Anyone who has travelled long haul economy class by air on a regular basis will know all too well just how infuriating it can be. The whole experience is enough to make you think that all the fun and romance has gone out of air travel, and isn’t coming back any time soon.
But has it? Every now and again, little things seem to come together to create a kind of perfect storm- pun wholly intentional- on a flight to gift you an absolute joyride, even in economy. It does not always happen, but when it does, you surely remember it.
One thing that still gets me is my first glimpse of the plane, through the windows of the boarding gate. Sleek, shiny and seeming to stretch into infinity, it’s a truly stunning moment of revelation; a beautiful, almost biblical testament to human ingenuity and skill.
And the subtle, wonderful moment when the plane rumbles into life and claws at the sky still fills me with awe, too. I suspect it’s as much the whole ‘beginning of an adventure’ kind of thing but, whatever, it’s still a platinum chip adrenaline surge of the purest kind. And, best of all, you get to just sit back and enjoy it, too.
Wangling an exit seat improves my mood factor enormously, too. And while I generally prefer an aisle seat, I’ll sometimes opt for a window on a plane with a two abreast configuration.
There, I can lean back in my seat, nursing a pre dinner drink, and marvel at a string of cotton candy clouds stretching back as far as the eye can see. And sunsets viewed at that height are almost painfully beautiful, a work of staggering natural art that moves you on some deep, totally profound level.
Food? Well, I don’t expect too much as a rule. But I have to say that British Airways generally do the art of meal service better than almost anyone. That airline on the whole presents a patina of disciplined smartness that no US flagged carrier can get anywhere near. It has more than just a hint of panache. And, as on many airlines, most of the cabin crew can be absolutely outstanding in terms of looking after passengers.
I love flying to Los Angeles on Air France, too. My trips usually take place over the winter, so being handed a glass of champagne after take off from Paris is guaranteed to put a smile on my face. It fuels the anticipation of exchanging winter for sunshine with effortless ease. A little thing, perhaps. But it’s the little things that raise a long haul flight from a mundane experience to the level of sky high anticipation.
The sweetness of the stewardesses on Thai Airways is heart warming; almost as much as the delicious, after dinner cognac the airline serves. I also tend to sleep well on their long haul flights to the Far East- a big consideration for a frequent flyer.
I generally take books to read, but the inflight entertainment systems on some airlines- again, especial kudos to BA here- mean that I can usually lose myself in a feature film or two, or enjoy some classic album I might not have heard in years. Whoever came up with the idea of seat back television on demand- AVOD- is a genius right up there with Michelangelo or Van Gogh, in my humble opinion.
Take out the turbulence, and put in the ear plugs that I have hopefully remembered, and I can drift off into a dreamy little snooze mode for a couple of hours. And I love it when I surface from that sleep just as the last afternoon food run brings round those little, pre-landing snacks. Because then I know that the flight- the overture to the adventure- is almost over. I have crossed both an ocean and probably a continent, and I am ready to get moving.
Of course, all this is a state of mind. And it certainly does not apply to-or on- every flight. But, consider this; in your ordinary, everyday life, when was the last chance you had to just sit back for several hours, chill out with some food, drink and fun entertainment and, in general, just indulge yourself?
And all while someone else did the driving, the cooking, the serving, and the cleaning up afterwards. Air travel? Yep. It does have it’s good moments….