Saturday, 27 January 2007

me and flying

I was a late starter when it came to flying. My father is a mechanical engineer and would rather not fly than have his fears realised. So our holidays remained strictly on terra firma and my only trips to Heathrow were to watch the Concordes take off. Had passengers looked up at the large departure hall window, they would have seen a small red head looking back at them and occasionally waving, but always in awe of the spectacular flying machines.

My first flight came when I was at the end of my first year at university and the group of 40 students on my Russian course was packed up and sent off to Moscow for a three week learning experience. Judging by looks from my colleagues when they learnt that I was taking my first flight in 2001, a massive 20 years after my birth date, I was alone in my virgin voyage. Nonetheless, the trip signalled a new era and a short lived love affair in my travelling career. I had discovered a new found freedom and I would return from subsequent journeys a slightly different person from when I had left.

However, that feeling as a young child of watching business people and smart(ish) holiday makers shuffling around the sparkling halls at Heathrow will probably remain a distant memory in the past. With a media that jumps on every word from the airports and airline companies dictating the mood in the business and tourist world with such ease, it is little wonder that airports have become a hub of despair and now environmental concern. Shunning the airport altogether is never going to be easy. Shunning cheap flights is easier. As today’s flying culture goes, the experience will never live up to the one I gazed in on during the 1980s, so avoiding it as much as possible to cut down on my carbon footprint does not pose such a major problem. For those to whom flying is a necessity and not a choice, it will inevitably be a bigger challenge. But looking at the alternatives, and turning an ‘escape’ into an eco-adventure, the possibilities are endless.

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