How I travel: Emirates pilot Ignatius CK

It’s not often that people can combine passion and work, but Malaysian pilot Ignatius CK is lucky enough to say that he does.

Asked to describe himself, the 27-year-old Penang native says jokingly, “Almost-sane human being pressing buttons to make metal bird fly.”

Flying planes was Ignatius’ first job, one he’s been enjoying for 8 years. He now flies for Emirates, so that means he is based in Dubai, but he makes short trips back to Malaysia on a near-monthly basis. We caught up with him during his downtime to find out what kind of frequent flier he is.

Ignatius CK Emirates pilot how I travel
Ignatius has been flying for Emirates for nearly four years. Photo: Ignatius CK

What’s on top of your travel bucket list?
India, Kazakhstan, Israel and North Korea.

Where are you travelling next?
Life as a pilot is so unpredictable, as we follow wherever our roster takes us. You could say we’re a bit like (luxe) nomads! But in terms of going on holidays, I think my next destination will be somewhere in the Central Asian region.

How much research do you do before a trip?
I rarely plan a trip thoroughly. I usually decide a week or even a day before the trip to book my flight tickets and accommodation. I like impromptu plans as it’s kind of exciting and I don’t end up overthinking it.

Best place you’ve ever travelled to?
Hokkaido in the autumn!

Ignatius CK How I travel Hokkaido in spring
Biei, Hokkaido, impossibly beautiful. Photo: Ignatius CK

Do you prefer travelling alone, with a travel buddy or in a group?
I definitely do not mind travelling alone, but I also love having travel buddies. However, it’s never more than a group of five. I make it a point to go on a family trip once a year (we make a group of exactly five, too).


What are some things you always pack in your carry-on?
Water bottle, power bank and USB cable (pilot’s note: no power banks allowed in check-in suitcases), glasses (bad idea to wear contact lenses onboard!), sunglasses, eye mask, eye drops, pen and a SIM-card key.

What are three things you’ll never leave home without?
Mobile phone, wallet, passport and power bank.

What’s your packing strategy?
I used to pack a whole closet’s worth for ‘just in case’ scenarios! Eventually, I learned that over-packing means there’s less space for shopping. So I pack according to the duration of the trip with only one or two extra pieces just in case (old habits die hard, I guess). I use my Fred Perry duffle bag as a carry-on because it fits everything I need and it looks good!

Read also: The married man’s guide to packing for his wife (and child)


What are your tips for getting through the airport quickly and efficiently?
1. Travel through smaller airports if you can as it’s usually less busy.

2. If it’s a short trip, only pack a carry-on bag so you can check in for your flight online and won’t have to arrive hours before the flight.

3. I personally like arriving at the airport 45 minutes before departure for international flights; 30 minutes prior for domestic flights. But do this only if you’re checking in online, have no check-in baggage and are certain about how long it takes to get through customs and immigration at that airport. Also consider the time you’re there and the month of travel (is it peak season?).

Ignatius CK Emirates Pilot How I travel Mount Victoria
Mount Victoria, New Zealand. Comfy up there, Ignatius? Photo: Ignatius CK

Any longhaul flight advice?
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Bring an empty water bottle to get it filled onboard so you don’t have to keep ringing for the cabin crew for a glass of water every 30 minutes. Try to eat before boarding as people tend to have less of an appetite while flying. My tip for reducing post-flight fatigue: bring eye drops to keep your eyes moisturised; it helps you sleep better.

Read also: How to survive a missed, delayed or cancelled flight

Any travel apps or gadgets/equipment you rely on when travelling?
If you travel internationally very often, consider buying a data roaming SIM card like Flexiroam so you don’t have to keep buying local SIM cards. I also always have my DJI drone with me.


What’s the first thing you do when you land in a new destination?
Shower! Right after that, I’ll head out for local food and delicacies. Happy stomach, happy me!

Travelling is basically your job. How do you stay inspired to travel?
Flying has long been a passion of mine. One of the perks of being a pilot is being able to travel around the world, but most of the time, I only get a short preview of the place I fly to. If I love it enough, I will be motivated to return and that’s when I start making plans.

Ignatius CK pilot’s view


What’s the best souvenir you’ve ever given someone?
Self-made postcards of pictures I took and printed during the holiday itself, and mailed from that very place.

Do you shop a lot while travelling?
For food, yes! Other than that, I may buy random, interesting stuff I’ve never seen at home.

What’s your shopping philosophy when you travel?
If I ever come across something I like, I usually go back for it later in the day or at the end of trip to keep my hands free while I explore. It makes it easier for me to take photos or launch my drone.


What’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten in your travels?
Quattro formaggi pizza in Rome, Italy!

What’s your ultimate foodie destination?
Bangkok! It’s a melting pot of Asian flavours. There’s a great mix of street food and fine cuisine.

Time and distance not being a barrier, if you could spend a day travelling around the world for each meal, where would you go for…
Breakfast: Dim Sum at Tim Ho Wan, Hong Kong
Lunch: Pork knuckle rice in Bangkok
Tea: Scones and biscuits at Fortnum & Mason, London
Dinner: Pizza anywhere in Rome, Italy
Supper: Poutine anywhere in Toronto, Canada

Ignatius CK Emirates Pilot How I Travel Colosseum
Ignatius never skips pizza when in Rome. Photo: Ignatius CK

Read also: How I travel: Li-Chi Pan

Andrea Tim

Andrea is a serial kopi peng drinker (for fun, not for the caffeine; coffee doesn't wake her up) and believer in keyboard shortcuts. She sees The Dress as blue and black, and hears both Yanny and Laurel. Make of that what you will.

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