Journey details: Flight from Bangkok to London (11 hours)
The scene: Me, my wife and a plane full of solo male travellers in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Passenger description: Male, white, about 60, with suspiciously fresh looking military tattoos.
The review: I was sitting in the middle of a bank of three seats. To my left, in the window seat, was my wife. To my right, in the aisle seat was a single man. Throughout the 10-hour flight, he neither slept, read or watched the telly. He just stared ahead. Occasionally his leg would twitch and bang in to mine. He would then say "sorry", slightly too loudly and slightly too quickly and look at me for a long five seconds. Coincidentally, I found myself unable to sleep, read or watch telly.
Rating 0-5: 0
Journey: A short-haul flight.
The scene: I've been unexpectedly upgraded, so sitting in the front row of a small commuter jet.
Describe your fellow traveller: A slightly disheveled 20-something man.
The review: It's around 9.30am and the guy just slumps into the seat next to me, sighing heavily.
"Everything OK?" I ask.
He looks sheepish. "Um, I guess. Man. This is the most expensive air ticket I've ever bought."
I encourage him to tell me more. He's been on a bachelor/stag weekend, and was due to be on a 7.30am flight back to Boston via Chicago that morning. After a predictably heavy night in New Orleans, he had managed to do the hard bit. Got up on time around 5.30am, hailed a cab, got to the airport and through security. At the gate, he decides to take a small nap. He wakes up at 8am, his plane long gone. Now, he needs to be in Boston that afternoon for a really important meeting. Trouble is, there's only one other seat leaving New Orleans that morning. It's the one he's in and it costs $1,200. The importance of making it to Boston is so great, however, that the guy has no choice. So his nap just cost him...$1,200.
I commiserate. He laughs. "I DID ALL THE HARD WORK!" At least he's seeing the funny side. Though he's probably still pretty drunk.
Verdict: Taking it all with impressive good humour.
Journey: A short-haul flight.
The scene: I'm in the middle section on my own
Describe your fellow traveller: A gaggle (staggle?) of pre-wedding dudes from (I am guessing) well-to-do families.
The review: I anticipated a flight of drunken antics, some vomiting, lewdness, perhaps even an unwanted offer of coitus-in-the-airus. Sadly, what I got was one of the most eye-wateringly dull one-hour-and-fifty-minuteses of my life. Once I heard they were on a stag party, I really hoped they'd be entertainingly crude, but I was instead subjected to conversational Nightnurse along the lines of:
STAG A: "Looking forward to it?"
HUSBAND TO BE: "Yeah. We've come in under £6k so that's more than I hoped."
STAG B: "Not bad, not bad. Tim hit £10k but that was mainly because of the catering."
STAG A: "Tony's was £20k but then you'd expect that from him and he did it at
HTB: "A lot of ours was the dress. They are really expensive. The dress itself was around a grand but the fittings and appointments cost nearly that again"
STAG A: "Oh right. Going to get some Royal Mail shares?"
HTB: "Yeah probably."
STAG B: "Where's Steve?"
STAG B: "I'm going to read my book for a bit."
Verdict: Lads, it was nice to meet you and I enjoyed your excellent personal hygiene but I really hope that on at least one of the mornings, you managed to wake up by the Spree with a condom full of coke stuffed up your Kürfurstendamm. Stag parties aren't meant to be enjoyment on a par with seeing your financial advisor.
"I only get car sick on boats."
Journey: A 45 minute transfer between hotels
The scene: A small group are being shuttled between hotels on a luxurious speedboat.
Describe your fellow traveller: Late 50s white male. His entitlement keeps showing.
The review: For the best part of an hour we glided glamorously along the waves, our collective James Bond fantasies at once realised. After thirty or so blissfull minutes, our faces glowing with evening sun and salty breeze, the captain offers a selection of soft drinks to the passengers. Water, Fanta and Diet Coke are all taken and sipped in a heady daze of privilege and contentment, and we sit back and give silent thanks for this incredible experience.
A lone, middle-aged male soul, though, was voicing some displeasure.
“I don’t mean to be picky, but do you have any Sprite?”
The captain looked nonplussed, but the questioner was insistent. “Could you please just check the cooler and see if you have any cans or bottles of Sprite?” But the more the captain looked, the more the Sprite wasn’t there.
Now, with increased hysteria. “Why wouldn’t you have Sprite? Honestly, that’s what you’re telling me? You have all these other drinks, but you don’t have Sprite! It’s like a joke! No, I don’t want anything else! I WANT SPRITE!”
Behind the man, the scarlet and violets of the sun melted away behind limestone cliffs, the sky afire with colour, the ocean a kaleidoscope of beauty. But a thirst remained unquenched. “Look, I suggest in future you stock up with a FULL RANGE of soft drinks. Some people want Sprite!” he was adding, perhaps unnecessarily. The captain nodded humbly.
The group sat silently, taking in the glorious end of day, almost overwhelmed at watching the tropical sunset from the decadence of a speedboat. One man sat silently too, oblivious to the natural splendour, but thinking about the carbonated lemon and lime drink that would surely be his within a matter of 20 minutes or so.
Verdict: Get a grip on your privilege.
Definitely avoid families in security queues...
Journey: An 11 hour flight.
The scene: Back row of the plane, in the middle section, I'm in the aisle.
Describe your fellow traveller: Late 20's, East European-sounding girl sat with her friend, both chatting furiously.
The review: As we take off, she draws me into some conspiratorial chat about one of the cabin crew being slapdash with the customs forms, which seems like a good sign for a chatty flight, but when I offer my own conspiracy theory on why we are only allowed to wear BA-branded headphones until the plane levels out, she blanks me. Thus begins a Cold War that is to last several hours. I shut off diplomatic relations by putting on headphones, she and her friend hit the drinks trolly with full force, easily getting through six bottles of wine each before the meal service ends. My film over, I'm trying to sleep, as they get louder and more rowdy and my neighbour tries to contort herself into comfy positions in her seat, bashing me several times with her arm and spilling minor amounts of water on me in a brash move where she practically vaulted into the aisle over me. As she sits back down, she bashes me again. I'm near-delirious with fatigue and do an audible sigh coupled with a knowingly dramatic removal of my eye mask. She immediately turns and asks if she's pissing me off. I say she's being a bit jabby with her elbows and she apologises profusely, which ushers in a new period of entente cordiale. We begin to chat, find out we're catching the same connecting flight and the rest of the flight reaches new levels of friendliness, with me giving her recommendations for going out and even a vague agreement to get drinks later in the week.
Verdict: A social rollercoaster in which the relationship redeemed itself, and was all the better for it.
Journey: A 40 minute flight.
The scene: Half way through the flight, the crew ask if there's a doctor on board and carry a young woman up to an empty row and lay her out. A couple of people attend her and she slowly recovers from what looks like a mild seizure.
Describe your fellow traveller: She's with her Australian husband and a young child, around two years old, who is very distressed.
The review: As the woman regains consciousness, she slowly sits up and tries to comfort her child, who is understandably crying. The husband chooses this time to start berating her angrily. "For f*ck's sake, look at the fuss you're created and ALL FOR NOTHING," he is whisper-shouting. He carries on shouting at her and gets even more annoyed when she can't find her shoes, and is all in all about as shockingly unsupportive and unsympathetic as you can imagine.
Verdict: A terrible human being.
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