Robert Louis Stevenson might not have been referring specifically to holidays when he wrote that ‘to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour’. But, perhaps that quote will give you heart when battling queues en route to your long-awaited Easter break.
Certainly most of us would agree that travelling is often a labour. It’s only a success when you have a glass of something cool in your hand, a sweeping view before you and definitely your own suitcase waiting to be unpacked in the bedroom. In short, it’s a success when you have arrived in one piece.
Air travel has looked particularly bleak recently. A security officer dragged a paying customer off an over booked United Airlines flight to Louisville, Kentucky leaving him bloodied and fellow passengers shocked. In March, the same airline barred two girls wearing leggings from boarding a flight to Minneapolis because they were deemed inappropriately dressed. The leggings flouted the company’s dress code for ‘pass travellers’ – company employees and their dependents flying gratis on standby.
Earlier in the year British Airways stopped serving sandwiches on their short-haul flights and replaced them with costly M&S versions. They’ve even, as one wine writer noted with disgust, gone over to ‘the dark side’ offering Bombay Sapphire (at £4.50 for 50ml) rather than good old Gordon’s. The gruelling process of navigating an airport makes such disappointments all the more crushing. One looks forward to the on-board free gin with something akin to desperation.
As Paul Theroux notes in his book ‘Deep South’, ‘By degrees, over the years, the airport experience has become an extreme example of a totalitarian regime at work, making you small and suspect, depriving you of control.’ Reason enough for Theroux to stay resolutely on terra firma, hitting the great US highways instead.
One thing is for sure, unless you are lucky enough to be turning left, air travel is rarely to be relished. But then what do we expect? We’ve become used to flying at low prices, being deposited thousands of miles away for the cost of a family dinner at Pizza Express. Convenience and low prices overrides most other factors. Who cares if you get a free packet of peanuts?
No wonder air travel has lost its sense of occasion. Few people bother to dress up (except newly married couples gunning for an upgrade). We pad on in ‘athleisure’, onesies, beachwear and sometimes hiking boots. On a recent flight I took from Calama, a mining city in Chile, to Santiago, workers piled on in their hi-vis vests. They were, essentially, catching the bus home. And that’s, perhaps, how we should view the whole process. A great big bus network in the sky.
Of course you can spruce things up for yourself a bit. One frequent flying friend advises taking valium, steering clear of booze and shunning the dinner service. A fashion colleague never flies without piquant-smelling Altitude Oil by De Mamiel. A quick sniff of the stuff –lavender, eucalyptus and lemon myrtle leaf oil – helps override ‘eau de boeing’ or ‘eau de seat next to the toilet’. And interior designer Nina Campbell favours Fortnum and Mason’s Hamperlings. Their Oscietra Caviar option (£90) features miniature blinis, shredded eggs, caviar – naturally – and a selection of Napolitain chocolates.
No, it’s not cheap, but it beats a beef bloomer.
Jenny Coad is the deputy travel editor for the Daily Mail