If you’re flying on a scheduled airline there are a number of rituals that are religiously adhered to once everyone is seated and the aircraft is pushed back from the gate. Just preceding this moment, the very smooth talking Captain or First Officer will express their delight at having you on board and tell you whose capable hands you are being entrusted to in the cabin today. He/she will also give you a hint of what weather to expect at the destination, how high you will fly, and how long the flight time will be. He/she will also apologise for the delay in departing due to either the late arrival of the in-bound aircraft, or something to do with air traffic control. And then finally, you are invited to sit back and enjoy the flight, after being reminded that despite the fact that you are a frequent flier, you should really pay attention to the imminent safety briefing as you taxi to the runway.
So here’s the first piece of absurdity, before the aircraft starts to move, you’ll need your seatbelt fastened, the seat back upright, and the table stowed. They come round and check! And what’s the first thing they explain to you when they start the safety briefing? ….How to fasten your seatbelt. Doh! Rather like most of the briefing, if you’ve flown a few times, you’ll know exactly what to do in the unlikely event that the plane lands on water and you have to fix your life jacket, or where the oxygen mask will appear from if the cabin air pressure drops, or that you must remove your high heels if you are going to leave the aircraft via the chute after an emergency landing; in fact we could all recite the briefing parrot fashion. But the authorities don’t know that we know these things; no respect!
If you are seated towards the front of the economy cabin, before take off, you will get tantalising glimpses of the pampering of business and first class passengers; pre-flight drinks, offers to hang jackets and coats in an exclusive wardrobe, and hot towels. After take off, and when the seatbelt sign is switched off, there’s a rush by the cabin crew to close the curtains between the economy and business class cabins. Don’t you ever wonder what it is they do up there that they don’t want us to see?
Some scheduled airlines still offer ‘refreshments’ on short haul flights in the unpampered cabin; a glass of wine is often quite welcome – it helps to wash down the crisp, or the nut from the complimentary snack. Quite a relief from the retail experience of uncomplimentary snacks and scratch cards on the budget airlines.
As the aircraft starts its final approach, all electronic devices must be switched off, otherwise they will interfere with navigational aids, cause the aircraft to crash, and you will all die. Happens all the time. The cabin crew will reprimand you if you are still in the middle of your favourite game, but once they have gone to take up their seats for landing, just carry on; they can’t see you. This increasingly seems to be the norm. And of course, the rush to switch the mobile phones on as soon as the wheels have hit the ground results in a chorus of bleeps and ringtones to welcome you safely back to earth.