This is Your Captain Speaking


It’s brilliant how there is a lock on the plane’s cockpit door these days! If only the passengers knew the truth!

Would you like some ice with your Macallan whiskey, or are you having it neat like I am? By the way, do you have a light for my Gurkha Black Dragon cigar, I haven’t quite mastered the smoking technique yet and the damn thing keeps going out.

Yep, I love being a Boeing 737 pilot, this is indeed the best job in the world!

What? It’s my turn to talk to the passengers? No problem, I think you have had a tad too many Jack Daniel’s as you are starting to slur your words, and might just give the game away. No problem, I’ll do it. Can you give me the microphone? What flight number are we again, oh yes, VA346 travelling from Brisbane to Melbourne.

“Hmmm, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of the flight crew, I would like to thank you for flying with Virgin Australia, as we know you have a choice of airlines. We will shortly be starting our decent into Melbourne and should be arriving at the gate in about 30 minutes. We trust you have enjoyed the flight and we look forward to seeing you next time you fly”.

Phew! I’m glad that’s over! I almost forgot that I was a Virgin Australia pilot and was about to go into my well-versed Qantas script by mistake. We really should get management to put a visual reminder on the TV monitor so we know which airline we are actually flying for, and also the flight number information. I do get confused with all these airlines they ask us to be drone pilots for, particularly those East European ones!

How about a game of cards? If I recall I beat you quite well at poker last time we played? What, you don’t think there is enough time before we need to take control of the remote controls and actually land the real plane? No problem, could you hand me the microphone again?

“Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that we have been placed in a holding pattern by the control tower at Melbourne airport owing to another plane declaring an emergency. We are not sure how long we will be delayed, but it could be a while. We will provide further updates when they come to hand. In the meantime, please relax and our delightful flight crew will come through the cabin with yet another round of wonderful refreshments.”

That should give us about twenty minutes of playing time, would you like to deal the cards, or shall I?

Comment: Next time you fly, ask yourself, is the Captain actually on the plane, or sitting in a comfortable leather chair many miles away flying via drone remote control from their home whilst sipping a whisky,  smoking a cigar and wearing their pyjamas? Now that’s what I call innovation!

The Experience of E-Class Flight

Annex - Grant, Cary (Only Angels Have Wings)_05

Once again, I had to go through the drudgery of booking my Qantas flight QF9 from Melbourne to London. It was a business flight that I reluctantly did every month, I loved it when I arrived at my London destination, but the long flight, well, I despised every torturous hour associated with it.

Owing to the frequency of my travel, the online booking process typically only took me a few minutes to complete. As usual, I entered my well-versed Qantas Frequent Flyer number, but once done, a new and rather unexpected screen mysteriously opened up in my booking. Initially I was a tad flabbergasted, as I was accustomed to seeing the usual cabin selection options of First, Business and the various Economy options. But this time, I was presented with some rather unusual seating option classifications; S, F or E to which I was quite intrigued. Apparently, owing to a combination of my lofty Frequent Flyer status, and my personal profile (possibly also due to my habitual bow-tie wearing fashion statements as professionally noted by the more discerning Qantas flight stewardesses), I had been offered the opportunity to participate in a rather unique test flight to London. I was then provided with an option to proceed, or to go back to the booking screen of normality. I had 30 seconds to make my choice. After a brief microsecond period of some limited superficial in depth thinking, I had quickly made my decision and without any hesitation selected the button marked “Go for it”.

Immediately, I entered a new and differently badged Qantas booking screen and discovered that S = Serious, F = Fun and E = Experience. Without going into all the aircraft cabin classification descriptive paraphernalia, and for the sake of verbal brevity, all you need to know is that I selected E-class (and checked the 12 page disclaimer box to confirm my booking).

A few days later, I arrived at Melbourne airport dressed in the minimalist clothing as prescribed by Qantas for the newly designated E-class traveller. Once checked in by the delightful and somewhat suspiciously and rather endlessly smirking Qantas staff, I was handed my E-class travel kit. In it were some face masked goggles, a tight fitting Qantas embroidered and personally monogrammed rubber suit that made me look like a spiffy surfer, some matching rubber boots, gloves and snug hat (we didn’t need to wear the latter until further advised). I was then ushered into an impressive private Qantas Club Lounge and saw a variety of other cautiously optimistic travellers.

There were those dressed like me, some looking slightly embarrassed as these suits were so body hugging that nothing was left to the imagination. There were others dressed in the traditional long haul international air travel casual attire; apparently these people had booked F-class. There was a small minority dressed in their stock-standard business suits, skirts, and other conservative items; they were obviously the S-class travellers.

A few minutes later we boarded the plane, but I was soon to discover that this was no ordinary Qantas plane, far from it. As I was in E-class, we boarded first as we had to make our way to the rear of the aircraft.

As we walked through the plane, the first thing that was immediately apparent was that the usual row of passenger seats had been removed. In the First/Business class seating location, there was a range of individually placed workstations, desks, sofas-chairs, computer screens, private sleeping booths, showers and a fine dining restaurant. This was S-class and it was designed for the serious business worker!

In the middle section of the plane, F-class resided. Here a vast array of computer games, cinemas, snooker tables, dartboards, massage rooms, spas, saunas and a healthy organic restaurant was located. This was an area that encouraged fun, frivolity and definitely no work. For those passengers that were a little bit overcome with too much excitement, there were large brightly coloured beanbags, lounge chairs and some private sleep booths.

After a few minutes I finally arrived in my designated E-class and was asked to adorn my complete rubber uniform. I, and my fellow apprehensive thrill seekers were then ushered in groups of four into separate doorways that led into a small-enclosed capsule. It was at this stage, as my heart sounded to pound a little too loudly, that I started to question my enthusiasm and whether I had made the right travel choice, but there was no turning back now, particularly as it would take me hours to peel this wetsuit from my body, no, the only choice was to proceed.

In the capsule there were no seats, just a long cushioned black couch and what looked like a surfboard leg rope, but I quickly ascertained that this was actually an oxygen chord that was soon plugged into my goggle facemask by yet another smiling Flight Attendant. I was now starting to sweat quite profusely in my wet suit with some trepidation, particularly as I vividly recalled the long-winded and fine font disclaimer that I had recently signed without reading any of the content.

A few minutes later, I was strapped in with my fellow E-class pioneers and soon felt the immense vibration of the aircraft’s B777 engines permeating through my body as we became airborne. Then it happened.

An almighty noise occurred and my capsule started to quickly separate from the plane, the only link being a metal umbilical chord. To my delight (and horror), the aerodynamic capsule was completely encapsulated with an external wall of highly transparent glass, and a massive array of strategically positioned air vents. I immediately felt the cold icy air gusting ferociously all over my body. Suddenly, the tight straps tying me, and my fellow E-classers, to the couch were released. We were now free flowing and quickly started to body surf the air currents! A sign now appeared on the capsule console saying, “Welcome to E-class”.

After a few hours, I quickly mastered the flying technique and was sought out by other passengers for tips on how to stay aloft without getting that unfashionable, and rather uncomfortable, wind puffed look when a high velocity slip stream entered the wearers protective rubber body suit without formal invitation.

Yes, the time quickly passed as I literally flew to London, and what an experience!

In recognition for my E-class prowess, I have now been issued with a special Qantas Frequent Flyer card, one that provides me with travel privileges that cannot be disclosed so as to avoid envy from other passengers. Would I fly E-class again? No, I’ve moved beyond that, I now fly EE-class, one that is very exclusive.

So next time you fly on business, may I suggest that you try and think that little bit differently with your selected cabin class and airline? And should you get the opportunity to ever travel E-class, most definitely do so as it will be worth it, trust me.

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