As 2017 comes to a close, Singapore boasts the strongest passport while the U.S. has unsurprisingly lost ground since Donald Trump took office. In a Boarding Pass special study, The Cultured Traveller establishes the current strength of the world’s passports, and how factors like Brexit and the surprise election of an inexperienced US President have drastically affected the rankings.

A passport gives an individual the ability to travel the world with relative ease, unless, of course, the passport has been issued by a country like Afghanistan or Somalia. As the world becomes a much smaller place due to the diminishing cost of flying, and the increasing ease with which travellers can hop on a plane and visit new destinations, so the desirability of a particular passport is becoming of much greater importance, with many nations now offering their passports to non-nationals, in exchange for a sizeable investment in their country’s economies, often of many millions.

People born in countries with less desirable passports cannot even take a holiday without weeks or often months of planning and paperwork, not to mention costs which can run into hundreds of dollars for a single visa application to visit just one country. Even then there’s no guarantee that the applicant will be granted a visa and permitted to travel, with applications quite often refused, and costly multiple re-applications needed to eventually facilitate just one trip. Meanwhile, others can hop on a plane on a whim to pretty much any destination, and either freely enter a country or easily obtain a visa on arrival.

The passports we hold now not only influence our holidaying options, but also our working and love lives. Despite the world becoming seemingly more mobile and interdependent, there is still huge disparity in the levels of travel freedom between countries. Generally, visa requirements are a reflection of a country’s relationship with others, and take into account diplomatic relationships between countries, reciprocal visa arrangements, security risks, and the dangers of visa and immigration regulation violations.

Last year we studied the price of buying a decent passport via one of many country’s so-called “citizenship-by-investment” programs. This year we have witnessed several major events that have had an impact on global mobility – including Brexit and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. Both of these events have been interpreted by the global community as steps toward restricting movement and creating barriers to entry, and this trend, towards curbing travel freedom, is already apparent in a shift in the rankings of this year’s Visa Restrictions Index.

For the first time ever, according to the most recent rankings, Singapore can now claim to have the world’s strongest passport, which is the first time an Asian nation has topped the list, knocking out perennially strong European countries. The number one ranking means that citizens of Singapore are able to enter the greatest number of countries visa-free or by securing a visa on arrival, making the global financial powerhouse’s passport the world’s most powerful as 2017 comes to a close. For instance, Singaporean passport holders do not need visas for China, Cuba and Brazil. But U.S. passport holders travelling to these three nations are required to have visas.

Specifically, it was Paraguay’s removal of visa requirements for Singapore that pushed it into the top spot. After Singapore, the next highest ranked nations are Germany and Sweden. Germany often ranks at or near the top. Holders of German passports – ranked number two this year – can travel to 176 out of a possible 218 countries without applying for a visa, while Brits can visit 173.

Passports of 193 United Nations member countries and six territories were considered … Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, Norway and South Korea share fourth place with the U.K … Several countries – in addition to the U.K. – lost ground this year, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Russia and Ghana … Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan prop up the table, each with visa-free access to fewer than 30 countries.

Unsurprisingly, according to many commentators, an American passport lost some of its global muscle in the months since Donald Trump took office, and is now ranked in sixth position, alongside the travel documents of Malaysia, Ireland and Canada. Time will tell whether Trump’s erratic foreign policy, together with the introduction of measures which restrict the access of certain groups to the States, not to mention his incessant Tweeting, will further devalue the strength of America’s passport.

To say that air travel has come a long way since 1930, when the first stewardesses of Boeing Air Transport lined-up for inspection, would be a gross understatement. To say that air travel has changed in the past decade or two would also be understating it somewhat. The truth of the matter is that air travel is constantly evolving. Whether it is all good, or progressive, is a completely different subject for discussion. These days it is barely possible to keep up with the changing way we fly through the skies.

We now have double decker jets capable of carrying six hundred or more people in one aircraft. If the hype is to be believed, before long we will once again be hurtling around the globe, on the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, at supersonic speeds. Not to mention space tourism, and the possibility of air travel taking us into another galaxy (well, perhaps not quite that far, yet). Let’s be honest though, with the exception of the space tourism, Etihad’s one-bedroom on-board ‘Residence’, and Virgin Atlantic generally (we’ll come to Richard Branson later), how often to do you hear something about air travel these days that’s fabulous, fashionable or glamorous?!

The introduction of new routes is not really aviation news anymore. The unveiling of a massive new terminal may just about make the front page of the air travel press. Even many of today’s premium cabins just contain bigger seats, offer better food and are presided over by more experienced and patient crew. It really is a sorry state of affairs when an airline issues a global press release about a new amenity kit! All of this comes down to one thing: Sadly, there is simply very little glamour in our skies today. But this wasn’t always the case.

Security measures have obviously changed the way we fly but these are unavoidable. Tedious travel restrictions don’t exactly elevate the passenger experience. Moving through a humungous airport terminal, which handles tens of millions of passengers per year, is like being processed through an aviation factory and really no fun at all.

So today, when our carry-on bags are stuffed with in-flight survival necessities, like eye masks, noise-cancelling headsets and Valium (to numb the entire experience), it’s hard to imagine the glory days of aviation, back when air travel was glamorous and elite, and flight attendant style went far beyond the standard issue uniforms of today. But at aviation’s most glamorous height, flying was a special occasion that necessitated passengers dress to impress. Full meals were served with real silverware (even in economy), and flight attendants were expected to fulfil certain physical and beauty criteria in order to walk the aisles in the sky.

High fashion is not exactly the first thing that springs to mind when, as a passenger, you step on board a plane in 2017 and are greeted by cabin crew. On the contrary, the ultra-conservative two-piece suits most flight attendants wear are downright dull and dreary. But for every dowdy uniform you see on-board today’s airlines, there’s an incredibly rich history of stylish designer airline threads, that stretches back to the golden age of aviation. At one point, many top couture houses counted an airline amongst their clients. Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Emilio Pucci, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and Valentino all designed bespoke flight attendant uniforms, back in the day.

In 1930, after convincing Boeing Air Transport (now United) that the presence of on-board nurses would help passengers overcome their fear of flying, Ellen Church became the very first airline “stewardess”. Seven other ladies soon joined Church’s team, but since they had to be registered nurses, their uniforms were basically nurse’s attire, made of dark green wool, with matching green and grey wool capes, complete with caps.

Since then, when efficient, caped nurses became the first stewardesses, it’s been a tradition for flight attendants to look good while ensuring that passengers are comfortable and safe, and for the next decade or so, all stewardess uniforms looked alike. Basically, the only colours used were navy blue, dark green and brown for winter uniforms, and light blue, light green and beige for summer uniforms. All very conservative.

WWII saw the emergence of slightly more feminine, less conservative uniforms, not least because there were widespread crackdowns on the use of fabric for non-military purposes. As soon as WWII was over, the airline industry exploded with the introduction of the jumbo jet. Commercial airlines could hold more passengers, which meant that prices became more accessible for the average person. All of a sudden, anyone on a middle-class salary could afford air travel, which is something that had never been so available before. This saw the role of the stewardess develop, and soon they became associated with jet-setting and a free-spirited cosmopolitan lifestyle.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, when commercial flight really began to take off and fast became a booming business, more airlines launched and suddenly inter-airline competition intensified. This caused airlines to explore how they differentiate themselves. Before long they began to turn to fashion designers and ad agencies to cultivate a sexier image for their flight attendants, and they all wanted the prestige of a big-name designer attached to their brand. For the fashion house, airlines promised large-scale ad campaigns that were almost certain to get their designs noticed, and attract a large amount of publicity to the designer and the label, so it was a win-win for everyone.

In the mid-60s – when the Space Race coincided with the rise of air travel – Braniff International Airways capitalised on the excitement of the moment by hiring advertising exec Mary Wells Lawrence to mastermind the airline’s brand identity. Lawrence in turn hired designer Alexander Girard to work on the ad campaign, and together they brought on-board the Florentine fashion designer Emilio Pucci, synonymous with geometric prints in a kaleidoscope of colours.

Pucci essentially turned aviation marketing on its head overnight. Whether this was intentional or not we will never know. But his psychedelic flight attendant outfit – known as the “Supersonic Derby” – was an aviation show-stopper. Comprising a geometric printed nylon dress with matching tights and a bowler hat, the uniforms were a theatrical take on Italian high fashion meets intergalactic travel.

Pucci even designed an astronaut-inspired glass helmet called a “rain dome”, to protect stewardesses’ hairdos on the journey from the hotel via the terminal to the plane. Sadly, the impractical glass helmets only lasted a month, since there was nowhere to put them in-flight, but the fact that they were even produced, and worn for a time, says a great deal about the glamour and excitement associated with the aviation industry in the 1960s.

There was even a somewhat titillating marketing campaign for Braniff, called the “Air Strip”, featured a Pucci-designed uniform with several layers that could be removed inflight. The TV commercial even went so far as to depict a stewardess performing an airborne striptease.

Of course, once Braniff turned the stewardess into a fragrantly sexual icon, other airlines soon followed. This culminated in Southwest Airlines throwing caution to the wind with its 1973 stewardess attire, which included thigh-high laced-up kinky boots and hot pants. Perhaps this was a step too far!

Thanks to the revolutionary fashion of Dior and the popularity of Chanel, the two-piece suit became the basis of almost every flight attendant uniform in the ‘70s and ‘80s. All that really changed in these two decades were the length of the hemlines, the width of jacket lapels and the size of the padded shoulders. Conservatism was back in the skies, and until very recently, uniforms were uninteresting.

The noticeable lack of glamour in our skies was remedied only relatively recently by the grande dame of British high fashion, Vivienne Westwood, whose punk attitude is more alive now than in the movement’s Seventies heyday. Westwood designed cutting-edge new uniforms to mark the 30th anniversary of Virgin Atlantic – incorporating her well-tailored, figure-hugging signatures – which are now worn by over 7,500 members of staff, including cabin crew, pilots and ground staff.

The pairing of Westwood and Branson came as a surprise to many, considering the designer’s outspoken views on sustainability and unnecessary waste. However, “sustainability” is the watchword when it comes to Westwood’s 22-piece collection for Virgin, which includes the use of a polyester yarn made from recycled plastic bottles, a nano finish to help retain colour and extend garment life, and bags for ground staff that came about as a result of a United Nations collaboration with the Ethical Fashion Initiative in Nairobi. Yet the ‘40s-inspired uniforms for Virgin’s high-flying crew don’t sacrifice beautiful design and strong tailoring. On the contrary, standouts include a bright red jacket – inspired by the Bettina jacket Westwood designed in the early ’90s – paired with a matching red pencil skirt and red shoes with an hourglass heel (a Westwood signature). Meanwhile the guys are sporting sharp, three-piece burgundy wool suits inspired by Savile Row tailoring.

Let’s hope that Westwood’s collection for Virgin has kick-started the reintroduction of some glamour into our skies. Like the return of supersonic air travel, and rocket-powered craft taking us into space for a weekend jaunt, we can but dream. 

Better known as the viper-tongued queen of the comedy skies, Australian comedienne Caroline Reid has been playing her turbo-charged airline hostess alter ego PAM ANN for more than two decades. Catty, cutting and often crude, Reid’s act draws on both the glamour and inelegance of flying, usually dividing the audience into first, business and economy classes. Her shows are an addictively entertaining environment where literally no-one watching is safe from either Pam demanding help or dishing out a piece of her indecent mind.

What was your first inspiration for Pam Ann and how did you come up with her name?
The name Pam Ann was actually born out of a bottle of vodka at a James Bond themed birthday party where I was dressed as a 1960s Pan Am air hostess because James Bond only flew the then chic Pan Am airline. After a lot of vodkas Pan Am started to sound like PAM ANN and the rest is history.

Is there any theatrical history in your family or were you a fan of any particular comedians as a child?
My dad was a used car salesman and my mum sold Hoover vacuum cleaners. My Mum hails from Liverpool so her side of the family was always very funny – maybe the Northern humour is in my blood. Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna Everage was my childhood inspiration – I just loved the way he played with the audience and referred to people seated in the back rows as paupers. Dame Edna not only inspired my live Pam Ann shows but also my TV show on Foxtel Australia.

What was your first air travel experience?
I flew as an unattended minor on the now defunct Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) from Melbourne to Sydney. My Mum would often send me off to stay with my cousins. I remember the flight attendants being so glamorous and they took incredibly good care of me. Back then passengers could smoke on board and security wasn’t a priority.

The show is a little like taking a flight in the sense that you get a bit of everything, from champagne to a movie, all washed down with some verbal abuse

Who or what has most influenced Pam’s personality?
Air travel and flying are obviously Pam Ann’s inspiration, and travelling the world almost as much as a real flight attendant has added more layers and depth to the character over the years. Working the club scene in the early days made Pam aggressive since she often had to yell and curse to be heard. She never used to be so ferocious and bold. But as the airports got bigger and she travelled more the character started to develop into what she is today. As Pam is getting older she is becoming less and less concerned over who she offends.

Please tell our readers (who haven’t had the pleasure of flying with Pam Ann) what to expect from one of your shows.
Pam Ann says what real flight attendants would like to say. The show is very improvised and audience participation plays a big part of the current tour so don’t sit in the front row. The show is a little like taking a flight in the sense that you get a bit of everything, from champagne to a movie, all washed down with some verbal abuse. Someone said to me it was like being hijacked for two hours with laughing gas. Buckle up though because meeting Pam is not for the easily offended. Pam is very un-pc in a rather politically correct world.

Pam being so very un-pc, edgy and spontaneous – often voicing things that others are too scared to say – makes her shows uniquely comedic in today’s world

What are Pam’s traits, qualities and failings?
Pam Ann is very passionate about flying. She is always flying and when she’s not flying she is partying in fantastic locations with fabulous people around the world. People either love her or hate her – she’s very much an acquired taste. She loves a drink and recreational drugs, I mean, how else can a lady party all night and do a back-to-back to Singapore the next day?! Pam loves fashion and the marketing aspect of her airline. Pam never married because she gets bored incredibly quickly so she has a man in every airport. Basically, Pam Ann is an unapologetic airhostess bitch who is the envy of the airline industry.

Madonna once described Pam Ann as #cruellyfunny; Would you say that this is accurate?
Absolutely, and coming from Madonna makes this comment even more fabulous. I would love to work with Madonna on a comedy tour. Who knows, maybe she will read this and call Pam  Ann. A “Madonna/Pam Ann Confessions Of An Unapologetic Bitch” tour has a rather nice ring to it!

Elton John and David Furnish changed me forever, and there is no one else in the world that knows how to throw a party like they do

You’ve performed all over the world, in everything from backstreet bars and comedy clubs, to huge theatres and massive stadiums. What’s your favourite venue in the world to perform at and why?
The Two Brewers in Clapham is a fun venue. Not the most glamorous but it’s perfect to try new material because I can be as un-pc as I like since it’s a gay bar, people are drunk and they are there to laugh which allows me to explore and let rip. Theatres are more of an event, which people book months in advance, so they expect a certain level of professionalism and want to be entertained which can put more pressure on a performance.

Joe’s Pub in NYC is a great cabaret space where people are eating and drinking during the show so there’s a really buzzy atmosphere. New York audiences are very hard to please but if you manage to do it the show can rock. The Hammersmith Apollo is a great theatre, huge space and on another level, but it’s a different kind of performance – more of a production and less intimate. The Theatre Royal in Glasgow is an incredible venue and probably my favourite in the world to perform at. Not only is it beautiful and the perfect size, but Glaswegians are one of the most enjoyable audiences to play to. They love to drink and want to party so they arrive with an incredible and infectious energy.

Your global following spans everything from city slickers and heterosexual couples to the LGBT community and countless celebrities. What do you think it is about Pam’s personality that appeals to such a broad spectrum of people?
These days everyone travels, so most people can relate to what Pam talks about in her shows, basically because they have lived it. I have literally performed all over the world – from Warsaw to Hong Kong and Paris to Sydney – and I guess that Pam appeals so broadly because I tailor each of my shows to the country and culture I’m performing in, and the universal topic of flying is so easily relatable. People also love to be made fun of and hear how other people perceive them and their country. And Pam being so very un-pc, edgy and spontaneous – often voicing things that others are too scared to say – makes her shows uniquely comedic in today’s world. More than anything else, laughter is arguably still the best medicine.

You supported Cher onstage during her UK farewell tour in 2004. Tell us about the experience, especially performing in stadiums and warming-up for a global pop icon.
It was one of the most exhilarating and scariest experiences of my life yet one of the highlights of my career. I’ve been a fan since the Sonny and Cher show, so to be asked was a tremendous honour. I’ll never forget that Cher was driven from Dublin to Belfast, her driver got lost so she was 30 mins late to the Odyssey Arena. As a performer you really don’t want to be late in Belfast. I had to perform to a hostile crowd and make them laugh. It was fucking scary. Cher’s manager asked me to extend my set by 10 mins to buy some time for Cher, so I added a security bag check, keeping in mind this was to a crowd of around 10,000 disgruntled and drunk Northern Irelanders. I got the stage security to grab a woman’s feather topped bag (I couldn’t reach from the stage). Security gave me the bag, I went through its contents to the woman’s horror, then asked my dancers to wrap it in cling film. But as they wrapped it I could hear the top of the bag snap and break. Basically the dancers turned a beautiful feathered bag into a small ball. When I threw the remains back to the bag’s owner she looked like she wanted to stab me. I ran off stage and never did that again in a show.

Is Pam’s character constantly evolving and how much of Caroline Reid has morphed into the Pam of 2017?
It’s actually the opposite – these days I’m less and less like Pam. In real life I’m low key, quite shy and not at all like the character I play, which is sometimes makes it hard when meeting new people. Establishing new relationships with guys often pose a challenge. I routinely tell guys on dates that I work at Aldo (Canadian shoe store) because telling them I’m Pam Ann can freak out a heterosexual man.

Tell us about an occasion when Pam has taken a joke too far.
I personally don’t think I have ever taken a joke too far but some people in the audience do and they generally leave. Aids, Aborigines and Isis are great topics for taking a joke too far. People walk out if I make fun of a certain culture and my language can also make people leave. A woman saying c**t is offensive in some people’s minds. People should research the show before buying a ticket and chill out more. The world has become way too serious and politically correct for my liking!

Cabin crews around the world have made my world spectacular, and I’m forever grateful to Pam Ann for gifting me the most awesome travel experiences

Have you ever considered toning down your act to secure a particular gig?
Never, which is why I don’t get booked for as many corporate gigs. I once had to cut my show in half at a bankers Christmas party at the Dorchester hotel because I swore and offended the CEO. The show was doomed from the beginning because they were a bunch of white middle-aged misogynistic men who couldn’t handle an aggressive in-your-face female comic. Basically they wanted a stripper. I’ve had men come up and squeeze my boobs at corporate events, asking if I was a man or a woman. That kind of behaviour is disgraceful, so if anyone should tone themselves down it’s drunk inappropriate corporate types. I will never tone down my act for corporations or money – it’s simply not why I got into comedy.

You were invited by Elton John to perform as Pam to David Furnish’s 40th birthday party guests on board a privately chartered 737 from London to Venice. Please tell us about the flight and how Pam handled the abundance of celebrities on board?
Elton and David changed me forever and there is no one else in the world that knows how to throw a party like they do. Seeing the passenger list threw me into a spin.. Victoria Beckham, Isabella Blow, Philip Treacy, Patrick Cox, Elizabeth Hurley, Lulu and Damien Hirst to name but a few. On the day of the flight I was so freaked out at the thought of being on a plane for two hours with such huge stars that I had a panic attack. As they started boarding the plane Pam went into full-on bitch mode. I don’t suppose many had ever been spoken to in that way before and some couldn’t work out whether I was a real flight attendant or not. They were shocked and amused but mostly confused, especially when Pam told them to fuck off when they asked for a drink or assistance with their bags. By the time we got into the air I literally had them eating out of the palm of my hand, so much so that Pam was asked to perform on the flight back.

Do you have any memorable anecdotes about that weekend which you would care to share with our readers?
When the music stopped at David’s party Donatella Versace had an Italian fit, insisted one more song be played and sent her people to retrieve a CD from her suite at the Cipriani. The song was “Video Killed the Radio Star”. Philip Treacy and I howled with laughter.

Whilst it’s impossible to disconnect Pam from her relationship with airline crews, she’s even more intertwined with the LGBTQ community. Please tell us a bit about the history of this strong bond.
I’ve always been part of the LGBTQ community since it’s where Pam was born. I think there should be a ‘P’ for Pam Ann at the end of LGBTQ-P.

I could fly twice around the world in his hot air balloon and would never tire of hearing what Richard Branson has to say

Caroline must always get treated very well on-board flights?
Cabin crews around the world have made my world spectacular, and I’m forever grateful to Pam Ann for gifting me the most awesome travel experiences. I’m nothing without cabin crew in my life – they are my inspiration.

Is Caroline ever able to fly commercially under the radar?
Absolutely since not all crew know me, especially in the USA.

How often does Caroline find the time to return to your homeland and what’s your connection with the country more than twenty years after you left?
My family are in Oz so I’ll always be connected. I try and get home once or twice a year. Nothing beats going home for the food, wine, bars and beaches.

What elements would Caroline say make a truly great flight?
Cabin crew and great service.

When was the last time you flew in economy and how was it?
I always fly economy on flights of less than 3hrs. I like it up the rear occasionally.

If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight who would it be and why?
Richard Branson because he is one of my inspirations in life. I could go twice around the world in his hot air balloon and would never tire of hearing what he has to say. Richard Branson is to aviation what Steve Jobs was to computers. There are so few of these people in the world it would be an absolute dream to sit next to Richard Branson.

What essentials must always be with you on board a long flight?
MAC Ruby Woo lipstick, headphones and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream.

I never sleep on planes because I’m too excited. I’ll watch a couple of movies and always leave the aircraft drunk, so by the time I reach my hotel it’s time for bed

Do you have an in-flight routine when crossing the Atlantic?
I am a plane geek so always book flights based on the aircraft. British Airways’ Boeing 747-400 is my favourite and 1A is my preferred seat. I get to the airport super early, eat and drink in the first-class lounge, board as soon as I can, unpack and get settled into 1A and drink some champagne no matter what time of the day or night it is, because to me, when you’re flying, you can drink anytime and any amount. I always watch the take off and film it, then drink some more and eat everything offered to me. I never sleep, even on red eyes, because I’m too excited. I’ll watch a couple of movies and always leave the aircraft drunk so by the time I reach my hotel it’s time for bed.

What has been your most memorable vacation experience to date?
Jackie O’s Beach Club on Mykonos is one of my all-time favourite places to eat, party and get merry. I’ve experienced the most amazing parties and drag shows here. It usually starts off quite tame, but as the champagne flows and the DJ gets going by sunset the entire venue full of guests are wedged precariously on the edge of the pool waiting for Priscilla the drag queen to start her act to the backdrop of Super Paradise Bay. Only in Greece can one get away with such debauchery. This summer I will be performing a one-off Pam Ann show here to celebrate Jackie O’s 9th birthday.

Best airport in the world?
Hollywood Burbank Airport in California because it’s a classic. Formerly known as Bob Hope airport, its architecture reflects classic old school Hollywood glamour and harks back to the golden age of flying when boarding a Boeing meant style, class and glitz. You can just imagine Liz Taylor flying out of Burbank with all of her Louis Vuitton luggage, or Sonny and Cher arriving back to a gaggling press pack.

Caroline’s worst personal air travel experience?
There really isn’t a “worst” because everything is potentially material for one of Pam’s shows! Saying that arriving anywhere hungover isn’t pleasant and happens often.

Caroline’s favourite airline and why?
British Airways because I love the cabin crew and the familiarity. Pam has performed quite a lot for British Airways so I’m very loyal to the airline and perhaps a touch biased. BA and Pam Ann collaborated on a viral campaign in 2008, and I have been involved in the airline’s Flying Start charity which raises money to tackle poverty in deprived communities around the world www.ba-flyingstart.com.

Where is Caroline most desperate to visit right now and why?
Mexico City since I’ve never been and I love big, hectic foreign cities.

What’s next for Pam Ann?
I have been brainstorming an exciting new Pam Ann TV concept with a prominent travel industry guru which I hope to announce later this year. I am also working on a Pam Ann movie which has been a longtime dream of mine. I know it might take some years to get on screen but I am working on it. As far as my live work goes, Pam is touring in Australia, USA and Europe in 2018. I am also penning my first biography on my hell of a journey as Pam Ann. 

www.pamann.com

A TRAVEL EDITOR’S
IN‑FLIGHT ESSENTIALS

When you travel as much as I do, getting on a plane becomes as routine as hopping in a taxi, and one soon works out what’s needed on board to ensure a comfortable journey and perky arrival. I’m often asked “doesn’t it get tiresome, all that travelling?”

I can honestly say that with the exception of the painfully early morning departures, and transiting airports which take two buses a train ride plus a couple of Guantanamo-style security checks just to change planes, flying, for me at least, is generally a pleasurable experience, since I’m as comfortable aboard a jet as I am in the back of a London cab.

I put this down to a variety of things, the most important being that when I’m sitting inside a metal tube hurtling through the sky at 500mph+ I’m almost always headed to a different country, sometimes (although less so these days) a place I’ve never visited before.

Of course these are the most exciting adventures – visiting a new destination still excites me almost three decades after I boarded my first flight. But what really eases the air travel experience is having one’s creature comforts around you in‑flight.

Let’s be honest, no matter how much you gild the lily, an airplane cabin is a pretty soulless space. With the possible exception of one or two airlines’ on-board lounges (Qatar Airways’ A380 upper deck lounge is rather special), no matter where you sit on a plane there is little around of visual stimulation.

So it is essential to travel with what you need, especially when flying long-haul. There’s nothing worse than embarking on an overnight intercontinental flight, eating sleeping and waking in the same clothes, and arriving in an exciting new destination feeling like you need to be fumigated.

Here are the in-flight essentials I never traverse an airport or board a plane without; short of a candle to scent the air around me, this little selection generally ensures that I arrive at my destination in the best possible condition, suitably entertained, rested, rejuvenated and ready for my next adventure.

NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE CULTURED TRAVELLER

Bose Quietcomfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

A quality pair of headphones is essential when you travel regularly. Your ears need looking after! Until recently I used to travel with two pairs, but these nifty little numbers now take care of all my aural needs both in-flight and on terra firma. They are especially good if you want to sleep in-flight and just want to cancel out the aircraft noise, since they sit inside the ear and don’t interfere with your sleeping position.

USD 249.95

Ipod Classic 160gb

Until the recent advent of the iPhone 7 Plus 256GB (which retails at GBP 919) the only iPod which could hold all of my music was a Classic 160GB model which Apple no longer makes. Mine still works and I bought a spare on eBay. I don’t get on a flight without it.

Approx GBP  250

Muji Organic Cotton Long Sleeve T-shirt

I always pack a brand new Muji long sleeve t-shirt in my carry-on before a long-haul flight so I can change into it just before landing. At just a tenner each I can afford to keep a stock so I’ve always got a new one handy.

GBP  9.95

Superdry Orange Label Slim Lite Sweatpants

You can’t sleep in your jeans on a long-haul flight and most of the PJs handed out by even the premium carriers are made of low-grade fabrics nowadays. These Superdry slim fit sweatpants are cuffed for cosiness and have an adjustable drawstring waist and ribbed sides making them super comfy to lounge around an aircraft or nap in.

EUR 69.95

Hotel Grande Bretagne Holdall

It wouldn’t be an understatement to say I’ve road-tested dozens of holdalls. My last Louis Vuitton Keepall 55 lasted a decade before one of the handles came off, the zip broke and LV refused to repair it citing its age as a problem. I thought that was the whole point of spending a four-figure sum on something to carry your stuff around in, so when my beautifully worn-in Keepall couldn’t be repaired I decided to not to replace it like-for-like. My current carry-on is a smart dark brown suede and leather-trimmed holdall produced by famous Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, Greece. I especially like the outside pocket that provides quick access to my passport. Inside there’s bags of space, and being so reasonably priced I don’t guard it like a newborn baby.

EUR 265

La Roche-posay Water Spray 50ml

Your face goes from being a grape to a raisin in about an hour on a plane so you need to keep it hydrated. The low maintenance way is a hydrating facial spray that delivers micro-droplets of pure natural spring water directly to your skin. Evian’s is good but La Roche-Posay’s is better because it has softening and anti-oxidant properties. If you have more time and money, apply a thin coat of Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque (USD 43) immediately after take-off. Use your water spray regularly in-flight. Wash your face 30 minutes before landing and apply Clinique Moisture Surge Face Spray Thirsty Skin Relief (USD 24.50) just before touch down. Your face will look fabulous even if the rest of you is knackered!

GBP  4

Body Shop Elderflower Eye Gel 15ml

This is the only eye treatment I have ever used. It provides an instant uplift to wake and soothe the eye area in-flight, and reduces the appearance of puffiness after sleeping, leaving the delicate skin around the eyes feeling soft and refreshed. I use this day and night at home and when travelling.

GBP  8

Carmex Lip Balm Tube 10g

Strangely the skin on your lips tends to be the first and fastest to dry out in-flight, so be sure to have at least one tried and tested moisturising lip balm in your carry-on. I swear by Carmex medicated lip balm. Buy it in a little round jar or a squeezable tube (my personal preference). I find the sticks less effective.

GBP  2.69

3m 1100 Foam Earplugs

I find it amazing that some airlines no longer have earplugs onboard, not even for passengers in premium cabins, so rather than chance it I always carry a pair with me. Nothing fancy. These by 3M are made from soft hypoallergenic PU foam material to provide maximum comfort and low pressure inside the ear. Whist their shape is tapered to fit the ear canal comfortably, I use them back to front for a tighter fit!

GBP 5 for 20 pairs

Paul Smith Leather Laptop Bag

When it comes to carrying my computer – the tool upon which I write articles and check every word in TCT – I think my trusty 13” MacBook Pro deserves to be a little pampered. After all, for the past five years it has travelled everywhere I have. Iconic British brand Paul Smith produces some gorgeous leather goods, including this smart bag made from pebble embossed leather. The padded laptop compartment is purpose designed and the shoulder strap means I can sling it over my shoulder when I’m rushing through an airport.

GBP  525

Vitamin C 1000mg

Flying dramatically increases your chances of getting sick. Princess Diana always used to load-up on vitamin C before she boarded a plane. Taking a leaf out of her book, just before every flight I pop one echinacea tablet and chew a couple of 1,000mg vitamin C tabs. The immunity-boosting powers of these supplements may be debated but they seem to work for me, and the body excretes whatever vitamin C it doesn’t use so it’s impossible to overdose.

GBP 12.29 for 180 tablets

Au Lit Travel Pillow & Eye Mask

If you’re boarding a plane for anything more than a 10-hour flight you’re going to need to get some kip, but most pillows provided onboard are just dreadful. A 100% Egyptian cotton satin travel pillow filled with white goose down is a portable luxury wherever you rest your head. Coupled with a 100% silk eye mask and you’re pretty much equipped to sleep anywhere.

USD 160.00

Smythson Mara Zip Currency case

More of a travel wallet than anything else, whilst this is not an in-flight wellbeing essential, it keeps me organised and I’ve not been apart from it since it was gifted to me almost seven years ago. When travelling I’d be lost without it. Mine is brown printed calf leather with four colour-coded zip compartments for storing different currencies, SIM cards etc.

GBP  195