On flying and films

hong kong

Just got home from Hong Kong. Had a lovely flight back, and it was in economy class. This was the first time I’d flown with Cathay Pacific, and I was impressed. I don’t know about their entire fleet, but the new 777s they fly on the London route are very nicely configured.

As long as you are of normal physical proportions (I feel bad for several of my 6′ 5″ +  South African friends who have to fly economy), these cabins are now very comfortable. Bring your own headphones, and the large screen – plus USB charging point – means you can have good quality entertainment. And the food is good. It’s clearly unreasonable to expect good wine in economy class (with the exception of Air New Zealand, who see this as a generic marketing opportunity), but to get palatable food is a real bonus.

Of course, we all love lie-flat beds. We love lounge access. It makes us feel special. But the food and wine in business class is so average these days, it’s really not worth much of a premium. Aside from the ego aspect of not being in the back of the plane, what are you paying for? The time zone shift is still the same, and that’s what kills most of us. Avoiding the hardship of an economy class seat? Lots of us run 10 k a couple of times a week, which I guess would count as hardship, and we do it voluntarily. Not too much suffering. The price differential between economy and business class is nuts, so aside from ego, what’s the big deal, if you are flying on a modern plane?

I’ve recently converted to the window seat, following the example of a well-travelled good friend. I like it. You get some great views. You get a bit more space. And if you have a strong bladder it gives you a very peaceful flight. On today’s flight I got a lot of work done, and I also watched two really good films. Both are based on true stories. True stories are often the most remarkable and best.

The first was Love and Mercy, which is a beautifully crafted account of the rise of the Beach Boys, and the particularly sad and painful journey (ultimately redeemed) of Brian Wilson, the creative genius behind their music. If you can watch this and then not shed a few tears at the end, then you’re much stronger than I am.

The second was The End of the Tour. This was a profound, well-written film. It’s about a reporter from Rolling Stone who travels to meet the famous but troubled author David Foster Wallace. The dynamic between the two is amazing to watch. It’s fabulously scripted, poignant and beautifully human.

I was moved by these films. Normally, long haul travel gives you the opportunity to watch bad but enjoyable hollwood films that you’d never watch at home. So it’s nice to travel and find films that offer something more.

 

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