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Reflections on running water - flying

On this trip I felt like there were five stages to each of the flights. The first is when you take-off. With the powerful thrust pushing you back into your seat there is excitement. You watch as the ground disappears beneath you, trying to locate features before you disappear into the clouds.

Then there is the turbulence, shaking you around in your seat. You hope desperately that it won't be like this the entire journey, focus on watching for the next entry into the high cloud that we begin the bumping again or the exit into blue sky that means some relief.

After a couple of hours or so you get a bit inured to the turbulence. You still don't like it each time the aircraft quakes, but it ceases to consume your every thought. You look outside and all you can see is featureless high cloud. The sun is either very bright or is on the other side of the world and all you have is darkness for company. You get bored and wish that the flight was much shorter.

With three hours left to fly the sun is either setting or about to rise. You notice that the shaking has stopped and you are cruising high above a sea of clouds in a pink and blue tinged sky. This is why you love to fly, suspended up here above a peaceful world with only the hum of the jet engines for company.

You are both disappointed and relieved to begin your descent into you destination. As you puncture the cloud layer you feel the shaking begin again, but you are okay, you know that it will be over soon and anyway, you are busy studying the landscape below. You are excited again.

If only we could discard stages two and three!

Now I feel I begin to understand the difference between flying a low cost carrier like Jetstar and a full service airline such as Qantas or Cathay Pacific over long distances. Jetstar's cabin entertainment is pretty limited and the video on demand units aren't much fun to use, especially in turbulence when you think of what a brick might feel like dropping into your lap. However, the nifty seatback entertainment systems of a modern full service carrier mean that there's always something to watch, even if it's only the flight map to tell you where you are and how long you still have to go.

There's the food too. You certainly wouldn't pay for an airline ticket just to eat - it would likely be your most expensive restaurant meal ever. But there is the fun in the mystery of not knowing exactly what you are going to get. If you fly Jetstar then you pay $15 for the privilege, on Qantas the cost is hidden away in your much more expensive ticket. And you get nibblies too!

I'm not knocking Jetstar, but after three consecutive holidays flying Jetstar long haul I feel ready to try another airline, a good quality full service airline for our next trip, whenever that may be. As I was walking the dog this evening I watched a Qantas 747 fly west towards the high pink clouds in the darkening sky. That's the flight I want to be on. I'm ready!


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