When it comes to flying, I am very much a first-class man. Since 1979, I have, of course, been the Travel and Leisure Editor of that most excellent of airline magazines, High Life. My various amusing articles on air travel, culled from not only High Life but Punch and The Illustrated London News have been reprinted in three delicious volumes: Chocs Away!: Wallace Arnold on the Lighter Side of Airline Food (1975), If Its Wednesday, It Must Be Heathrow! (1982) and The Peoples Hero: The Authorised Biography of Lord King (1991). To put it in the proverbial nutshell, I am something of an expert where air travel is concerned.

It is those little pleasures of travelling First Class that I have always found appealing. First, the extra space, allowing one to stretch one's legs in an agreeable fashion. I have made it a rule never to fly anywhere without my modest enamel footbath: at the commencement of each flight I summon the goodly stewardess and instruct her to keep it filled with a regular supply of hot water. Other "little extras" I insist upon taking include a cold roast fowl, to be kept in the upper personal luggage compartments for between-meal nibbles, a family-size assortment of Terrys All Gold chocolates, a silver hip flask embossed with the Arnold Family Motto ("The man with no stamp is rich in spittle") filled with brandy for before, during and after those moments when the plane encounters turmoil, and, last but not least, a hand-bell, small but vociferous, to attract the attention of the Little Ladies should I require ministrations during the flight.

One of the advantages of flying First Class lies in the quality of one's fellow travellers. Here are men (and women!) of distinction, all of whom have earned the right to place a decent strip of curtain between themselves and what one might tactfully term the "Andy Capps" of our society. On any half-way decent First Class flight, one might expect to bump into, in the one corner, a bridge-four composed of Lord St John of Fawsley, The Duchess of Devonshire, Sir Roy Strong and Raine, Countess of Spencer, and, in the other, a bout of good-tempered armwrestling between, say, Lord Rees-Mogg and my old friend and quaffing partner Sir Nico Henderson. Small wonder that British Airways has chosen to levy a modest surcharge on those for whom First Class is not so much a luxury as a necessity!

There is, of course, the new-fangled "Club Class". One to avoid, I fear. Without being remotely snobbish, one realises why the inhabitants of "Club Class" are doomed to spend the rest of their lives in middle-management when one notes how easily fooled they are into parting with an extra pounds l25 for an added 3/4 of an inch of knee-room and a free pre- dinner wetty-wipe.

And so - in my deliciously roundabout way! - to the subject of this week's column, namely the launch of the new British Airways "No Frills" Budget Airline, announced just a few days ago. I am delighted to say that the Director of Accommodation for this project is none other than your very own W Arnold, Esq, so pray be seated whilst I inform you of our very latest developments!

May I first correct one or two very grave misapprehensions? British Airways were not motivated to introduce this service by any need to compete with our old friends Ryanair and EasyJet. Far from it. Initial calls for the "No Frills" service came from those of us in First Class who were increasingly displeased at the growing proximity of the urban underclass, with their outrageous demands on our stewardesses for duty-free lager, common headscarves and cheap scent. The introduction of a "No Frills" service will syphon off this section of the community - and not before time! As Director of Accommodation for the project, I have not "spared the whip". Passengers will be denied hot food, and snacks (dread word!) will be paid for. Space will be at a premium as we shall be two-tiering all passengers, adding an extra seat three feet below the ceiling. This means that anyone measuring six foot or over will find their head counted as an extra child and charged accordingly. I am also urging British Airways to institute a system of on-the-spot fines for anyone caught attempting to cross their legs causing possible damage to the spinal cord of the person in front.

Our "No Frills" service will be further sub-divided into two forms of accommodation: Inferior and Underclass, the latter comprising standing room only, with no access to the conveniences or the mobile stairway when the plane lands. At a time when so much that was great about Britain is being allowed to slip away, I feel we must all salute British Airways for this courageous attempt at reviving our sorely missed class system. Hurrah!

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