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

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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us