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Now Brace Yourselves

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The recent tragic spate of air crashes was foremost in my mind when I boarded a Squeezijet flight to the Algarve.  For my part, I find air travel an ordeal at the best of times.  I’m like a fine wine, I don’t travel well.  It’s not just the way in which passengers are herded from one point to another like cattle at market time, or the endless queuing, with petty functionaries in garish uniforms barking orders, all of whom look as if they’re on day release from Wormwood Scrubs.  It’s the flight itself which presents the greatest ordeal.

The fault lies with the Airlines themselves.  It seems as if every fly blown banana republic has to have its own airline.  It’s a status symbol, flying the flag and all that.  I read the other day that the Kingdom of Lesotho, presided over by a serial womaniser, now boasts one of the longest runways in the world, built 70 miles from the nearest mud hut, with three flights a year.  Then there’s Yemenair, better known as Yemenscair, flying aircraft strapped together with sellotape and string.  My most frightening moment in the air came on an internal flight from Nairobi to Malindi, where the plane actually beat its wings up and down as it took off.

As well as the national flag carriers, there’s been an outbreak of budget airlines reaching almost epidemic proportions.  These airlines specialise in pouring a pint into a half pint pot, and the cabin crew are equipped with shoe horns.  The market leaders seem to be Squeezijet, and FlyinFear, the Irish budget airline powered by Guinness with outdoor lavatories.  Whatever happened to sophisticated air travel?  The gentlemen dressed in suits and speaking with clipped Oxford accents, the ladies dripping in Chanel, and the cabin staff serving exquisite food and wine and attentive to every wish.  On my flight, I was seated next to a man with a bullet head, no neck, wearing a vest, shorts and trainers and covered in tattoos.  Still, it gave me something to read over the Bay of Biscay.

But leaving aside the ghastly enormity of it all, what concerned me the most were the safety procedures.  Once we had settled into our seats, a raddled harridan with an incomprehensible regional accent began shouting the odds like a fishwife, and waving a safety card which we were enjoined to read during her peroration.  We did the bit about oxygen masks and life jackets and emergency exits and all that, but she didn’t mention the brace position before impact.  I studied my well thumbed card with the illustration of the passenger about to meet his Maker, bent double from the waist with hands over head and no doubt uttering a silent prayer.

As I looked up, my gaze fell on the seat in front of me, which I estimated was no more than 17 inches from my face, so in a spirit of enquiry, as the raddled harridan lumbered past me on her way to peddling overpriced drinks and nibbles from the in-flight trolley, I managed to waylay her long enough to ask how, pace an anorexic midget, anybody on the flight could conceivably adopt the brace position.  “Yes,” she replied cheerfully, “I’ve often wondered that myself.”

The aviation lawyers, and those big meaty women fronting the personal injury commercials on television, should be having a field day, filing claims on behalf of grieving relatives, and of course, “you keep all the compensation.”  Am I missing something here?  Should these airlines be allowed to fly in breach of basic safety procedures?  And what is being done about it?

I suppose the airlines would argue that if they can fly me to the Algarve and back for the price of a packet of fags, which I’m not allowed to smoke until well clear of the terminal building, then I should shut up and stop complaining.  Anyway, next year I’ve booked a family holiday in Bridlington.  Better safe than sorry!

David Osborne is a successful barrister, voice actor, author, media personality and public performer. In 1991 he hit the headlines nationwide and made legal history when he delivered his final speech to the jury entirely in verse. For this tour de force he was dubbed the Barrister Bard. For more information please visit www.david-osborne.com

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