There I’ve said it, and it’s a weight off my shoulders for coming out. “Why”, you may ask? It could be the only perk of working in an industry for over half my life where you can’t take a holiday without someone promoting their new Dior bathroom amenities or a 300-seater ballroom overlooking the ocean. It’s part and parcel of being the messenger, to you, the traveller.
I remember my first memories of travelling on a 747, or a jumbo jet as we used to call it in the late eighties. My mother used to dress me up as if I was going to my first cousin’s wedding; collared shirt tucked in to my pleated trousers. My father was in a jacket as we checked our giant American Tourister hard case into the British Airways counter at Heathrow Terminal One – the flagship terminal back then. We were flying economy, but for some reason the privilege of flying was a treat, and “one should behave and dress appropriately” according to my parents. Fastforward to the mid-nineties when my father was frequentlyinvited to fly the family in the Saudia First Class cabin and suddenly the level stepped up a notch. The space was incredible; it like having a bed considering I was so small, let alone the service and the VIP treatment, so looking the part seemed to be important, as all the other gentlemen straightened their ties.
Today, flying is a means to an end. Of course, I love the occasional business class flight, with the priority boarding and the pre-flight lounges. It’s unadulterated escapism into your own little cloud, without the queuing and meticulous baggage weighing. In 1950 there were around 2 million departures and arrivals worldwide a year whereas now you’re looking at well over 250 million a year. Air travel is as frequent as taking a bus for some, however my fear that the special feeling of flying has gone forever. Are we now numb to one of man’s greatest achievements; taking to the air?
I recently flew with a certain blue and yellow low cost airline, and the term cattle herding couldn’t be better likened to the experience of being shuttled between two airports in the least glamorous way. A three-hour flight in non-reclining seats less comfortable than London’s old Routemaster, and having to use washrooms which had seen much better days did remove any possible gloss air travel had twenty years ago. That said, I loved the fact I could fly to Morocco for less than train ticket from Manchester to London, and for that reason who cares about glamour flying? “It’s the experience once you’re in destination” I kept telling myself.
However, no matter how much I have tried to convince myself of that obvious truth, I missed the anticipation of boarding, having a legible welcome from your captain (of whom I was always in awe) and friendly, prim and proper cabin crew. Even with someserious air miles under my belt and having the opportunity toexperience so many flights, I’m still a kid when I’m scheduled to fly. There is that childish excitement of seeing the crew board, thinking one day that could be me wearing golden lapels with maybe three stripes (if I was blessed 20:20 vision when I was 13), and travelling half way across the world with little more than a carry on. I am not envious of pilots and cabin crew with their vigorous timetable and poor work/life balance, but theopportunity to see the world is still an ambition many of ussecretly possess, otherwise why do we still explore the world with our holidays?
Maybe one day, a shiny new way to travel may be invented, orsupersonic travel will make a return to woo us all again. Either way, one day I may be tempted to don a pinstripe suit, tuck in my shirt and straighten my tie for landing.