When I was growing up in Mexico, I remember seeing the occasional plane fly overhead. My home in Juarez was near the airport. My grandparents’ homes in Aldama were on the final approach route to the Chihuahua City airport. But these planes were far and few in between. Once we moved to El Paso, Texas, I saw plane after plane land at El Paso International Airport (ELP). It wasn’t until I was in high school that I first flew in a plane, and I wouldn’t fly again until I was in college. Flight tickets were very expensive for me, and I really wasn’t able to afford a ticket anywhere until I started working full-time as a lab tech (a very good-paying job) after college.
Today, I stumbled across this website. “Contrailz” is a visualization of flight data from all over the globe. For example, here is a composite of all the flight paths taken in and out of London:
Here is the view of the Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD, region:
The startling thing was the view of Mexico:
No wonder I didn’t see any planes!
And South America:
Southern South America
Northern South America. Note the Caribbean.
Now, look at the United States:
“You are now free to move about the country.” – Southwest Airlines tagline.
Yes, the United States was the first country with working airplanes. The infrastructure for flight is very robust. But, infrastructure or not, a lot of us in this country can fly from one city to another when we want to. We can afford tickets now more than ever.
It’s very clear that flying from one city to another within and between countries is very much associated with wealth. Don’t believe me? Check out these maps of wealth distribution and income around the world:
The wealthier countries have more flight paths. Poorer countries don’t see many planes in the air.
Yes, there are people actually surviving on less than $2 per day, and the majority of them will never fly in a plane to a far away place for vacation, to visit loved ones, or to move to a new home for a new job.
So how’s your day going at your job?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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