Flying has been on my mind a lot lately. As in, when can I? And what will flying be like in a world with COVID19?
I’ve always loved flying. When I was younger, we’d fly to Mallorca or Malta every year, and the whole thing felt like a huge adventure. In reality, it must have been quite stressful – Mum and Dad had four kids after all – but I have no memory of that, just the excitement. I set my heart on becoming an ‘air hostess’ and spending my life in the sky.
Flying back then was a much simpler process. Security wasn’t really a top priority – screening of passengers wasn’t introduced until the mid 70s, and I remember rooftop viewing areas where you could go and watch planes even if you weren’t flying. There wasn’t much else to do in those days of 3 TV channels, remember!
In a post-coronavirus world we’re hearing a lot about how different flying might be – price hikes, temperature checks, longer queues, face masks. It all sounds pretty dismal and not exactly designed to get your hols off to a jolly start. We may soon be feeling nostalgic about simply having to take our shoes off and put our liquids in a bag.
If could go back in time, I’d get on a flight during the ‘golden age’ of travel in the 1950s and 60s. On board you had half the number of seats, double the aisle space, sumptuous buffets, bottomless cocktails, luxurious powder rooms. Sounds amazing! You also had noisy planes, smoking in the cabins, more accidents, regular hijackings, but we won’t dwell on the negatives!
Nowadays, you need your own private plane if you want this level of in-flight luxury, so unless you are great mates with Lewis Hamilton or John Travolta you are going to have to lower your expectations. But if, like me, you like to savour the journey as much as the destination, you could always upgrade and get a little bit more comfort and convenience. After COVID19, will this even be possible?
Firstly, zipping through security in the priority lane. I work at an airport, so I’m always well prepared, unlike those people who wait until they get to the front of the line, then look totally flabbergasted that they have to take their coat or belt off. Have they never travelled before? The less time spent in the security lanes, the better. I’ve said before, the husband is not the most patient man…
In furure, if we all have to join one, socially-distanced queue snaking around the terminal for hours then I fear our flying days may be over.
Then you have the airline lounge. After a quick hop around the shops, I like to get comfy with the papers and a glass of fizz, usually with a great view of the runway. And maybe a few snacks. Ah, the holiday’s really beginning.
Right now, all lounges are closed, with no news about when they will re-open, presumably with restricted numbers and no buffet facilities. No joy there then.
Next perk, priority boarding. No standing in a line, sometimes you are the very first person on board. There’s always room for your bag in the overhead locker. Hot towel and a menu, thanks very much. I’m ready to fly!
Currently, the word is that all planes will board from rear to front. So if I upgrade, I’m actually last to get on and there will no room for my bag. Assuming that I’m even allowed carry-on luggage. Hmm, not much of a privilege, is it?
Extra room – the joy of not having your personal space invaded by a total stranger cannot be underestimated. I’ve had some nightmares in the past involving personal hygiene (or lack thereof) and over-friendliness. Upgrading means I sit between a table and the window. Not even the husband gets close. I can stretch out, relax, read, and get ready for more champagne. Bliss.
Current thinking is that all middle seats will be taken out of action. So everyone gets more space. One of the few occasions where social distancing creates a win. Unless we all have to pay for those empty seats, of course, which seems likely!
The food. I think airline food is a bit like Marmite, you love it or hate it. I can’t stand Marmite, but I just love the trays you get on a plane with lots of mysterious packages of food. What’s in here? What about this one? It’s like Christmas! I order a veggie meal as it’s reliably good, if sometimes a bit bland, and even comes out first if you’re lucky.
What do you mean no food on planes from now on? And even worse, no champagne? The suggestion is to take your own snacks, and bottled water will be handed out by the crew. No surprise packages, no booze, where’s the fun in that?
Finally, if you sit at the front of the plane, there’s always the chance you might be near someone exciting. Jamiroquai are one of Tony’s favourite bands, so sitting behind Jay Kaye and listening to his showbiz gossip all the way to Dubrovnic was was quite a thrill. We also sat behind the police escort for either Princess Beatrice or Eugenie. We weren’t sure which, obviously that wasn’t a particular thrill for us.
If we all have to wear face coverings onboard then we won’t have a clue who we’re sitting near, will we? We’ll all just look slightly sinister. I defy even George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston to look good in a mask.
So in summary, it’s looking like wherever you sit on the plane, the post-virus experience will be equally joyless. I will still fly, of course I will, as soon as I can, but I’m not expecting to enjoy it very much. Let’s hope I’m wrong…