Rising oil prices mean that cheap flights are under threat. But is that a good or a bad thing?
Such arcane things as the price of oil were until recently beyond the ken of most ordinary folk. But the workings of massive Kazakh exploration companies and the politics of laying pipelines across Uzbekistan are now starting to impinge on the conversations in pubs and bingo-halls up and down the UK.
Why? Because for the first time the rising price of crude means that cheap flights might be under threat.
The successes in recent times of the cuddly EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the slightly less cuddly Michael O’Leary of Ryanair mean that people consider a cheap flight to be tantamount to a human right.
Now some are speculating about the demise of the budget airline, something which has caused shortness or breath and desperate panic in some quarters, and an outbreak of huffy shrugging in others.
But some quietly rejoiced, especially those who blame budget airlines for global warming, and all those photographs of mournful polar bears stranded on icebergs. Others just looked forward to a time when flying might return to its former dignity, when it was considered a treat, or even a luxury. So, should we love or hate budget airlines?
Love (Zoe Strimpel)
That the budget airlines are wheezing from the soaring price of oil, the first real threat they’ve faced, pains me. It always does when a shining example of pure free-market ingenuity takes a hit to the gut. See, without budget airlines, I’d be a duller, thicker person.
I’d have left London a fraction of the times I have done, becoming one of those insular, maybe even xenophobic types we all hate. And, rather than forking out a fortune for an Iberia flight to Barcelona, I’d say to hell with it, I’m saving up for a proper holiday to Maui or similar.
Europe would be an even more distant conglomeration of strange and hostile people and customs than it already seems. Instead, I’m terribly au fait with Berliners, Parisians and Catalans. We get along swimmingly
Then there’s the fact that in my extensive travels of Europe – as made possible by the budget airlines – I’ve seen even more than I bargained for. People moan about landing in satellite airports; but Heathrow is hardly in the city centre is it?
And with Europe’s robust shuttle system, what’s a bit of a drive to the hotel after landing?
On a recent trip to Stockholm, my Ryanair flight offered me two choices of airport, both about 100km from Stockholm. I went for Skavsta, advised by the friend I was visiting that the drive was more scenic. And so it was; my flight had arrived at the convenient hour of 3pm and I was in good shape to enjoy the ride. I saw snow-covered fields and Swedes going about their daily business.
Snobs also moan about the small seats, ugly, sunburned people and lack of free food on board budget flights. They’re just being elitist; if the sight of people with higher-than-healthy BMIs and cans of Stella being swigged in exchange for hard cash offends them so much they can clear off back to their £350 flights to Montpelier. The ride will be far more fun without them, anyway.
Hate (Jeremy Hazlehurst)
Human beings have spent thousands of years dragging themselves out of the primal soup, away from caves and mammoths and towards dinky little pied-a-terres in Mayfair and microwave ready-meals. We have spent millennia inventing and honing things like art, culture, manners and exclusive country hotels so that we can live in a civilised way.
Best of all, we invented queueing. Queueing is the symbol of all that is noble in humanity. In all the animal kingdom, only homo sapiens queues. Queueing is the essence of being human. It is what raises us above the beasts. You’ll never see giraffes forming an orderly line, not even for David Attenborough.
And that is why budget flights are depressing. They are an orgy of me-first, sharp-elbowed pushing and barging. People mill about threateningly, with a mix of fear and a desperate, illogical horror of being last on the plane.
To be jostled by a gang of portly women wild-eyed with terror because they think that they might not get an aisle seat with easy access to the “loo” is not my idea of fun, and it shouldn’t be anybody’s.
Then there’s the sheer number of children involved. It’s obvious that if you have a family of seven, that you have to fly budget when you go abroad.
But it turns the plane into a bad-tempered, air-born creche means that for the childless, it is hellish. Why should I suffer because of somebody else’s family-planning failures?
I will now only fly to places that can be reached from City airport. The passengers are all businessmen from Bruges or Swiss bankers who just sit there reading the Economist and sipping coffee.
Yes it’s boring, but “excitement” is not something that ought to be associated with any part of a flight. And boy, you should see those babies queue.