I'm on CelebAir ... get me out of here!

Nicole Mowbray finds herself an unwitting participant in the latest reality TV show
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The Independent Culture

Take 200 passengers, a bank holiday weekend, a Spanish airport not overly generous with its provision of air conditioning and a delay nearing seven hours and what do you have?

Many would think just cause for putting the riot police on standby.

Not so Monarch Airlines, seemingly, who felt the small hours of Bank Holiday Monday to be the perfect time to inflict their latest wheeze upon weary and dejected passengers (including me): "celebrity" cabin crew.

Yes, you read correctly. "Famous" air stewards and stewardesses.

We're not talking Robert De Niro or Cameron Diaz here but former pop stars – Lisa Scott Lee from Steps, The X Factor's Chico and someone called Johnny from Hear'Say – trained to secure the doors, demonstrate the lifejackets, and showcase the delights of the hot trolley. For eight weeks, the celebrities will battle it out to become the star employee, the winner gaining a sum of money to donate to charity.

Perhaps it's Monarch's way of adding what they see as a touch of glitz to the now completely unglamorous grind of flying. Perhaps it's ITV2's last-ditch attempt at creating a must-watch reality TV format. Whatever CelebAir is, it's certainly not about creating a better standard of service for the passenger.

At first, I thought my eyes deceived me. After being trapped in Alicante airport for eight hours, eyes tend to do that, simply to preserve one's sanity.

But when the 18.50 ZB264 for Gatwick was ready for boarding – at 00.30 – the sight of a small man clad in trousers not dissimilar to those worn by a bad strippergram (ill-fitting with wide fluorescent stripes) sent my best friend Jane into spasms of hilarity.

"No kidding," she exclaimed, "I think our flight is part of that new reality TV show, CelebAir." That came as some surprise to us and doubtlessly all the other unwitting passengers. The small man, it turned out, was a "celebrity" called Kenzie. If he's not on your radar – and he wasn't on mine – he dated "glamour" model Jodie Marsh, was in a boy band called Blazin' Squad and was on Celebrity Big Brother. So, just the kind of guy you want in charge of your in-flight experience.

He was joined by "R&B star Lisa Maffia" (nope, me neither), also kitted out in a part-luminous uniform. Perhaps they have to wear it so people realise they are famous.

As few of the passengers had been told the reason for our delay, I hoped Kenzie could help. "I haven't got a clue," he replied. "You've been in there waiting for eight hours? Sorry, nope. I've got no idea ... not a clue." Which was just as helpful as I'd expected.

Before long, the captain took to the loudspeaker to introduce our "celebrity" crew. And nothing happened. No gasps, or mad fans fainting. The looks of utter incomprehension on the passengers' faces can't have done much for Kenzie and Lisa's egos.

No matter, by this time, Lisa was performing the safety demonstration – "I always get this bit wrong," she giggled, worryingly, while explaining how to do up the lifejacket – and we were off. Lisa served us complimentary drinks from the trolley by way of apologising for the delay, Kenzie collected the empties, looking forlorn. They were just like real cabin crew, only much, much less competent.

And for the rest of the flight, the pair stood around "being celebrities" by the kitchen, only talking to the crew.

I hear that the next CelebAir flight out was later yesterday morning, when Lisa from Steps and the bloke from Hear'Say take to the skies. For anyone reading this who was on board, I feel your pain.

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