Simon Calder: Airlines aim to woo tiny flyers

The Man Who Pays His Way

Get them young. That was the motto of the Woodcraft Folk, the left-leaning youth organisation on which I cut my travelling teeth. When I was six, the junior league of the Co-operative movement, as it was at the time, offered the chance of a week's camping trip in the Lake District for a mere £4, including the 600-mile round trip from Crawley by coach. Unaccountably, my parents found it within themselves to cope with the absence of me and my seven-year-old sister for a week. I discovered the joys of (semi-) independent travel, and earned a sew-on badge to prove it.

Get them young. That was the motto of the Woodcraft Folk, the left-leaning youth organisation on which I cut my travelling teeth. When I was six, the junior league of the Co-operative movement, as it was at the time, offered the chance of a week's camping trip in the Lake District for a mere £4, including the 600-mile round trip from Crawley by coach. Unaccountably, my parents found it within themselves to cope with the absence of me and my seven-year-old sister for a week. I discovered the joys of (semi-) independent travel, and earned a sew-on badge to prove it.

In the 21st century, stylish youngsters prefer to fly – and are being recruited into frequent-flyer schemes of their own on the promise of rewards more substantial than a Woodcraft Folk emblem.

Adults (which in the airline world means anyone 12 or over) have been able to sign up for loyalty schemes for the past 20 years, exchanging accrued miles for free flights. Now, Czech Airlines and Korean Air have decided that the best way to the hearts and credit cards of the high-spenders of the future is to offer them bribes now. Both airlines are members of the Skyteam Alliance, which may soon become the schoolchild's alliance of choice.

The Korean carrier encourages careful saving, giving under-12 members of the "Skypass Junior Program" three-quarters of the miles that adults earn. But you can't draw upon these until you attain the ripe old age of 12. Then, if you have amassed 50,000 miles, you become a member of the Morning Calm Club, which sounds rather more serene than the Crawley branch of the Woodcraft Folk.

Until 12 years ago, most young people flying aboard CSA were probably paid-up members of the Young Communist League. Now the airline, whose call-sign is "OK", has been rebranded as Czech Airlines. And its regular young travellers can claim prizes such as a globe, presumably with which to plan future travels aboard the airline.

The desperate "I've got more Air Miles than you" conversations that pervade executive lounges could now migrate to the playground. Old-time members of the Woodcraft Folk will mourn the days when only one badge per child was permitted, for fear of encouraging excessive competition.

¿ Perhaps you were one of the passengers aboard the delayed BMI flight from Belfast to London on Thursday morning who was further aggravated by spending 15 minutes waiting at the gate to disembark while someone was found to operate the airbridge. If so, don't bother writing to complain, nor to make constructive suggestions about how the airline could sharpen up.

"You will no doubt be aware of the turmoil facing the airline industry in the light of the tragic recent events in the USA and as I am sure you can appreciate, this has had a significant impact on our workload." That is the reply you are likely to receive from BMI's customer relations department, judging from the experience of Peter Bartlett from Berkshire. Mr Bartlett is a health expert who had identified a potential problem with a catering item on a charter flight from Cagliari to Heathrow. He wrote a polite letter to the airline suggesting how they could tackle it. "My motivation in the first place was to be helpful; I believe prevention is better than cure."

The first response from BMI suggested that his original letter had not even been read. So he wrote again, and got a reply which, he says, is akin to "Doing a Jo Moore". As a result of those "tragic recent events", says the airline, "we are unable to investigate individual issues that have been brought to our attention. Experience has shown that our resource is [sic] now better utilised in ensuring that we prevent a recurrence, rather than spend time in retrospective investigations." In other words, stop wasting your time and ours.

Mr Bartlett says he is "furious that BMI should use the events of 11 September to lower their workload. I am also angry that they have put me in a position where if I ask for a reply I will seem heartless."

¿ Signposts can damage your tourism industry. How many French visitors, when their Eurostar train draws into Waterloo, vow never to undergo the national humiliation again? London is littered with place names that remind foreign tourists about our military victories: the very centre of the city, Trafalgar Square, reminds our former foes about Nelson's naval prowess.

Mind you, the French could look to their own capital with a view to wiping away the past: "Stalingrad", the square whose name appears on about half the direction signs in Paris, disconcerts Russians (who long ago renamed their city Volgograd) and the Germans who suffered a crushing defeat in 1942.

Even road numbers can be politically incorrect: the new motorway in Madeira is apparently named after the disastrous British airship, the R101. (Readers in Bedfordshire will probably know that there is an official R101 roundabout close to the place the airship was made, in Cardington).

At least one aircraft manufacturer is smart enough to name, or number, its latest plane after an uncontentious entity: the Torquay bypass. When the first "double-deck" Airbus finally rolls out of the hangar in Toulouse, the people of South Devon can feel proud that it bears the name of the road that loops around Torbay: the A380.

Simon.Calder@independent.co.uk

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable