I am a number: I am not a free man…
Civil disobedience – you hear a lot about it in the aviation industry these days; it’s the stuff of high level discussions at IATA.
Probably not the sort of subject to air in a light- hearted column such as this one but here goes: no national stereotyping please; not a mention of orderly Germans and disorderly southern European travellers. Although to witness the stampede for the coach at Treviso after a Venice-bound flight is diverted there due to fog is to glimpse into the abyss of mob rule. IATA talks about civll disobedience in relation to security screening and social networking groups arranging ‘action days” whereby passengers refuse to co-operate with scanning etc. That is a serious matter of course but as I meander my way through the world’s terminal buildings I detect a wider mood of disgruntlement. Something is sucking the last remaining drops of enjoyment from the business of air travel. It may be over-familiarity, or queues, or crowds of people or a bit of each of these. My money though is on the “rules and regs” side of the ledger. There are so many dictums at airports that have little or nothing to do with security that the temptation is to break as many of them as possible just for the hell of it. Stand on the left, stand on the right, stand behind the yellow line. If you are in a group head towards the nearest portable barrier, stand in the middle of it and “kettle” yourselves off with some of that elasticated stuff that stretches for miles around departure gates. But no pets. Only one piece of hand luggage per person is allowed on board the aircraft. This pearl of wisdom is a licence for mass civil disobedience all on its own. Last week I was part of a shoal of renegades at Gatwick who were told off for trying to smuggle two bags through boarding. We all gave each other a knowing look as we decanted the smaller bag from the bigger one “on the other side” and skipped down the ramp into the metal tube – one in each hand. Mind you for the more mature frequent fliers out there such pathetic tokens of resistance serve only as a sad reminder of the golden age of air travel. Sitting at the back of the plane with a lit filter-tipped cigarette nestled between two highly relaxed fingers while multiple bags carrying duty free bottles bounce around in the overhead locker above you. Now, that’s what I call true civil disobedience.
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