Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2010

I admit it’s a terribly naff and clichéd thought, but I am choosing to begin my blogging journey (see what I did there…) with a reflection about air travel. A couple of weeks ago I spent hours at Edinburgh airport, delayed by snow, and then I got caught up in the past week’s disruption trying to make the return journey. Spending time alone at airports provides ample opportunities for both people-watching and introspection, and I indulged in both of these.

I eventually made it to Edinburgh in yesterday morning’s window of clear air. The flight was bumpy but otherwise uneventful, and when I stepped off the plane and led my fellow passengers across the tarmac, whipped by a fresh breeze, it felt like a real triumph. While leaving the airport I was quizzed by a journalist, and she asked if I had been nervous about the flight. The answer to this was yes; partly because as I’ve got older I’ve become an increasingly nervous flyer, and partly because I was unable to dismiss completely the idea that flights were resuming because the airlines, haemorrhaging millions of pounds every day, were pressing for it. One thing, however, had reassured me: the captain. He greeted the few passengers as we boarded, making cheery small talk with a contagious air of calm, and his joy at getting back to work was clear. He reminded me of the anaesthetist who looked after me during recent surgery: short, stocky and greying, and whose manner, although jovial, inspired confidence in his experience and abilities. His reassurances both when we boarded and during the flight had a far greater impact that any government statement about not compromising safety, which goes to show that there is no substitute for the individual human contribution. People can always make a difference.

And people have been at the fore in the past week, with stranded passengers the world over having their few minutes of fame on the news channels, describing their travel woes and the ingenious ways they have helped each other to get home. Despite the difficulties, there is a general spirit of benevolence in the air. Even that most maligned of creatures, the journalist, has been seen dispensing good will in polite tones. I encountered only politeness and helpfulness from the Flybe staff I spoke to on the phone. There was evidence of this too at the City Airport in Belfast: one member of staff scurried about the concourse with her Blackberry in hand, advising people as they arrived and generally keeping control of the situation. She was constantly busy, but still managed to answer questions from anxious passengers waiting to travel. When things are scaled back and there’s room for the personal touch, everyone benefits. I admire technology and the modern human would be paralysed without it. When it works it’s great, but when it goes wrong, the stress is enormous, and this week’s events have revealed how just how dependent we are upon air travel.

David Cameron has been taking a lot of stick recently on the subject of his proposed “big society”. It’s a great idea in principle, and very traditionally conservative: the individual taking on responsibility to improve life for himself and others. But it seems to me that the moments when the potential of the individual is allowed to bloom are rare, and more’s the pity. Neither technology nor the bureaucratic machine can compare, and if we remembered this more often, we might be better off.

Read Full Post »