Thursday, April 06, 2006

Colonel Moseley on Holiday Airflights

What ho! Gloomy old time of year, what? These cold grey winter days are rather depressing with only Carol Vorderman to brighten up that dull period between lunch and the first snorter of the evening.

The Mem and I spend a lot of time just now poring over the seed catalogues and loads of brochures from Damart, Thingies of Stow and Saga. They seem to be the only things, other than brown envelopes, to come through the letterbox each morning.

To counteract the black dog or seasonal affected disorder or whatever it’s now called, the Mem and I debate where to holiday in the coming year. I call it a debate; it’s actually a chat before we agree to go where and when the Mem wants.

Everyone must agree that holiday brochures lie. Sea and skies are never that blue, views are never that perfect and one’s fellow revellers are never that attractive. My absolute bete noir on the subject of holidays, however, is holiday airlines; here are my top ten gripes:

1. At the best of times air travel is tiresome and debilitating. On package holidays the problems are compounded many times over and it takes forever. It may take less than two hours to fly to the Balearics but you have to deal with the motorway system to get to the airport and check in several hours before take off,
2. At the worst of times air travel is impossible. Assuming you can get to the airport on time, check- in queues may be monstrous and flight delays interminable, especially when the French air traffic controllers or baggage handlers strike, as they seem to do every summer. The discomfort of delays on the way back in sticky foreign holiday airports with insufficient seating and dubious sanitation is infinitely worse,
3. If you do succeed in pre-booking and paying extra for a seat at the front with additional legroom and reassuring proximity to the exit, you are subjected to muttering and malevolent stares from less far-sighted passengers boarding and throughout the flight,
4. Aircraft lavatories are disgusting fairly soon after takeoff and the queues are humiliating,
5. Without extra legroom, seating on holiday flights is cramped, uncomfortable and, with the threat of DVT, potentially life-threatening. This discomfort is augmented by knees in the back from behind and concussion when the tired and emotional passenger in front reclines violently to the fullest extent as soon as possible after takeoff,
6. The charm of the staccato drumming of children’s sharp little feet in the small of the back throughout the flight and their constant screaming escapes me,
7. Holiday aircraft food – beef or salmon – is utterly revolting,
8. Many of one’s fellow passengers, modelling shell suits, ear-rings and tattoos (including the men) appear to be able to take the whole extended family on holiday in the Mediterranean several times a year on benefit, child allowance, the fruits of the black economy or crime. To put it politely, not a great deal of taxed income appears to be spent,
9. Cabin crew are, at best, disinterested and, at worst, downright rude. They are only concerned to get through the “service” of food and drink quickly so as to get onto the more profitable business of selling overpriced perfume, pens and inflatables and then gossiping in the galley,
10. Luggage is often misdirected, delayed, damaged, pilfered or just lost. There is a special final humiliation at the very end of your holiday in waiting at the carousel until everyone else has collected their luggage and gone. You then watch the carousel go round and round empty apart from a solitary beach umbrella and cardboard box tied with string, wearily knowing that out of three hundred cases only yours has been lost. You must queue up yet again to persuade someone to speak to you. You are then permitted to fill up a form on the off-chance that the case containing a fortnight’s washing may turn up: a fitting end to the holiday flight experience

It looks like Eastbourne again this year. I think I just have time to write to Mrs Miggins at the Braemar before Countdown starts. Pip, pip!!

*this article first appeared in Birmingham 13

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