Fear of Flying


It already seems eons ago. That Hat and I flew home. Wind whipped Time.

We changed Bag Drop queues in Terminal Five several times, sliding  surreptitiously between one and another and then a third according to the expression of the airline official at the top . None bore smiles. When they say 23Kg per passenger, they mean it. So Hat and I had to drag our suitcases off to the Repacking Zone where several other over-enthused travellers had also thumbed their noses at 23Kg and were now pink faced and stressed, turfing out extraneous items which had seemed really important to take yesterday but less so in the face of British Airways Baggage Restrictions.

I don’t understand any of it. I don’t understand how the airline (and who actually said it was the World’s Favourite? Not me) can’t conduct a cursory summing up of the two (quite small) passengers anxiously waiting to see if their cases pass muster and whether the extra 387 grams they’ve failed to ditch or shuffle to another case will be overlooked because between them they weigh less than the man who has just checked his luggage through without so much as a whimper of complaint? I don’t understand why I must not make jokes about my jeans falling down when I’m instructed to take my belt off to go through the x-ray machine (surely a hint of humour during what looks like a day of unspoken tedium, if you discount the odd spat that emanates when people do actually crack jokes about falling down trousers, would make the whole thing easier to bear for everybody)? I don’t understand why I had to abandon three books and two glossies in the Repacking Zone (all sterile steel topped tables and incriminating weighing scales) in order to conform to my allowance if I can go and purchase exactly the same – and more – in the Departures Lounge and cart it all onto the plane anyway?

I don’t understand why, when we’re called to board, there’s a scrum to get on? Certainly a wildebeeste dash might be forgiven if you’re going Ryan Air but if there’s a seat number attached to your boarding card, that’s where you’re going, like it or not. And this isn’t the Tube: there’s not going to be a sudden Doors Closing announcement and the thing’s gone without you.

And on board, I don’t understand why I’m the only person paying attention during the safety demonstration? Because I have an outsized conscience? Because I’d feel really stupid standing up there gesticulating if nobody was paying the blindest bit of notice and instead flicking through the glossies they’ve just bought in Smiths’ to replenish the glossies they were obliged to chuck out. I especially can’t fathom the time and feigned expression of interest and sincerity that I waste on this exercise because in the face of an accident I promise you I will not remember to assume the brace position or how my oxygen mask works. I will do what most people will do: panic and shriek. And I will forget to remove my shoes as I don my life jacket on exit which I will indubitably, in my haste and my distress, inflate before I get out even though I have been told not to.

And then, in the event I find myself stricken and afloat somewhere in the Mediterranean, I really cannot understand how the airline believes a sports day whistle and a tiny match light is going to summon a rescue crew from a distant shore I cannot see?

But none of that really matters anymore: as I said, I’m home.

14 Responses to “Fear of Flying”

  1. Carolyne Menslage-Ogden Says:

    Well said! We just went through this at the airport a few days ago when sending my husband off to Seoul last Saturday…ridiculous. And, while I do pay attention to the safety briefing (I always think if I don’t, I might miss something that will later come in handy), I agree: if something happens, the chances that I’ll actually remember anything I heard are slim…

  2. Muddling Along Says:

    I’m glad you’re home safely – I’m not a fan of flying (not least because I’m not at all reassured by those life jackets…)

  3. nappyvalleygirl Says:

    I think the flicking through magazines is a kind of denial: I do it myself, although I am half listening to the safety announcement. I don’t want to think about it too hard. As for the scrum to get on, I never used to get this, but now I can sort of see why; some people bring so much hand luggage that if you don’t get on at the beginning, there’s no room left – in the US, if this happens, your hand luggage then gets transferred to the hold. Most annoying.

    Glad you are home safely.

  4. Iota Manhattan Says:

    I’m not sure I agree. I think in an emergency we WOULD all remember the brace position, if the captain’s voice came over the loud speaker “brace brace”. Or do you think there might still be some people in denial, flicking through their glossies as the plane hit the Mediterranean?

  5. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    thanks for dropping by Carolyne

    i agree muddling, those life jackets … i hate flying, geography indicate needs must though

    you have a point nappy: i boarded a flight recently and absolutely no hand luggage space left for my small bag. superior stewardness said tough luck. but camp steward was much kinder and it was whisked away somewhere and returned on landing.

    yes Iota i do think people would still be in denial, flicking through Vogue adn thinking ‘this is not happening to me, not before i’ve got those shoes’. at least the med would be better than north sea?

  6. tash Says:

    That would be hilarious, if it wasn’t for the fact I fly on Sunday. At least not on BA… but the very name of the opposition brings visions of suicide bombers (7 vestal virgins?) to mind and my brother has an uncomfortable habit of texting me when I’m on board, asking if I’ve spotted one yet (SB, not a virgin). And normally – yes, I have – sitting right across the aisle from me. So then, I tend to focus on how hard THEY concentrate on the safety instructions, and how much hand luggage THEY stuff into the overhead compartment, and just what that glossy THEY’re flicking through is really about…

  7. tash Says:

    ps, beautiful picture of Kili and Mawenzi… enough to erase all the darkest of travellers’ thoughts… xx

  8. Paradise Says:

    I do exactly the same, joke about my trousers falling down (maybe they’ve just heard it 2million times too often…..?) when removing my belt, I concentrate hard on the safety demo, mainly our of an overdeveloped sense of politeness & compassion for the poor steward being ignored & partly out of superstition (i.e if I don’t listen this will just be the time I needed to pay attention)
    I don’t enjoy flying at all. Ironic, my husband worked for BA for 12 yrs so we got cheap flights & went all over the world. It’s much wors enow htough. Now it is so neurotic & dystopian with all the shoe/belt removal, Camera shots at passport control, transparent bags of 100 ml fluids nail clipper confiscations, rigid rules etc etc

  9. Robyn Says:

    I love flying, but not take offs, landings, turbulence…just the having a drink and watching a film or two the whole way through! Great picture…what a sight to tell you ‘I’m home!’

  10. R. Sherman Says:

    The hassles with air travel merely exist to see how much the public will stand before rising up in defiance. It’s all theater and has nothing to do with real safety or security.

    Anyway, I’m glad you weathered it and got home alright.


  11. Carol Says:

    Fab pic! Glad you’re all about to enjoy Easter together. But all the saftey stuff got me thinking about flying to Ireland in July – and that’s when you think ‘I’ve only got two hands and three little ones’ – so -I’ll be watching the safety notice fairly carefully – and encouraging kids to do so also!

  12. Doglover Says:

    My theory about airports and flying is that the travellers are usually in a state of stress (because they don’t quite know what to do, are scared of flying, worried that there’ll be no one to meet them at the other end, etc) and the staff are bored off their heads, having seen it all before, heard all the jokes about jeans falling down and think the flying public are a lot of silly so-and-so’s. And the ignoring of the safety demonstrations is a pathetic effort to show how used they are to flying and don’t need the lecture (mmm, silly so-and-so’s)!

  13. Jo Says:

    I went through the same process about 2 weeks ago at T5, but thankfully, this trip my suitcase passed inspection. We are about to head back to London today and I’m dreading it. Child has been with her dad and I have NO idea what is coming home with her.
    Fingers crossed it all goes smoothly. 🙂

  14. kathleen Says:

    Flying…once so glamorous now absolute drudgery.

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