Tag Archives: plane travel

What are you wearing on the plane?, a travel story

What are you wearing on the plane? was first published in The Australian in August 2008.

Once upon a time, before mass travel made us all blasé, before rising fuel costs stole space and comfort from our aircraft and before terrorism ushered in tiresome security measures, plane travel was synonymous with elegance, glamour and sophistication. Nowadays, services such as flyonward have made air travel accessible for a much wider group of people, giving more and more people the chance to travel to other areas of the world. In fact if you really wanted to and could afford it, you could get your own private jet to travel places. That is how far flying has come.

The Tower of Big Ben
The Tower of Big Ben

The first to take flight from our street was an elegant fowl named Doreen. She was heading “home” to England. Doreen wasn’t English, so in fact, England wasn’t her home but that was what glamorous sophisticates called the place back then. The day before she left, neighbourhood aprons, slippers, hairnets and rollers gathered at her house, to bask one last time in her reflected glamour.

“What are you wearing on the plane, Doreen?” asked an eager hairnet.

“Go on, Dor, model it for us!” urged a floral apron.

Doreen didn’t need much persuasion and while she readied herself in her bedroom, aprons, hairnets, rollers and slippers closed in around the tea trolley. The kitchen seethed with whispered sour-grapes.

“Lucky thing” sighed some tartan slippers “I’d love to fly”

“New feathers would do me!” cackled a head full of rollers.

The door opened slowly. There was a collective screech as Doreen, a vision in a pale blue linen coat and pill-box hat, with immaculate white shoes, gloves and handbag stepped into the kitchen. She paused, flashed a smile, rocked from one pointy-toed, stilettoed foot to another, then, to chorus of squawks, sashayed across the lino. At the stove she turned, paused, preened, tossed her head and slowly peeled back the coat to uncover a coordinated, blue and white floral polished cotton sheath frock.

“Ta da!” she trilled, throwing her arms in the air, clouting a hairnet with the handbag and swiping an apron with the coat.

“Oh, Dor, you look gorgeous!” cooed the admiring apron “Where did you get it?”

“Marlene Modes!”

“You’ll need a girdle with that tummy, though” sniped the hair net.

“When are you having your hair set?’ inquired the rollers, scrutinising Doreen’s collapsing beehive though narrowed eyes.

“Tomorrow morning!”

“That pilot better look out, eh girls?” clucked the slippers.

Next afternoon, the whole street came out to wave Doreen off. Covetous eyes followed a quartet of nicotine-coloured bags into the boot of her dad’s Holden. There was a streamlined suitcase with piped leather edges and expandable catches, an elegant weekender, a sophisticated briefcase and a glamourous heart-shaped, quilted make-up case with a chic gold handle on top. Everyone stared in silence as the car carried Dor’s reconstructed beehive and regally waving glove away out of sight.

Whether it was the spell of Doreen’s ensemble, or the charm of her smile, she did bewitch a pilot somewhere en route. She never returned. From time to time, little red and blue edged envelopes would land in our letterboxes, addressed in Doreen’s elegant hand, with a deliciously foreign stamp in one corner and a mysterious “par avion” in the other. Then, tales of her glamorous life, at “home’, with her pilot, would speed along the street, over the teacups, from rollers to hairnet and from slippers to apron. For some years, Avion enjoyed great popularity as a name for neighbourhood newborns.

Times have changed.

Glamorous sophisticates, like Doreen, have all but disappeared from modern aircraft. The pre-flight coiffure has gone the way of the beehive, the hairnet and the roller. The hat and the glove have vanished like the girdle and the apron. Even in First and Business Class where some elegance survives, the frock/ coat ensemble has dropped out of sight. And “What are you wearing on the plane?” is pretty much an archaism.

Most 21st century travellers don’t dress to impress. They dress for convenience; wise to departure hall x-rays, metal detectors, strips and frisks, they’ve abandoned belts, buckles and stilettos for elastic waistbands and Velcro tab shoes. They dress for comfort; once bitten and now forever shy of the cramped, long-haul flight nightmare in constricting clothes, they’ve given up skirts, tights and even jeans for trackies and cargoes in soft, stretchy cloth. They dress for camouflage; survivors of meal-time turbulence spills, they’ve tossed out the whites and the pastels for black, wine reds and browns in tones of satay or stroganoff.

The odd streamlined suitcase still lands on the baggage carousel but most are a long way from Doreen’s tobacco tinted classic. More often than not, they’re reduced by security concerns to sinister shrink-wrapped hulks or by weight limits to bulging shapeless sacks. The technological age has bumped the brief-case for the computer bag and the back pack has usurped most weekenders. If any still linger, they’re speedsters on wheels, transformed for marathons through interminable terminal corridors. And in the interests of counter terrorism, the glamorous make-up case has given way to the miserable little plastic zip-lock bag.

These days the runway romance goes largely unnoticed. The cabin blind is raised only for some sensational celebrity scandal. Today we all call Australia home, yet we’re at home in England and most of the world. We all dash off emails and texts now, so the red and blue edged letter is rare. And now, since we all know that it’s just French for plane, Avion, as a name, has fallen from favour.

Copyright Patricia Moore

Between Planes

The following article was published in the Travel and Indulgence section of The Australian in 2010

Is there anything worse than a long wait between planes?

You’ve come halfway round the world but you’re only half way home. You’ve zipped from day to day, night and sleep have vanished between time-zones, it’s too late for a hotel but too early for tours and anyway, you’re broke and exhausted. You’re suspended in airport purgatory and deliverance via your onward flight is an infinity of empty hours away.

Stanley Bay, Hong Kong

At 5 a.m. Hong Kong International Airport was dead. The departure lounges were deserted, the shutters were down on the shops (you kft. The corridors echoed with the creak of empty people movers. Even the airport turnstiles seemed to have been deactivated.

I have always been interested in airport security measures and after doing some research about turnstiles on my phone, I found out that these are inexpensive and widely available.

At this time there were no bustling crowds to control.

I had 19 hours before my midnight flight.

I killed the first hour in the restroom, alone but for one hovering cleaner, masked and gloved like a surgeon.

Outside, at 6 a.m the Travelex booth was ablaze with lights. A morning-fresh face beamed from behind the counter.

“Would this be enough for a day at HKIA?” I asked, sliding my last euros across.

My words hung foolishly in a long silence.

“That depends,” said fresh-face finally “on what you want to do”

“Make friends, fall in love, build a monument, something like Tom Hanks in Terminal” I thought, gesturing vaguely down the concourse.

“Yes!” she snapped with conviction and counted out $500HK.

Behind us the shutters rattled up on the bookshop. Good! Nothing like a bookshop to fill time! An hour later with the store’s cheapest, fattest novel under my arm, I headed for the mezzanine café.

Newspapers and laptops opened around me as I sipped a slow latte with an extra shot. Below, benches filled with people, queues snaked backwards from desks, the trickle in the corridors swelled to a stream and buggies of uniforms zoomed to and fro. It was nine o’clock and the airport was wide awake.

I, however, was ready for sleep. I headed for some chaises longues I’d spotted earlier. Gone! As miffed as Baby Bear, I took in six slumbering forms. Then, like Goldilocks, I zig-zagged through the airport, trying chair after chair; first the red and yellow tubs – too low! next the leather buckets – too high!; then the blue benches – too narrow! Finally, I fell upon the loungers in the ‘resting area’. After an hour my spine was curled like question mark – Too hard!

I limped towards the distant duty free shops. I’d window-shop until I was impervious to low, high, narrow and hard – until I dropped.

The big fat book was dead weight now. An orchestra and chorus struck up in my head “On and on I walk at day break, I cannot touch the green, green grass of home” they screeched.

Ahead, on a poster, a woman smiled into a shower. “Travellers’ Lounge’ said the words below. I followed a trail of arrows to the left. Soon I was gazing through a glass wall at glowing lamps and deep armchairs where people dozed in stockinged feet. Beyond them others browsed at a buffet. With my last dollars I bought salvation – a shower and ten hours worth of unlimited buffet, internet and armchair.

At 11.am. I was that woman in the poster. At midday I was one of those browsers at the buffet. At 2pm I sank into one of those deep armchairs. It moulded itself around me. Sleep came swiftly.

It’s almost time to go now. My flight is at the top of the Departures Screen. Deliverance is at hand. And my advice to any other tortured soul trapped in that purgatory between planes, is, don’t suffer – buy your way into Travellers’ Lounge. It’s Heaven!

Crete, a bad beginning

Our Cretan holiday began with the classic traveller’s catastrophe – a missed flight. The 06.00 time printed so clearly on our tickets, meant six a.m. not six p.m. If it had meant 6.p.m., our tickets would have said 18.00. Of course, we knew that. We were shocked, surprised and embarrassed that we had made such stupid and basic mistake. After all we’d spent years now racing around the world with never a slip. We wasted several hours shaking our heads and blaming each other.  (YOU should have realised, YOU should have checked, WHO had the tickets? WHO could have asked for them? – If you’ve ever missed a plane for this reason, you probably know the lines)

In the hills of Crete
In the hills of Crete

The situation worsened when finally we rang the airline. There was no plane to Chania that day or the next – our week long Cretan escape was disappearing by the day. But wait, there was plane to Heraklion the next morning at 06.00. Never mind that Heraklion was several hundred miles from the resort at Agia Marina where our room with the balcony and the sea views awaited us, it was in Crete and tomorrow evening we could be there. We’d already won back a day. We were packed, ready and good to go. Things were looking up.

After misinterpreting our tickets and missing our flight to Chania the day before, we were leaving nothing to chance. Before the crack of dawn, we were at Gatwick airport waiting for next flight into Crete – destination, Heraklion.

Our fellow travellers were a team of lads heading off on a boys’ own drinking adventure and a team of lasses (distinguishable by lurid pink t-shirts emblazoned with ‘Nikis Hens night”), heading off on a girls’ own pre-wedding drinking adventure. Both parties were already armed with vessels of booze of various sorts and seemed to be having a jolly old time.

On the flight, the lasses grew louder and the lads grew quieter.  I wondered, not without a tinge of disquiet, if we were all headed for the same destination.

By the time the plane began to spiral down towards Heraklion, I was the only one awake and I contemplated its faded stones in luxurious silence.

There was no bus bound for Chania, at least not any time soon, and having already lost a day of our holiday we were reluctant to let go of another. We took a taxi.

Georgios, our driver seemed completely comfortable, if not downright pleased, with the prospect of the long trip to Chania and back. First we climbed, away from the coast, between steep rocky cliffs sparsely dotted with pines and shrubs and I thought of the World War II New Zealand soldiers, my father among them, on the run in this alien landscape. The road rose sharply and steadily to the summit and then sloped gently back down to the coast.

We passed slowly through straggling seaside settlements, remnants of villages with tiny churches and low stone cottages, punctuated all too often by looming modern resorts and hotels. On roadside signposts, I began to recognise names from old childhood stories – Galatos and Maleme.

“Agia Marina!” announced Georgios suddenly. So here we were, at last, a day late, but nonetheless about to begin our Cretan adventure.