Like many seafarers of my generation, I have travelled many more miles by air than by sea as a passenger than a deck officer.
My introduction to air travel was a return trip to Jersey in the Channel Islands by an Air Speed Ambassador Elizabethan in the 1950s. She was a fine aircraft, twin engines with high aspect wings and large windows, so she was a magnificent plane to travel in having large capacious seats and great visibility as well. Passengers tended to wear their best clothes when travelling by air and there was a sort of polite intimacy about it all.
On my latest visit to the UK and Europe this year from New Zealand (in Air Buses and the Douglas equivalents), it was more like boarding a succession of London Underground trains in rush hour. The seats were too close together for comfort and bodily health on all four flights. With several different airlines to get me to and from Europe, we had to endure life in a tube with tiny windows and toilets you would never use given the choice.
Many friends and relations in Europe told me they hated air travel and many refuse to travel by air point blank. Increasingly, passengers are selecting cruises or liners other than package holidays that include international air travel! International air travel has, without a doubt, lowered passenger comfort in leaps and bounds in order to compete with others. Give me a well organised train or a fast Catamaran on short sea journeys, any day. It’s a great tragedy that long distant liners on routine voyages can no longer compete with air liners in time. Increasingly, we travel out of compulsion to save time rather than comfort when we travel by air travel anyway, if little else!
Qantas is boasting the introduction of new 20 hour flights from Australia to the UK in the near future. Imagine in the same seat. Ten hour flights are far too long for most of us, jam packed among complete strangers and confined to cramped cabins with tiny overused toilets you often have to queue for. Remember the days when the professors of economics promised us that automation and new technology would lead to ‘glide time’ and job sharing? Well it never happened. They just go for the folk who work the hardest and accept long working hours.
There are very few aircraft that I know of that can produce the sort of passenger comfort that old Elizabethan on the Jersey run did. The strange thing is, our towns have become too small to accommodate us all, so we get a lot of folk having more and longer cruise ship voyages. Given the circumstances, who wouldn’t go for the cruise ship rather than the largest Air Bus or Douglas?
21 Pearson Street,
Kaipara, New Zealand
E-Mail: roypaulvaughan@ gmail.com