Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt of Travel News

Posted on March 1st, 2013
Categories: News

TCBI was trying to explain the other day, about days of old when flying was, well let’s put it this way, more of a pleasure than it is today. In the days where you actually communicated with your seat mates, instead of plugging into the in-flight entertainment from minute one, or zoning out on your iPod.

Actually, communication between people globally, not just on planes, is diminishing to such an extent that soon when you say ‘Hello’ to someone they could conceivably be stuck for an answer.

I digress. If you didn’t like your seat mates, you could, and you might be surprised at this my fellow space-travellers, get up out of your seat and go and mingle in the galley areas with like-minded folk. There were times when a flight from Nairobi to London was spent in this fashion, accompanied by good chat, washed down with a Tusker or two and, shudder, surrounded by a haze of cigarette smoke. As one airline’s advertising by-line of the day says ‘Arrive in Better Shape’ was never further from the truth.

Getting there was half the fun, by far.

Today, anything that starts with an airport is best avoided.

I was in the airline management business for many, many years, and many, many miles later, when someone asks what was the best flight ever, I have no hesitation in telling of a memorable trip from New York to LA — a long time ago.

In its early years, the Boeing 747’s upper deck was used exclusively as a lounge for First Class passengers – it seems that while economy class passengers were a social bunch, as per the previous scenario, folk who flew in the front were less so. American Airlines tried something a little out of the ordinary to entice their First Class passengers to use their 747 upper deck lounges.

They installed a piano, with a bar attached.

It certainly livened up the joint. On my particular flight, I was up at the bar (or was that the piano?) having a quiet toot, when this casual looking dude in business attire sauntered up to the bar (sorry, piano), and started to tinkle the ivories. Could he play? He could. Then he started to sing, and he could. Who was this boy wonder?

The more he played the more the question, who was this guy?

Someone picked up the courage to ask.

He answered casually ‘Just call me Frankie’. Well, he wasn’t Frank Sinatra, but he looked a little like him. Turns out it was none other than Frank Sinatra, Junior, and while the kid didn’t make it to the really really big time, he was a natural entertainer and I’ll add with stamina. He played for four hours non-stop; the flight was four and a half.

He was a passenger not a paid-for entertainer. I’ve never been so entertained.

I was so rapt that I never left my perch to go and refresh my tipple of choice, so I did arrive in better shape, hence the memory of this trip being so crystal clear.

Sadly economics dictated that these lounges made way for more sardine class seats, more the shame.


To read this month’s travel news click on the magazine cover here tn march