Fasten your seatbelt and prepare to leave reality behind

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The Independent Online
HAVING just been on a long- distance flight, I am convinced all over again that there are laws of human behaviour that seem to apply only when people are air passengers. I would be interested to compare notes with other travellers by listing some of the basic rules of air travel I have noted down in recent months.

Changing nationality

When you board an international flight starting in your own country, almost all your fellow passengers seem to be the same nationality as yourself. When the plane arrives the other end, almost all your fellow passengers now seem to be the nationality of the country you're arriving in, even though they are the same people you started out with.

Shoe creep

One of the first things that many people do when getting on an aircraft is kick off their shoes and ease them under the seat in front. Thereafter your shoes creep away from you during the flight, until eventually you have to ask the passenger in front to retrieve them for you. For reasons that scientists are powerless to explain, your shoes never creep back towards you.

Staff relations

Relations between passengers and stewards or stewardesses on a plane are exactly the same as between little children and their nannies. We are given a nice nursery meal, allowed to watch a video, then tucked up for the night, and everything happens at predetermined times that no amount of tears can change. In addition, if you try to go to the lavatory at the wrong time, nanny will say, 'You should have thought of that before we brought the duty-free trolley.'

Immigration inertia

A queue at passport control is the only known human organism that is capable of achieving nought velocity. From time to time a ripple will pass down the queue and everyone will pick up their bags, shuffle momentarily and then put their bags down in exactly the same spot as before. Thus is energy created by hope alone.

In-flight music

The recorded music listed in the in-flight magazine is never remotely the same as the music you can hear in your earphones.

Airline catering

When it comes to airline food, everyone judges it by the most unrealistically high standards of quality. When it comes to airline drink, the only criterion is quantity. That is why airline food, which is sometimes quite good, always has a bad press, while airline drink is never criticised, despite all those rather moderate wines on offer.

Airline entertainment

In-flight entertainment is slowly being driven out by in-flight information. There was a time when all you got on screen was a movie. Now you also get endless news reports and documentaries, and, to begin with, a film of the stewardesses demonstrating the safety drill, instead of a demonstration by stewardesses in the flesh, a remarkable instance of live theatre being replaced by video. When nothing else is showing on the television screens that have now replaced most movie screens on planes, they show sets of statistics about your flight which could in no way be useful to you, such as the temperature a few feet outside the plane and the local time of the place you are flying over.

The next development, I predict, will be that the visit to the cockpit for favoured children will be replaced by five minutes of film, featuring the captain addressing the passengers and saying, 'Hello, how old are you? What's your name?'

Passport position

Your passport is never in the pocket or bag in which it should be. It is always in the one to which you suddenly decided to move it to make extra sure of not losing it, and then forgot about.

Meals without exercise

A long flight represents the only occasion when grown-ups are allowed to have a heavy meal, go straight to sleep in their clothes and have another meal on waking without anyone thinking it odd.