The bright future of air travel just ain’t what it used to be
by Tony Wilson
Everyone should go to Italy for four weeks holidays like we did this summer. It was chaotic, expensive, and marvelous. But rather than bragging about charming Tuscan hill towns and overflowing wine glasses, I wanted to write something about the flights. Traveling on an airline with a German name that rhymes with “Puftlansa” (I’m trying to avoid commercial endorsements here), we learned the little iBook we brought was in an internet “Hotzone” for the entire flight. I could send e-mails over Nunavut, log into my office’s remote server over Greenland, and do accounts over Iceland. I saw a glorious future where lawyers could actually work from their desks traveling 595 miles per hour 39,000 feet in the air. With liquids of their choice.
That bright future came crashing down on our return leg August 11, flying back through Heathrow on an airline that uses the word “Canada” in its name (again I’m trying to avoid commercial endorsements here). We were among the tens of thousands of travelers who had to check in all their hand luggage (in our case, we had to check everything from Venice) and queue in a kilometer long line-up which snaked through Heathrow. Thanks to Osama Bin Laden wanting to blow our plane out of the sky, we became guinea pigs in the potential new world order of international air travel. Wallets and passports in a clear plastic bag. No carry-on bags whatsoever. No laptops. No iPods. No books. No cameras. No pens. No paper. No liquids. No Internet connection. And no snakes. Just the clothes on your back and what’s in your checked bags below.
Given the alternative was being blown up over the Atlantic; I suppose I could (literally) live with the camera equipment, the laptop, and the stuff we’d usually take on board, like the snakes, in the hold. I could even accept the delays, the line-ups and there being little or nothing to read. But because our planned 23-hour layover in London actually included our now quarantined luggage, what we really needed were fresh socks, underwear and toothbrushes. A quick dash into Marks and Spencers solved this, but my cunning plan to smuggle a few boxes of their Extra Strong Tea and five jars of the world’s finest creamed horseradish were dashed by the specter of International Terrorism. “Damn that Osama!” I cursed.
Full body searches and 3-hour delays weren’t my idea of a good time, and security’s requirement that a nursing mother’s husband take a swig of her pumped and bottled breast milk struck me as overkill. But I guess in trying times, you get to try everything. We made it home without 125 tons of aluminum fuselage hitting the front page of the newspapers, but it’s been four weeks now and said unnamed airline still can’t find one of my bags. I called them the other day about it and, in passing, asked for a copy of their in-flight magazine. $5.00 they demand, notwithstanding their Calgary based competitor with a name that rhymes with “Guessjet” happily sent me three months of their magazine for free without me having to lose anything. “But you’ve lost my bag! I’m a frequent flier! I suffered through Heathrow on August 11! It’s just an in-flight magazine.” I protested.
I know it’s not really the airline’s fault. I’m just disappointed the bright future I thought I saw has to pay for its meals and magazines, wait for its metaphorical bags to show up, and if it gets any worse, fly naked.
Vancouver Franchise Lawyer Tony Wilson practices at Boughton Law Corporation in Vancouver, and has written for the Globe and Mail, Macleans Magazine and Canadian Lawyer. firstname.lastname@example.org | www.boughton.ca/people/lawyers/tony_wilson
This article was published in the October 2006 issue of BarTalk. © 2006 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.