We’re cruising at 36,000 feet, the two o’clock EasyJet flight back to Edinburgh. The flight is smooth, the cloud-speckled landscape beautiful, and I am suddenly a festering, miserable bastard.
Over the tannoy, the pre-pubescent ‘Flight Customer Services Representative’ (or whatever the stewards call themselves these days) invades my airspace with adverts for Harry Potter Top Trumps. Not any old Top Trumps, by the way, but the very latest Goblet of Fire editon. You simply cannot get these in the shops. You can also buy the perfume endorsed by Sarah Jessica Parker…
As with departure lounges, in-flight shops are so insidious because there really is no escape. You cannot ring the bell, ask to get off, then simply get the next pplane, five minutes later. The steward’s voice makes it worse: not because the camp mockney accent contrasts so starkly with the refined tones of the RP you still hear on other airlines; but because he is simply inarticulate and crass. “Stick this in yer gob, you’ll love it!”. Proper diction and a sense of decorum should not be commodities that can be cut back.
When you book with a low cost airline, you should not expect all the frills. The lack of free coffee and snacks has even been expunged from the BMI flights too, so the dry and barren atmosphere is not a bother. But there is a difference between being given no extras, and being subjected to the constant onslaught of Opportunities To Buy. If this stealth commerce is the only way EasyJet can compete, then they could at least do me the courtesy of not wishing me a peaceful flight at the plane takes off. With the drone of the cabin crew’s constant sales patter, peace and quiet is clearly not high on their agenda.
Now, if they had the wit to tell a few jokes or sing a song, they might win their way back to my heart. Writing in The Independent, John Walsh laments the disappearance of bus conductors, now the old Routemasters have been all but phased out in London. We read of the conductors acting as bouncers, bodyguards, rappers, crooners and other entertainers, and even lectures on ettiquette! On the bus, there was no need to pay a premium – these unexpected extras were provided free as part of the ‘no frills’ service. And with an old Routemaster Bus, you could jump on and off the back if you needed to escape. Now the bendy buses are snaking their way through London, bus passengers are yet another imprisoned market for crass, on-board advertising opportunities. Watch this space.