Culture

Fleeing Persecution? At Least You Can Earn 5 Velocity Points For Every Dollar Spent With Agoda

"Kate had to flee the country. At least she earned 5 Velocity points for every dollar spent with agoda."

Agoda travel refugee ad

Saudi refugee Rahaf Alqunun garnered worldwide attention this week after she flew from Kuwait to Bangkok, hoping to travel to Australia and seek asylum. It’s been a terrifying ordeal with incredibly high stakes, but have you considered how many frequent flyer points she could have earned while fleeing for her life? Travel website agoda has!

This morning my Facebook timeline served me an advertisement for travel booking website agoda. This wasn’t unusual in and of itself. I have been looking at flights, and Facebook tracks everything we do like a stalker with a hard drive of spreadsheets.

However, today’s agoda ad delivered not just news about a travel deal, but also a timely reminder that we live in a late capitalist nightmare where humans will exploit anything and everything for profit.

In the image, which I had to look at with my eyes, a gavel-wielding black circle sits behind a courtroom bench while a red circle stands beside it (each circle appears to represent a person). Text beside the graphic reads, “Kate had to flee the country. At least she earned 5 Velocity points for every dollar spent with agoda.”

Though the focus in Australia is often on asylum seekers who travel by boat, many also travel by plane, whether to get to Australia or during an earlier leg of their journey. Even so, how many frequent flyer points they’ll earn is not something that factors heavily into the plans of a refugee trying to escape persecution and death.

More pressing concerns for asylum seekers travelling by air — aside from the danger causing them to flee in the first place — are questions of whether their passport has been flagged by the government they are trying to escape, or if it is even safe to apply for a passport in the first place. Such issues can force people fearing for their lives to find a means of travel without documents, or to travel on forged passports.

It feels pretty gross that agoda is apparently attempting to use refugees’ suffering to promote their service. Based in Singapore, agoda states on its website that it has offices in over 30 countries and over 3700 employees worldwide — so it’s definitely big enough to know better.

We reached out to agoda for comment on their advertisement, but have not received a response at the time of publication.