Air travel used to be rather luxurious. As soon as lower prices made it accessible to us, the great unwashed masses, it immediately became less comfortable – no food on shorter flights, huge luggage charges, self check-in, long queues for security, delays, more ‘hidden’ charges, less space, fewer amenities. Which is not so bad on short-haul flights because you are released from the sardine can after a few hours.
Long-haul travel is, however, a different story. You often have several flights back to back. My longest and most nightmarish were
- Canada to the Netherlands overnight (8 hours flying time), closely followed by Netherlands to South Africa over the day (11 hours). The combination of jet lag plus an 11-hour day flight was exhausting, particularly as I had to run from one plane to another with no time to stretch or wash my face between between two cramped noisy flights.
- Los Angeles to New York City overnight with a day-long layover, followed by a New York City to Vienna flight overnight with a day-long layover before an overnight flight from Vienna to Johannesburg.
On those flights I saw myself and others become grubbier, sweatier, more dishevelled, and irritable. Parents with families looked the most exhausted. I tried to nap on the uncomfortable chairs, and at one stage almost just lay on the floor to sleep. I can remember almost bursting to tears because I was so tired. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheaper air travel, because it enabled me to see my family on the other side of the world more often than I would have been able to in the 1970s. I still appreciate it. But it’s not comfortable unless you are on the other side of that first-class curtain.
So when I saw these photos, none of them surprised me. I have seen people do some very strange things at airports.