It’s been quite a time since I last braved the airways to take a short summer break. I’ve always tried to avoid flying anywhere during July and August because so many millions of others have the same idea. After I once flew to the Mediterranean during school holidays (with flight delayed for 4 hours and airport overflowing with blocked loos, bloated travellers and screaming children), I swore I would keep my feet firmly on the ground in future and take all summer hols nearer to home. But last month, before our summer properly took off, I took a little flight to the Med to see if it’s still as bad as I remembered. So if you and your family are planning to jet off to somewhere warm over the next few weeks, here’s some hopefully useful advice for bucket travel in 2015.
The first thing I noticed was that aircraft seats have changed. Either that, or my body has. Perhaps my back has swollen over the years and my legs have grown six inches. I thought that people tend to shrink the older they get, but obviously air travel makes them expand. I wiggle a bit to my left, wait for five seconds and then jiggle my bottom down a bit more, but it’s still no good—the small of my back feels like it’s going to take off by itself. It’s so uncomfortable I could scream. Waggle an inch to the right and then—Bang—the chair in front reclines straight back into my face spilling scalding coffee all down my new ‘Mister Kool’ holiday shorts. I’m English so I suffer the third degree burns to my right thigh in dignified silence. If you were driving, you’d first look in the mirror before you reversed, wouldn’t you? So why does anyone feel they have a God given right to tilt their chair without thinking of the person behind? That’s my first piece of advice: wear skateboard knee pads and lock your legs firmly behind the seat in front to block any backwards movement. You might arrive with leg cramp and bruised knees but your only pair of shorts would be free of unsightly, permanently marked and “hard to explain away” brown stains for the week.
If at all possible, never sit anywhere near young children on the aircraft. I’m normally quite a nice guy, but I’d happily strangle the two kids behind me when they kick, kick, kickety-kick the back of my seat. Not just once, but for most of the flight—obviously some sort of game and I’m the unwilling football. I’m under personal attack from the front and now the back. And the worst part? The parents do absolutely nothing about it. And when another little darling wails loudly for a good half hour (loud and long enough to even wake up the pilot), the parents sit there reading their Kindles and say nothing. Downright irresponsible —downright rude! There should be a law punishing parents who don’t or can’t control their offspring. Dog owners get prosecuted if they don’t restrain their animals, so why not adult humans and their kids? Offending grown-ups should be kept awake for a week being forced to watch endless kids daytime TV—enough for them to either get the message or become permanent sleep deprived zombies.
Of course, I could always recline my seat to punish the kickers behind me, but—guess what—my seat button doesn’t work. Nor does my in-flight media centre. My video screen is cracked and my light switch illuminates the whole row but not my actual seat area. Oh no… I am obviously in the Seat Of Doom… Every aircraft has just one seat where nothing works and I’m in it. Just my luck—no chance of moving seats as the plane’s completely full—a sardine packed tin in the sky.
In desperation I try rummaging through the back pocket of the seat in front. I might find some hidden treasure like a discarded lottery ticket which turns out to be worth several million or a ‘Greek Bank Bail Card’ for several billion which turns out to be worth nothing. Instead I find a wrinkled magazine with maps showing our intended route (that’s for the optimist traveller of course), an innocent looking small brown paper bag (for the pessimist traveller) and a brochure selling me out of date Swiss chocolate or an airline branded Teddy Bear. Incidentally, do you know anyone who has ever bought one of these? If so, why did they? Would you buy a soft cuddly toy with TESCO or BOOTS or M&S embroidered on its bottom? No, nor would I, but obviously some people do…
However, look on the bright side. Of course it’s all worth it when you finally get there. You’ll have a lovely time on the Costa Brava even though your suitcases eventually turn up in Carlisle. And if it’s all too much, then a holiday in Devon or Dorset would be just like being at home.