Air travel has become central to Australian academic practice, with flying increasingly seen as crucial to the progression of successful academic careers. This paper seeks to understand why academic air travel has come to be perceived as so necessary, particularly given its significant environmental, social, and economic implications. Drawing on the mobilities paradigm and social practice theory, we seek to understand how air travel practices are a key part of contemporary academic careers. We conducted an online survey of 301 academics and 24 in depth semi-structured interviews to understand academic air travel in Australia, finding that it is seen as a means to connect and collaborate within and between academic communities, and to counteract the effects of ‘remoteness'. This remoteness is experienced domestically and internationally, by Australian academics who feel they must travel to perceived centres of knowledge production to further their careers. Academics often frame their ‘need' for connections as necessarily involving physical co-presence. Air travel offers career benefits for those who can take advantage of it, and corresponding drawbacks for those ‘stuck on the ground’. We conclude by discussing the need for valuing localised forms of collaboration as markers of success, and developing imaginative alternatives to academic flying.
- Air travel