TV review: Flights and Fights: Inside the Low Cost Airlines, BBC2
Bi-Curious Me, Channel 4
Flights and Fights was about two low-cost airlines: easyJet and a rival whose pugnacious Irish chief executive is such a canny exploiter of media outrage that it seems more dignified to leave it unnamed. Let's call it Villain Air, since even its director of customer service (a title that will wring a yelp of hysterical laughter from some of its recent victims ) describes it as "the airline people love to hate".
Its airfares are generally a little lower than easyJet's, though once you've added in the cost of the transfer from the mothballed airbase that it has risibly represented as a city airport there really isn't going to be a lot in it. And between them these two enterprises have transformed the European airline industry, and sent armies of young men in Day-Glo wigs to lower the tone of Europe's quainter capital cities.
There's been a lot of aircraft around this week, what with Airport Live on BBC2 anatomising the operations of Heathrow under the over-excited and under-informed gaze of Kate Humble (to be fair to her she was a late sub for Dan Snow, but, even so, it wasn't entirely wise of her to tell us, in episode one, "I never really like coming to airports... I just find them a bit of a chore.")
And there was a certain amount of overlap between the programmes. I now feel I could do a pretty good job of turning round an Airbus A320 myself, the speed at which this is achieved being central to the profitable running both of a hub airport and a budget airline. But aviation geeks won't mind too much about that, and for every moment that will have made them wince (Kate Humble swanking about her ability to identify a 747, for instance) there would have been some bit of small-boy bait that appealed.
Flights and Fights didn't delve very deep beneath the surface of the industry. It would have been nice to get a little more, for instance, about the tricky relationship between its biggest shareholder, a bouncy Greek self-publicist called Stelios, and the current chief executive Carolyn McCall, a steely type who has been taking the airline in directions its creator isn't entirely happy with.
But it was still interesting to get a little of the history of these businesses, which have successfully purged every last vestige of glamour that commercial air travel possessed. Apparently, we have Herb Kelleher to thank, the Texas entrepreneur who created Southwest Airlines, an outfit visited (and eagerly copied) by both easyJet and Villain Air. Essentially, you sweat the assets and pare your costs to the bone. EasyJet's aircraft will do four return flights in a day, spending as little time on the ground as is compatible with safety.
Villain Air, meanwhile, doesn't even supply its employees with company pens – they're encouraged to borrow them from hotels still dumb enough to give them away. Smiles being free, easyJet will occasionally supply them but Villain Air can't see the profit in it: "That kind of schlock doesn't wash in Europe," said the malign little pixie who runs it.
Bi-Curious Me was a strange affair, a breathy profile of women dipping their toe (or something anyway) into lesbianism. "Never has it been so on-trend to have your first lesbian experience," said the voiceover at the beginning, as if missing out would be a fashion solecism, on a par with wearing the wrong kind of mule.
We followed Hayley, a dating coach who quite often ends up taking her work home with her, and Jill, a retired teacher who'd decided to walk on the wild side after years married to Andrew. The film achieved the paradoxical trick of being simultaneously naive (Gosh! Some girls snog girls!) and cynical – prurience as social anthropology. I guess it will have found an appreciative audience among the mono-curious – heterosexual men fascinated by what they can't have.
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