Sarah Sands: Thanks, Ralph. You've made flying glam again

There used to be a frisson about the words 'air hostess'
Click to follow

Nobody has a good word to say for flying any more. It is environmentally irresponsible and security hell. Even as you drag your bag into a taxi you can feel the street's disapproval burning into you. Is your journey strictly necessary MISSY?

Once you are airborne it is one long fret about thrombosis and air quality and bird flu. The very last thing on your mind, you would have thought, is sex.

Which is why I found the story of a Qantas air hostess's 15 minutes of fame in a lavatory with Ralph Fiennes at 35,000ft so cheering. It demonstrates ingenuity as well as spirit. Because of poor seating awareness, I have often found myself bang next to the lavatory. I have been privy to the constant activity of children and the elderly. I have seen mothers and toddlers exit together often enough but never lithe strangers clutching certificates.

No one mentions and everyone notices that air hostesses are not what they used to be. Since age and generally sexist restrictions were lifted, the trolley dollies have become older and crosser. The mysterious exception to this is Virgin. I have no idea whether or not it is true that they are hand picked by Richard Branson, although I have seen him surrounded by his favourites on a beach.

There certainly used to be a frisson about the words "air hostess". As soon as I read that Kate Middleton's mother had been one, I looked at our potential future queen in a new light. There is something unavoidably suggestive about the job description: if you are tucking a man in and handing him hot towels, what do you think is going on inside his head?

Roger Moore married a Swedish former air hostess. (How many more fantasy words can one fit into a phrase?) So did Roman Abramovich and the late George Best. Prince Albert of Monaco allegedly fathered a child by one; Kirk Douglas wrote of his own affair in his memoirs. He recalled a "big, tall, blonde German stewardess". During sex, she would scream "I'm a Nazi" which was his cue to slap her.

George Michael's boyfriend was an air steward before becoming an art dealer. All this is a way of lending context to Fiennes's Qantas flight from Sydney to Mumbai, which started in seat 2K and progressed to the lavatory. Newspaper commentators have been generally sour about his behaviour. They have suggested that he is full of self-loathing or off the rails. It occurs to me that he may just like sex.

His former girlfriend (the only character in this story with a genuine grievance) has dumped him, reportedly "because of his wandering eye and constant demands for sex". The first sin is a consequence of the second. Were Fiennes in a position of moral responsibility one would take a sterner line. But he is an actor, which is a very old profession. Granted, he is an actor who was meant to be touring Indian villages for a charity to preach about safe sex. But it is the public's fault for demanding wisdom and moral guidance from minstrels.

There are a few complaints we could level at the stewardess, Lisa Robertson, aged 38. If it is true that she led Fiennes to the lavatory, she should not have changed her story to her bosses. The sequence may become clearer when her negotiations to tell her story are over.

It is probable that her colleagues snitched on her and one cannot altogether blame them. If Robertson was distracted from serving tea and coffee, then the burden of work must have fallen on others. Fiennes and Robertson have both let others down, but between them they have reminded us of the glamour of flying and, for that, the rest of us should be grateful.