At school I took the option of dropping geography at the age of 14, preferring at the time to concentrate on studying languages (two European languages and one mostly pointless dead one). It seemed like a good idea back then.
This therefore is my excuse for spending several hours looking at the in-flight interactive map, and then out of the window, and then back at the map, and thinking “Wow, isn’t Alaska snowy?” – when in fact we are nowhere near Alaska. As Pete has just pointed out to me, we have spent the last few hours flying over Canada; I have just discovered that all of that stuff north of Canada is... erm... just more Canada. The place is frickin’ huge. And kind-of empty as far as I can tell.
I suppose I should back up a bit here. As you may have gathered, I am writing this on a plane. No, I’m not actually blogging from the plane – that would be cool, but decidedly fiddly to pull off at an altitude of 39997 feet (according to the screen in front of me). But I am writing it on the plane, which is the next best thing, I guess.
And what a great plane it is. Virgin Atlantic continue to do the business for me. Admittedly, this isn’t quite up to the first time that I flew with them, when they spontaneously decided to upgrade me to first class (or ‘Upper Class’ as they like to call it). But I’m sitting in a really quite decent premium economy seat (a class that Virgin implement really well), and... get this... the plane is literally half-empty (or ‘half-full’ for the tiresome optimists amongst you). I’m not exaggerating here – there are apparently just 142 passengers on this plane, which is quite a long way off the full capacity of a 747. This means that I don’t just have a nice seat. I have two nice seats (aisle and window). And I could probably take advantage of the dozens of other empty seats around me, if there was any point.
Pete is 14 rows behind me, in
cattle economy class. But he’s not complaining – he’s got an entire row of seats to himself. It’s absurd. According to one of the cabin crew, London to San Francisco is one of the routes that has been hit the hardest by the current state of the economy, and while it’s good news for me and Pete, this sort of thing does mean that airplanes are being grounded and airline staff are being made redundant. Which is obviously not good.
Still, for now this does mean that Pete and I are enjoying and almost pleasant flying experience. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still locked in a metal tube breathing tinned air for 12 hours, which can only be so much fun. But it could be so much worse. I get to look out of the window at a bizarre desolate landscape that I’ve never seen before (and the picture really doesn’t do it justice), but I also get to go to the loo without having to clamber over a grumpy fat person etc. I also get to wander up and down the metal tube and occasionally stand around and chat to Pete without constantly being in the way (although the most spacious place to stand and chat seems to be outside the toilets, which does make us look a bit dodgy – probably a habit that we need to get out of before we get to San Francisco). The sheer novelty value of the whole situation has almost made me forget that I only had three hours sleep last night, and that I have been up for almost 15 hours so far today, and that it is still only 10am at my destination.
I’m also impressed by the in-flight entertainment options that Virgin provide. In my very limited experience I would say that all airlines have advanced their long-haul in-flight entertainment hugely in the last few years, but Virgin’s offering here is the best I have seen so far. Dozens of films, loads of TV programmes, decent albums, multiplayer games, text messaging, SMS, email and so-on. All very cool, even if I did just manage to break the system in my seat:
Worryingly, as an ex-techie type, I do actually know what that all-important last line of the error message means. Not that I can do anything about it. Other than moving to another free seat, of course...
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