Travel writing isn’t just about making people desirous of palm tree-lined beaches or hammocks strung from precariously bendy branches, if you’ve had a horror trip getting yourself to some sand and surf, you start to wonder if it was worth all the hassle for a tan. The now not-so-new-but-recent-enough-to-warrant-a-write-up Airbus A380 airplane not only gets you from A to B, but does a pretty good job of keeping you interested along the way so you get off a 22 hour flight as refreshed as if it were only 20 hours.
Planes in the past have offered half-hearted attempts at stopping you from resorting to staring blankly into row 68, wondering when your next congealed meal will be revealed to you, and actually inciting you to look forward to it. Their attempts, while commendable in some cases, have never created a flight that really grabbed your attention.
I recently flew a Qantas Airbus A380 from the UK to Australia and was so interested in life for the duration of my flight, I felt the plane deserved something of an homage for doing what I thought was an impossibility- keeping boredom at bay while you impersonated a sardine.
For starters, the seat backs fitted with your own personal touchscreen were made of carbon fibre which made me go, “ooh!” and captured my interest for a whole 1 1/2 minutes. What was a bit more involving were the options at your fingertips on the screen itself.
The number one thing to mention was Skycam. This was the view from a camera mounted on the tail of the monstrous plane, so you could see the plane’s surrounds.
This was interesting on 3 levels:
1) On the ground so you could see the plane taxing around different airports narrowly missing other plane wings.
2) In the air during the day so you could see clouds. Lots of clouds.
3) In the air at night so you could see pitch black, illuminated every 2 seconds by a small flashing light somewhere on the front of the plane to induce a slow epilepsy.
A second source of entertainment to keep you from staring at the image of a tiny plane not moving on a world map, was the ability for a bit of in-flight social networking. I’m not talking about updating your Facebook status at 39,000 feet, but there was a seat-to-seat chat function which I had much glee in using.
Granted this is potentially a bit gimicky as if you were flying with someone you knew and wanted to chat with, chances were that you were sitting right next to them anyway. Though, if you do happen to be having a domestic spat and have resolved not to speak to your other half who is taking up all of the leg space, this does allow you to ask them to let you out of the row without technically breaking your silent vow.
There was also the option of playing games not just against the computer, but against another passenger. With my hideous Yahtzee competitive streak, this wiled away an almost embarrassing number of hours and forced some involuntary cheering emissions from myself as I discovered the joys of virtual dice.
Another thing you could do on the plane was to learn another language. I kid you not, or “Ich bin ernsthaft”, as the Germans would say. There were a range of languages to choose from including French, Italian and Tagalog.
Movies and TV were on demand, which made for a nice change to entering into the English Patient half-way through and having to wait for both the end and starting credits to see what Ralph Fiennes was actually doing in the desert in the first place.
After all of this screen-staring, I was not only starting to go cross-eyed, but was getting hungry as well as I won yet another game of Yahtzee. The A380 had that covered as well with self-service snack bars on board so you can get a chocolate cookie and pizza bites when the mood struck, to power you on for a lesson in asking where the bathroom is in Cantonese.
With the amount of screaming toddlers that always populate a long distance flight, I was indebted to the foresight of the entertainment committee of the Airbus A380. They did a brilliant job of keeping insomniac passengers entertained enough so that time flew.