In The Times, Daniel Finkelstein asks: “If you could have a super power, what would it be?” Living for ever is one possibility; invulnerability to injury another (though that, says Finkelstein, can usually be achieved “by a combination of cowardice and avoiding strenuous exercise”). When asked the same question, Bill Gates replied he would like the power of super-fast reading; Finkelstein, who thinks this is an “absolutely brilliant” idea, says he’d go for it too.
It is a good idea, but I’d be tempted by one of the options Finkelstein rejects: the ability to fly. The availability of EasyJet, he thinks, makes it “a bit of a waste to use up as a super power. You can go to Nice for £30 without it. And in any case, what would you do with your luggage?”
But flying on EasyJet, Ryanair, or anything else, is not something to be undertaken lightly. As Rachel Johnson says in The Mail on Sunday, flying has made family holidays “an exhausting, expensive form of coronary-inducing torture that tests us all to destruction”. The epic queues of sleep-deprived passengers, the “shuffling forward in our beltless slacks and socks through security, and then sitting with nothing to eat or drink for four hours” (Johnson was flying to Thessaloniki). And that’s if everything goes according to plan. And it never does. So why do we go on doing it?
Actually, she says, there are signs that this British custom of the August beach holiday “somewhere hot” is going out of fashion. Ryanair has just announced a 21% drop in profits for the first quarter, and industry analysts say it’s because more people are opting to stay at home this year.
Meanwhile, Ryanair has introduced a “seasonal” £17.50 charge per passenger for check-in luggage, on top of all the other extras and fees it levies. In The Sunday Telegraph, Cristina Odone wonders how Michael O’Leary, the budget airline’s CEO, would like it if the tables were turned on him. Imagine a restaurant run on the same no-frills lines.
“The hungry Irishman arrives for his well-advertised bargain-priced meal. But he forgot to print out his reservation: that will be an additional charge, unfortunately. The waitress – stony-faced, as ‘smiles cost extra’ – leads him to his table. There’s no chair; that’s an extra, too. There is no cutlery, either. For £1 she will get him a knife, while a fork and spoon will set him back 50p. There’s no salt and pepper; why should people who want condiments subsidise people who go without?”
So, yes, the super power I’d like would be the power to fly. What bliss to be able to avoid both airports and the airlines that go with them. “Such is the costly strain on mind and body of flying that the old saying about it being better to travel hopefully than to arrive no longer holds,” says Rachel Johnson. “It is often better not to travel at all.” In the meantime, I’m heading for Scotland for a few days’ fishing – flying, of course, courtesy of EasyJet.
Tabloid money: ‘Frankly, Bongo Bongo Land does the job for me’
• Should we be sending aid to Bongo Bongo Land? asks Rod Liddle in The Sun. “Don’t get the map out,” it “doesn’t really exist.” UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom used the term to describe countries we send aid to. He said we shouldn’t waste it on Bongo Bongo Land, where the leaders will spend it on ‘Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris and Ferraris’.
His comments annoyed people – even UKIP – who think it an offensive term. “I suppose it is a bit naughty, although I’m not sure exactly why.” It seems “reasonable shorthand for about 50 countries – most of them in Africa – run by half-witted tyrants who subject their people to lives of misery but always have their hands on our wallets. Godfrey could have said Tanzania or Mozambique or Uganda… But frankly, Bongo Bongo Land does the job for me, even if it has annoyed The Guardian. I know what he means, and so do you”.
• “Spain has almost four million unemployed,” says Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror. “Spain has soaked up £36bn of European aid, yet shows little sign of economic recovery. Spain’s property market has expired. Spain’s idea of wholesome entertainment is torturing a male cow. So how can Spain possibly lay claim to a peaceful, prosperous, civilised place like Gibraltar? Gibraltar should be taking over Spain.”
• Simon Cowell is handing over a £10m pad to Lauren Silverman so she can bring up his baby in Los Angeles, says the Daily Mirror. He has agreed to give her his house on the Trousdale Place estate in Beverly Hills once she divorces her husband.
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