Sunday, 22 May 2016

Living with a frequent flyer

Drake spends much of his time flying back and forth to various European destinations.  Last year, it was Munich and Zurich; this year mostly Munich (though the trips have been a less frequent).  He tends to fly with a range of airlines, and is part of a loyalty scheme for all of them.  This means he has bucket loads of air miles, which came in very handy when we flew to Finland.  It also means he has "status" with some airlines - British Airways being the most coveted.  However, due to flying Lufthansa a lot this year, he was at risk of losing his Silver status with BA and all the lounge access, priority boarding and other perks that come with it. I know, I know, serious first world problem*. Nevertheless, this weekend, he did a slightly bonkers overnighter to Dusseldorf (one of the few European destinations with an airport-based Sheraton hotel, with whom he also has status) to earn himself enough points to retain his pretty Silver membership card.  So that's home, airport, plane, airport, hotel, gym, dinner, sleep, breakfast, airport, breakfast, plane, breakfast, home, breakfast.  All in under 16 hours.

I understood why he did it.  When you fly for work every week, it's decidedly less unpleasant if you get to eat little bowls of free nuts in the lounge, and don't have to wait for 25 minutes at check in or in the queue to board.  And he got an uninterrupted night's sleep and four breakfasts out of it.  But I still rolled my eyes and had a little bit of a "Do you HAVE to???" moment.  He missed the end of my Mum's family gathering to go to the airport for a start (it's possible he may have seen that as an additional benefit), he missed spending precious weekend time with me and Duckling, and he flew, on an aeroplane, just a couple of days after yet another one had ditched itself into the sea, killing all the passengers.

I have no fear of flying myself. I have a good grasp of probability and I deal with risk on a daily basis in my job.  I know that Drake is far more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to or from the airport than he is in a plane crash. Yet still, I have to actively avoid thinking about what could happen each time he gets on a plane, or I break out in a cold sweat. It's not just the thought that he could die, it's HOW he would die. Asphyxiated, drowned, burned or frozen to death, or shattered by the impact of hitting the ground / sea. In all of these scenarios there is TIME. Time to realise what is happening,  time to think, if only for a few moments, "That's it, I'm dead. I'm never going to see my family again and they're never going to see me." Time to be utterly and completely terrified. Although knowing the ever-practical Drake, his last thoughts are likely to be "hmm, I hope Duck knows where to find my life insurance papers. Oh wait, she does all the filing. That's OK then."

There would be no-one to help, no emergency services to call, no chance of survival and in all likelihood, no hope of his body being returned. Seeing the photos of the debris from flight MS804 makes my blood run cold. To know that there are family members out there, looking at those pictures too, maybe identifying their loved one's personal effects, knowing their owner is never coming home... One couple were returning to see their three young children in Egypt after a month apart. The woman had just undergone lifesaving cancer surgery in France and looked set to make a full recovery.  It's too ironically tragic to contemplate.

So yes, I was not best pleased by Drake's decision to voluntarily fly to Germany this weekend.  I didn't tell him the full reason why - he would've just laughed at my apparent irrationality - but I did intimate I'd rather he didn't do it again anytime soon. Then I wished him a safe flight (again, he doesn't know but I superstitiously HAVE to wish him a safe flight, even if it's by text because I'm still asleep when he leaves) and watched him drive away. He made it back safe and sound of course. I just wish the passengers of MS804 had too.

* Technically it should be "developed / high income country problem", as the expressions "first world", "second world" and "third world" are anachronistic since the fall of the Soviet Union. I suspect my quibbling over the term may be a bit of a #firstworldproblem in itself though.

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