x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Observing life: How to rail against flights

I remember reading once that a columnist never went abroad because she couldn't justify wasting that many hours of her life sitting on a plane. At the time I couldn't see her point. There is, I find, nothing nicer than jetting off somewhere nice on holiday (carbon footprint be damned). It's the thing that keeps us sane and able to trundle the work-home-work hamster wheel that characterises most our lives.

As of last week, though, I've changed my mind. We were lucky enough to go away - just to England and Scotland - but of our 10 days' respite, four of them were spent almost entirely in airports or on aeroplanes. That's the best part of a working week spent staring out at the rain, eating filthy airport food, and being told to put my seat back in the upright position. First there was the flight home from Abu Dhabi. That I can bear because six uninterrupted hours of my book and a film or two is not the end of the world. And anyway, I'm going home, so I don't care.

A couple of days later there was the flight to Inverness, in Scotland, followed by another shorter one to Stornaway on the Isle of Lewis. Another day. Puff. Then the same again in reverse. Puff. And finally, the flight back to Abu Dhabi. Puff. Four days of my life extinguished. Just like that. There is an advert on television at the moment in which a particular airline tries to sweeten the pill by going on about how half the fun is in getting there.

Except it doesn't really work when a delay in Stornaway means you miss your connection to London, which means flying to Bristol instead and taking an hour-long bus ride to the train station, followed by a two-hour train to London. The joy, in that instance, is in penning a disgruntled letter along with receipts totalling £300 (Dh1,630) to the airline that had set the whole chain of events in motion.

I doubt we'll get anything back, but it makes me feel better about my lost day - one in which I could have done something life-changing like, er, had lunch with a friend, or gone shopping. We have another holiday booked for August. It's a potential four-flighter, too, but this time I am looking for other options. Thankfully, Europe has a sprawling rail network that can get you almost anywhere. And although I am aware that delays don't just happen in the air, at least I won't be jolted from my slumber by someone telling me it's time to put my footrest away.