Simon Kelner: Virgin Atlantic's idea is verging on the unbearable

 

Share
Related Topics

It was an exchange which made me realise why I am not rich and powerful. I was telling a friend of mine – a young, wealthy and successful individual – that I thought there was something luxurious about a trans-Atlantic plane journey. You could sit, watch a movie or two, have someone serve you drinks and food, maybe take a little nap and – most satisfying of all – no one could get hold of you.

He looked shocked. It was his idea of hell: how could I bear to be out of touch for such a long time? What if the office needed to get hold of me? What if an important decision had to be made? In this narrow sense, of course, he was right. But he also represented a strain in modern life in which people feel so important that they think they must be available at all times.

We are connected to our friends – real and Facebook – to our family, to our followers (I am talking Twitter here, not religious devotees); to our business life, every minute of the day, and the idea of simply having our own thoughts for company is enough to terrify even the most reflective of modern souls.

Yes, that's right – hours without the philosophical musings of Joey Barton or the self-promotional messages of Piers Morgan. Whole swathes of time without seeing your friends' holiday snaps. No texts or emails. And no one calling you up with problems that have to be solved that very moment. (My friend, Dr G , said that, when an urgent call goes up to find a doctor in the house, he walks very slowly towards the incident on the basis that the matter has generally been resolved by the time he arrives on the scene. I have adopted the same strategy to problems.)

Anyway, for all those who are phobic about being incommunicado, help is at hand with Virgin Atlantic's announcement that they are to permit mobile phone calls on long-haul journeys. For those of us who cannot stand hearing one side of someone's private phone call, it's another degradation of life in a public space. Can you imagine it? You're just nodding off to the sound of Jennifer Aniston being all cutesy and your neighbour's bloody barking dog ringtone goes off. And then someone, attempting to be funny and ironic but actually sounding like an idiot, will actually say: "I'm on the plane."

And on it goes: all you'll hear is people saying "absolutely" and "cool" a hundred times before ringing off with a promise to call "when I get to the other side". And then there's the continual beeping and buzzing of text messages.

And who's going to police their use when everyone's asleep?

The man from Virgin said: "It's quite fun to call home and say: 'Guess where I am?' Not many would think you're travelling at 35,000ft above the Atlantic," but I'm not sure that this was why the mobile phone was invented. And you can hear it now: Damn, I always lose the signal over the Azores!

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions