It has been some little time since I travelled overseas on an airplane – the 1990’s in fact. I do go interstate on our local carrier but suspect it is a different experience to that of the long-haul to Europe or America. For those who cannot spend $ 10,000 on the voyage, the seats of Economy Class are akin to a medieval pillory. You sit there with your knees in your nose for 24+ hours and try to convince yourself that it is the high life. The brief glimpses into First Class when they change the naked dancing girls for a fresh set and sweep out the champagne corks does not make the journey better.
I am drawn historical records of the conditions of the slaves on the Middle Passage – the stinking ships, the cramped tiers, the festering disease…it’s all QANTAS all the way. Yet there was a certain charm to it. The poor old Africans who were sold or stolen and destined for a life of misery and toil at least had one advantage over a jet passenger – they could lay down. Even if it was in their own filth, at least it was prone in the filth. And they did not need to try to eat from a plastic tray.
Is it not time to introduce these conditions to domestic and international flights? Not the filth, but the flat deck with some form of padded surface to recline against. Multiple decks and sections could be designed to accommodate all sizes of travellers and it could not be hard to incorporate televisions overhead where you could watch as you recline. Snoozing would be easy and encouraged. Babies would find it natural. People who were claustrophobic could be clubbed senseless by trained attendants at the start of the voyage and revived when they get there. Meals could be simple sandwiches and drink bricks – far more nutritious than the stuff they serve now. For that matter gruel and a beating would do as well.
When the passengers arrived they could be sold on blocks to the highest bidders. This would be immediately familiar and popular in the Arab states and might well contribute to a better understanding between nations.