a silver spoon in my motormouth. I could never afford it out of my own pocket.  

Thankfully, I didn’t need to exchange thousands of precious free miles for Milo, roti and Maggi mee to survive as a poor creative with much more creativity than money for media flights. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1714198066773 Img 1432Ragtag reporters become unlikely jet-setters on motoring media junkets.

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