Natalie Haynes: Only fly if you really, really must

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The Independent Online

Holidays are the perfect illustration of the simple fact that the market never works in favour of the average consumer. Because, sure, if you are a bazillionaire, you can swan through security, retaining your shoes so you can walk comfortably on the unicorn-skin carpet they have placed beneath your feet. You can then fly in one of those strange pods at the front of the aircraft, and drink only champagne served to you in real glass.

But for the regular holidaymaker, no amount of competition in the airline market has persuaded any of them to treat you like a human being, let alone a champagne-quaffing princess. I have taken six flights in the course of the last week, partly to do market research so I could write this for you, and mainly because my friends live far away (not to avoid me the rest of the year, you understand. It's just worked out that way).

My luggage has been lost twice, which may not sound too bad. But I had only checked luggage on two flights, so actually it's pretty much a 100 per cent success rate on behalf of the airline (names are being omitted to protect the guilty) to lose my bags.

And my bags, should you be wondering, are not unusually stealthy. They're just somehow invisible to the naked, baggage-handling eye.

And speaking of naked, I have been through five X-ray machines this week. There may be someone working in an American airport who hasn't seen my tits, but if there is, it's only because they happened to be facing the wrong way. And if those security guards had decided to look down, they would have noticed that I have huge bruises on both knees, because I am 5ft 9ins tall, and therefore have longer femurs than the airlines believe I should have. The seats on the average aircraft, as far as I can tell, are spaced for Victorian peasants, or hobbits. Just exactly how do genuinely tall people fly? Do they buy three seats and sit sideways?

If you're planning to travel any time soon, I can only recommend that you do what I do: only go if you are visiting people you really, really like, and allow two Valium, two vodka and sodas, and two good novels per flight.

Take nothing you can't carry on with you, and if that means hand-luggage the size of a small car, so much the better for knocking other passengers aside for a speedy exit from the rear doors.

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