So just how glamorous is a life in the travel industry? Well, take last weekend for instance. It’s Saturday 2nd April and I’m sitting in a large comfortable chair sipping champagne and nibbling on freshly prepared sushi. In front of me stretches a long, groovy cocktail bar lit with neon colours and adorned with every spirit you can think of and some even I have never heard of. To my left is a contemporary open-plan eatery where couples are dining in plush, leather booths. To my right, in a snug area, is a handsome guy in expensive jeans relaxing in a huge, clear plastic bubble chair hanging from the ceiling like something out of Austin Powers. I finish my bubbly and stroll over to the far corner of this vast area where there is a beautician. I book a manicure. “Would you like a haircut too?” enquiries the receptionist. Why not, indeed.
Do you hate me yet? Just a little?
A smart waiter appears from nowhere. “ More Champagne?” he enquires. “Is the Pope a Catholic?” I retort. I stand in the corner, perusing my stylish surroundings and sigh. I’m in the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounge at Terminal 3, Heathrow and life feels good. Short of buying my own Gulfstream jet this is the only way to fly.
After enjoying my complimentary pampering, fine food and delicious champagne my flight to Boston is ready to depart. I collect my belongings and stroll to my departure gate. I must say I am very relaxed; my business trip to New England is off to a fine start.
My feeling of being at one with the world, however, isn’t long-lived. My stand-by, space available, upgrade to Upper Class isn’t possible as some full-fare paying passengers have booked on the flight last minute and taken up the remaining spare seats in the Upper Class section. I grind my teeth. Blast them. So instead of smugly turning left upon boarding the plane and enjoying the flat bed seat, and hopefully, a chat with the guy in expensive jeans at the bar, I turn right. Sullenly.
I can feel you warming to my plight…
I’m sitting in economy and praying that the couple making the way up the aisle with their bundle of screaming joy in their arms don’t sit near me. The power of prayer seems somewhat diminished. At least they have the decency to smile apologetically to me; I smile back, but don’t mean it.
We take off on time and I flick on the Virgin in-flight entertainment system. Sixty movies/TV programmes to choose from. Impressive. I’m wondering what the guy with the expensive jeans is doing in Upper Class. Tucking into fine cuisine served on starched linen table cloths, sipping a cocktail at the bar, or maybe lying conked out flat on his dreamy seat/bed. Lucky blighter. It’s not that Virgin economy isn’t comfortable; It’s just that I’d had a taste of what my transatlantic journey could have been like, and I craved it.
The child in front pops his head through the gap in the seats. He’s cute but I’m not playing peek-a-boo for 6 hours so I pretend not to see him. This is actually quite difficult when he is only 37 inches away.
It’s not long before my resentment for these full fare paying passengers (who nabbed my seat) recedes – I am enjoying the free drinks, marvelous entertainment (they have the Big Bang Theory and Modern Family on the comedy channel causing the odd embarrassing laugh-out-loud moment during the flight). I watch a further two films, tuck into a tasty meal, and avoid eye-contact with the kid in front.
Finally we land and I get off the flight, shuffle past the smiley Virgin Atlantic stewardess greeters at the entrance and head for immigration. I follow behind the guy with expensive jeans who doesn’t look even vaguely creased. I bet he slept all the way. Another silent curse.
As I approach immigration the queues are short and moving swiftly. A female immigration officer (with Texas big hair) beckons me forward. Now I must admit US immigration in the past few years hasn’t been the most welcoming experience to the USA. But give them their due, training has been put in place and the whole procedure is now actually mostly friendly and welcoming. I say mostly as there are always exceptions to the rule. However, my officer wasn’t one of them. We had a little joke about how I wasn’t related to David Niven, and I was on my way.
So here I am in historic, clean, friendly Boston staying at the charming Back Bay Hotel (ex- Police Headquarter, quirky place with attentive staff, comfy beds). I’ve got couple of hours before jet lag crashes in so what should I do? Stroll through the Common? Take in the views from the John Hancock Tower? Jump on a trolley tour? Take in a show or have a meal in one of the many fine restaurants? I have been to Boston before and enjoy all of those things – but not today; No, today I’ve got an 11% Macy’s discount shopping voucher that’s burning a hole in my pocket. I’m charging through the department stores doors before you can say Boston Tea Party.
So how glamorous is the travel industry? Today – all things considered – was a GREAT day to be working in travel!