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Confessions of an Economy Flyer

Flying from London to New Zealand is fierce. Even if disguised with a business class ticket and the lure of sleeping in a horizontal position, the reality is I’ll be confined to a seat for 28 hours, inside a metal tube and breathing recycled air. This time I flew with Singapore Airlines who in my opinion are one of the more professional and customer orientated airlines. They don’t mind refilling my drink, have decent movies, friendly crew and more leg space – British Airways take note!

Economy Travel..in the air

Flying in economy is in my blood – I accepted this many years ago and am fine with it. Don’t get me wrong; when I’ve been upgraded, rough edges of the flying experience become smoother but I just cannot justify paying thousands for this privilege. I know I’ll be uncomfortable and just watch loads of movies because let’s face it, what else am I going to do! We must endure this necessary evil to get from point A to B but I’m thankful it’s not by horse and wagon or crossing vast oceans. The fact planes do what they do at all is mind-bending.

My meagre experiences of business class are varied; the first was with Uzbekistan Airways who resemble economy with any other airline, leaving me with the burning question of how this was an upgrade. It wasn’t until my economy flight home that the question ceased to be neither rhetorical nor funny. The highlight of my Uzbekistani ordeal was the gigantic airport billboard with a branded plane and the words ‘Good Luck’ printed across the top – pure genius! The next time was with Aero México where I shared the cabin with the guys from the band Blur (result!) and slept the entire return journey thanks to the pharmaceutical industry (another result).

Best Marketing Campaign Ever!
Best Marketing Campaign Ever!

You probably think I’m going to complain about the food but I tend to be impressed by plane meals (Air India you are NOT included in that statement). The dining experience provides approximately an hours distraction and I find myself poised as to what the meal will be – chicken or fish. I mean come on, it’s basically a soup kitchen in the sky which is incredible in itself and how they have time to heat, serve and clear all the food with smiles draped across their faces which even Barbie couldn’t pull off is beyond me. My Singapore Airlines meal was served with metal cutlery and a large whiskey, all whilst watching a movie – that my friends is dinner and a show in any language.

A meal in the sky...amazing!
A meal in the sky…amazing!

My only complaint is drink portions. A coffee or orange juice served in a shot glass is never going to satisfy. This minute drinking vessel leaves me with the burning question of whether I knock it back in one mouthful, or sip to savour the flavour. I’m more of a three sip man myself. Next time I’m going to take my favourite giant sized mug (that’s normal size for the rest of the human race) and ask them to fill it to the top, let’s go crazy! Also, I don’t require ice in my child sized cup, there’s barely enough room for orange juice as it is but I appreciate the idea I may prefer my thimbleful of juice chilled.

Seriously, what is this?
Seriously, what is this?

I watch movies on planes! This feels like a confession at an AA meeting but I literally sit and watch movies until landing. I can rarely sleep so whilst everyone passes out around me, I sit like a monkey staring blankly at the small rectangular screen, eating and drinking anything I’m offered. I once watched the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy from Auckland to Los Angeles (which for the record is the greatest trilogy ever), and about 6 films on the next leg to London. Yes it’s excessive but as I questioned before, what else am I going to do?

A common complaint I hear about the flying experience is the age old gripe of crying babies. I either have music from my iPod or movies blasting through my headphones so rarely hear them. Just accept it will happen and plan ahead – enough said!

Conversations at altitude are strange things, the mindless banter at close proximity born out of necessity. I’ve never been one for chatting on planes although it makes perfect sense that I should due to the lack of other options. After boarding, I’m happy to say hello, comment how appetising the food looks on a plastic tray, apologise to my neighbour when I wake them for the toilet and wish them a nice trip at the other end. But that’s it. In any other situation I’m happy to hear about your son who works at the mines in Canberra, Australia or how much money your daughter earns in Dubai but not on a plane, just let me sit in silence and reclaim my personal space. Plus I have roughly 10 films to watch and this takes dedication, I can’t be wasting time with idle chit chat.

Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide (Photo by James Powell)
Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide

Around the time of landing, the familiar aroma of sweetened chemical insecticide wafts through the cabin and with my carry-on luggage in an overhead bin, seat belt fastened and tray in its full upright position I am ready for wheel to tarmac action. It seems like black magic that we are able to board a plane in London’s freezing Northern Hemisphere and land 28 hours later on the opposite side of the world to sunshine but we do, many times without questioning it.

I’ll leave you to think about the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon City by horse and wagon. Families were making good time if they took five months across the harsh terrain and may arrive at the other end with greater or fewer family members, it was a true ordeal! Next time you fly anywhere, think about the environment you’re travelling over and the methods of travel once a necessity to make that trip. Have the flight attendant pour you a coffee as you consider the hardships and uncertainties of that journey and don’t forget your own giant sized mug to fill!

Happy flying folks.

And now I am here, it was all worth it!
And now I am here, it was all worth it!


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