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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Squeezing On a Jet Plane

"Honey, it's the '90s, remember? Microchips, microwaves, faxes, air phones."
Holly McClane, Die Hard 2 (1990)

I'm watching Die Hard 2 (well, it is Christmas. Sort of.) and it has struck me that Hollywood describes aeroplanes (airplanes, if I'm to enter into the Tinseltown spirit. Which I won't do again.) as great warehouse-sized apartment blocks of the air: luxurious, spacious, mini-holidays in their own right, with a continuous supply of champagne and smiles, and more leg room than you can swing a cat at. And all this after an air-conditioned leisurely stroll through an equally spacious and underpopulated departures lounge and showhome-worthy plane-boarding-corridor-thingy.

But Holly Mclane, McCaulay Culkin's parents and goddamned mutha-truckin' snakes don't fly budget airlines.

I went to Sweden over Christmas, and flew as cheaply as possible.

You know those coaches that reach the end of their usable lives, and too many bits have fallen off to get away with carting around the general public, and then go on in their dotage to ferry kids to and from school? Well, not many people know this, but when they've fallen apart to the point at which they can't even let children on them any more, they get sold to a budget airline company who slap on a pair of wings, shoehorn an extra row of seats between each row of seats, and get a criminal to spraypaint RyanMiJet on the side.

The seats themselves are roomy and comfortable if you're five. Any older, and they're rather cramped. I was sharing half a seat with the person to my left, and he was the other side of the aisle. The person to my right would would have had good cause to apply for a restraining order, and by the end of the flight the only decent thing I could have done (were we not already going out) would be to propose. The only comfortable (indeed, possible) place to put my knees was adjacent to my ears.

In-flight, various attendants made sure that fliers who were sitting on top of each other across the central aisle did not get too friendly by continually rolling a battering ram up and down the plane from which they attempted to sell food, drink, scratch-cards, perfume, cigarettes, train tickets, London Eye entry, kittens and small children at twice the price and half the size that they are available for in the airport (which are, in turn, available at twice the price they're available for at service stations, which, in their turn also, are available at twice the price they're sold for anywhere else).

On the outbound journey the take-off and landing were fine. Inbound, the take-off was fine. The landing was the airborne equivalent of coming down the stairs in the dark and mis-remembering the number of steps. It felt as if the pilot had managed to manoeuvre the aeroplane to somewhere above the runway, thought "that'll do" and turned the wings off.

And there wasn't an air phone in sight.

Here's a clip from a really bad, scientifically ignorant, but inexplicably watchable late 90s movie that has only tenuous relevance to this post and has Liv Tyler in it:




I'm filing this under 'a lie', but that's really not too accurate and I've done it only to cover myself: 'artistic licence' might be more accurate.