Dom Joly: I prayed my flight would land. I hadn't paid for oxygen

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The Independent Online

Just back from a flying visit to France for half-term. It was with Ryanair so it wasn't until we actually took off that I was sure that we would actually be on a plane – we'd had to pay so many extras, for luggage, boarding, taxes – that I suddenly panicked that nothing had ever specifically mentioned a flight. Maybe I hadn't paid for that particular option?

This was my first experience with the airline that once threatened to charge passengers for using the loo. It made easyJet look like Concorde. Sadly, my kids had the smell of sun and sand in their nostrils, and there was to be no retreat. I was pretty sure that I'd paid for priority boarding. I wasn't that sure, however, what advantage this would give me but I'd taken it anyway.

It soon became apparent that the problem with travelling with kids (apart from the obvious) is that you are immediately ineligible for any of the seats worth priority boarding for. You can't get the front row ones by the door with great legroom as you need to be over 18 to "control" the emergency exit. This is the same with the two rows in the middle of the plane. They have about three inches more legroom as payment for manning another exit.

I always get a bit nervous when I get put in charge of the plane's security. The stewardess leans over and takes precisely 20 seconds to train you in evacuating the aircraft should we survive a crash. My daughter would be the most level headed and smartest to put in charge of this but she was too young. The honour is therefore normally given to the dubious looking solo travellers who clearly have no personal attachments and will be the first to bolt back to their selfish lives leaving us to burn.

This time I was pleased to see that there was a nice-looking couple in charge of our nearest exit. They looked reliable and I smiled at them to try to establish a bond that would make them really look after me when we hit the Pyrenees because the pilot was surfing You Porn instead of flying.

Then the stewardess approached them and tried to give them the 20-second briefing.

They didn't speak a word of English and clearly thought she was asking for yet more money. She eventually asked them: "Do you speak English?" To which they looked totally baffled.

She gave up and pointed to the emergency cartoon pasted to the back of the seat in front of them and gave them a thumbs-up. They gave her a half-hearted thumbs-up back and she was off. She had to start selling smokeless cigarettes and lottery tickets so she wasn't going to waste too much time on safety.

I tried to find somewhere to put my book and glasses. All the usual pouches on the back of chairs had been removed so that the crew wouldn't have to clean them out in the five minutes changeover periods at airports. I sat with my knees squeezed up to my face – my book perched on top as another crew member asked me whether I would like to pay £8 for a microwaved tub of processed food-related products. I declined, but had to buy two for my kids who pronounced them to be the best meals of their little lives.

When finally we landed in Biarritz, an incredibly annoying trumpet blared out over the loudspeaker. It was followed by a dodgy-sounding voice crowing about how this was another Ryanair flight landing on time.

I wasn't listening, I was already struggling to get my precisely measured and weighed bag down and worrying about whether I'd paid for the optional stairs to get off the plane or whether we had to jump.

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