Other than reaching your destination safely I am not sure what the joys of airline travel are anymore. Flying is a means to an end, a way to get from A to B; it is no longer something to look forward to nor is it something to be prolonged. Flying requires courage and strength of mind. Flying requires endless patience and boundless energy.
As I ‘pushed back’ from Gatwick terminal in England early yesterday morning on my way home to France I closed my eyes and imagined travel as it was and not as it has become. There are advantages to this new millennium way of travel and I certainly benefit from that. I can travel back and forth to Marseille and London every day of the week if need be and for very little cost. I can leave my front door in St Remy de Provence and in five hours be with my children in London – four and a half if the transition is extra smooth. I am not complaining, just reflecting.
As the plane taxied down the runway the tension of an overcrowded terminal, the endless queues and the baggage searching faded away. The officious nature of the security staff no longer riled me and I forgot that I was cramped and uncomfortable. I tuned out to the noises of the other passengers; I felt sympathy for the mothers and the crying babies, their arms tired and their nerves fraught, but I was greatly relieved that it was them and not me trying to pacify the little darlings. As I fastened my seat belt even tighter (a long standing habit of mine after the experience of an aborted take-off) I remembered the days when I could carry a handbag and a small suitcase on board. I reminisced about the regular size perfume and make-up that could be thrown in with such abandon and I luxuriated in the thought that I could check-in pretty much whatever I pleased.
As we reached our cruising altitude I recollected that once-upon-a-time-long-ago travel was considered glamorous. Passengers dressed up to take a flight; there was no such thing as a bad hair day, tracksuit and trainers. A plane ride was a day out and a day out meant dressing up. As yet I have never succumbed to ‘leisure wear’ on my travels but I do dress down and have my own flight uniform. My mind receded from the boring jeans, jumper and flats I was wearing and drifted to another era. The constant hum of the engines lulled me further away from my reality and I pictured myself stretched out in a generous, reclining armchair with my head resting on a crisp linen covered pillow. I imagined that I was wearing a perky little suit, stockings and heels with my ‘hair set’ to last. My handbag was tucked by my side, my overnight valise and hat box in the overhead locker and my many monogrammed suitcases in the hold….My taste buds were tingling as I perused the menu and sipped on a chilled glass of champagne….What would I have for lunch? Boeuf Bouguignon or the Chicken Fricassee?
The captain interrupted my reverie to announce that we had started our descent into Marseille, he reminded us that local time was one hour ahead and that the weather was slightly cloudy with a good chance of clearing. My thoughts of international jet set travel evaporated as I re-opened my eyes to the joys of Easy Jet and the realness of today’s flying. My 60’s fashion extravaganza had well and truly disappeared, my champagne had evaporated into thin air and the mouth watering scents from the galley had ceased to exist. My minuscule seat had returned to the upright position and the flight attendant was now walking down the aisle with an orange plastic bag to collect the passengers’ debris. My sweet dreams had been replaced by the realities of unfinished cheddar cheese and egg salad sandwiches being tossed unceremoniously into the garbage.
A smooth touch down, a long taxi on the runway, a race through security and I had arrived.
The ‘joys’ of Easy Jet were behind me with a little help from my imagination; I was home safely and that was all I cared about.
This was my reward. xv