A few years ago I used to fly regularly across the atlantic (in a plane, obviously). There was a bit of jockeying for position shortly after take-off so that you could bag a row of middle seats to stretch out and lie down. That's if you hadn't managed to chat up the ground staff and wangle an upgrade. Sleeping generally wasn't a problem anyway once they introduced free drinks; the problem was waking up at the other end.
Those were the days
Those were the days
I'm glad to say all that inefficiency is long behind us. If there's an empty seat in a plane now it's because someone's feeling rich enough to use the loo. (I'll resist comments about feeling flush). Either that or the co-pilot hasn't turned up. Planes now fly fully laden from A to B, umless they're diverted to C because of fog at B. It's an awesome business, particularly when you think that the Airbus A380 can carry 800 people. Eight hundred people. That's more than go to Southampton home games.
It seems half-empty planes are a thing of the past; a famous victory for the ecomentalists. Or is it? Since Stelios O'Leary introduced his famous 'fly for a quid, pee for a fiver' business model, we seem to be flying everywhere, a lot. The only people who don't fly are guilty middle-class types, with the strange but somehow gratifying result that tourist destinations close to home, like Ventnor or Swanage, are slyly becoming quite chic. By the same token Harry Ramsden's may now be enjoyed from Florida to the Middle East, if enjoyed is the right word.
I'm particularly focussed on this now as I'm about to board a train for an hour's ride to London. This is followed by a four hour flight. The train costs more than twice as much as the flight. Unsurprisingly, then, we've developed some ludicrous habits. I'm sorry, but flying to New York for a weekend's shopping is insane. If the ticket cost a grand for a three-legged stool in the back of the bus, like it used to, even your keenest bargain hunter would think twice.
So how can we save the planet? There's one way - and that's to make flying a lot more expensive. Tax aviation fuel like other fuels - problem solved! Except this would involve the EU and US etc. actually agreeing on something.
Some imagination is needed then. Perhaps we could try discouraging the punters by forcing them through overcrowded dilapidated airports for hours, being hostile to them at interminable customs and security checkpoints, confiscating their deadly toothpicks and suntan lotion, forcing them to eat Harry Ramsden's chips whiling away the three-hour delay, then cramming them onto badly maintained uncomfortable vehicles and sending their bags to Athens. Or did we try that already?