No Fly Zone

If hell is other people, air travel has become a descent into the seventh circle. Nick Ferrari holds his nose and steps aboard

April 2 2020


Calling all frequent flyers: please assure me I am not the only one who yearns to go back to the days when flying was glamorous; when striding to the aircraft made you feel like a mix between James Bond and a captain of industry; when airline staff treated you as a valued customer rather than a number; when you were boarded with civility instead of being herded together and jabbed with a cattle prod; when you could push a blinking yellow light above your head and a gracious young attendant would ask how they could help, rather than try to flog you everything from sandwiches to scratch cards?

It was John-Paul Sartre who wrote: “Hell is other people”. Who knew he had experienced Gatwick airport at the height of the holiday season? His oh-so-wise words are never far from my heart as I navigate all the feuding parents, screaming kids and baffled elderly folk, who are wandering as if they have emerged from a cave into a unknown world.

Just as they say we get the politicians we deserve, so the same can be said of airlines. We’ve sold our collective souls so we can get a flight to Milan for less than the taxi fare to get 20 miles to the airport. Unless, that is, you’re happy to park in a different time zone or give your car to a shady character offering a valet service (which, in actuality, means it will be parked in a very muddy field).

We’ve paid good money to sit in uncomfortable conditions and all food has been withdrawn – unless you fancy paying through the nose for a limp sandwich, or a bacon and cheese toastie that’s hotter than the sun. All that, and when we troop off we still politely say thank you to the staff for the experience.

Mind you, judging by one of my most recent experiences at an airport, many of us deserve no better. As I glided effortlessly into the business class queue (calm down, there was a deal on Avios), I glanced at the increasingly surly line of passengers waiting to board the economy cabin.

That was when I saw her.

She had rings on all her fingers and in her ears and nose (Lord knows where else), but it was the slogan on her T-shirt that stood out. It read: “Last night, I fucked the drummer.”

Wonder what Sartre would have made of her?