Remember That Flight

Posted by in Culture, Travel

Fly the funky skies!


Luton – Barcelona – Luton

It was the 70s, and airlines were getting funky with their colour schemes. Across the pond America’s Braniff flew planes in anything from Orange to Olive.

At home Court line opted to do similar, with 3 tone pink, green and in this case yellow/apricot and orange. It was a Tristar (two engines on each wing and one incorporated into the tail). It flew me (and my family) from Luton to Barcelona then went bust.


London Heathrow – Los Angeles

I don’t remember much about this either but it was one of the early jumbo’s (with 3 windows on the upper deck – now long since decommissioned or at least one would hope so!). Nor was I aware of its connection to aviation legend Howard Hughes.

3 AIR NEW ZEALAND (and the former NAC)

Los Angeles – Auckland via Honolulu and Nadi
London Heathrow – Auckland via Los Angeles and Honolulu
Auckland – Wellington and Wellington – Auckland (thrice)
Wellington – Melbourne – Wellington (twice)
Wellington – Nelson – Wellington
Melbourne – Wellington

In 1973 my life was to change dramatically (not that I knew it mind). Yes, I was being carted off, without much say, to a new life in New Zealand. Also unknown to me was the death-trap DC-10 that was being utilised to do the deed.

Like the Tristar it too has an engine the size of a DC-3 in the tail and a newly emblazoned Maori emblem; the Koru on it. Their DC-8s were equally unique and as scary with their engine start up tone of – woooo! Enough to scare the hell out of anyone, even if you did like flying!


Auckland – London Heathrow via Hong Kong (Kai Tak), Delhi, Tehran and Rome
Auckland – London Heathrow via Melbourne, Perth and Bombay
London Heathrow – Istanbul Ataturk

Ah, those were the days… steps up to the plane, multiple stops and only a choice of 2 films. A case of ‘are we there yet’ indeed. Not many airlines nowadays fly to London via Delhi, Tehran and Rome. In fact possibly none. 20 odd years later and I made the mistake of flying our ‘national’ carrier back to Istanbul.


London Heathrow – Sydney KS – London Heathrow
Wellington – Auckland

Qantas were safe, and as famously dictated on the movie Rainman, Qantas never crash. No, they just like scaring the hell out of their clientèle once in a while. But this was back in ’85. The only thing scary about that flight was the sharp bank into Bahrain and the scrambled egg. The second flight was a routine run up to AKL.


Dublin – Cardiff

After a lengthy absence from flight I was back in the air, rather unexpectedly having decided I’d had enough of Dublin on a Friday. Not a good time to decide this apparently as it was the most expensive day to realise it. No matter Ryan Air was cheap and could whisk me back to Wales in 40 minutes. Probably the best time to have flown with them.

Easy all the way.


London Stansted – Venice (Marco Polo) – London Stansted
London Stansted – Copenhagen – London Stansted
Bristol – Berlin Schonefeld – Bristol
Bristol – Geneva – Bristol
Bristol – Lisbon – Bristol

Staying on the budget theme the wonderful but sadly short lived GO was sold out by Barbara Cassini to Cheesyjet. Prior to that the nice clean and cool concept that was GO jetted around Europe at cool prices with sassy advertising too. Venice anyone, Copenhagen – I loved it. Pity it had to end.


London – Melbourne via Athens, Bangkok DM and Sydney KS

Back toward Australia but who would fly me there this time? None other than demi-Aussies and the then national carrier Olympic. With its ‘modern as can be desired’ fleet yet ‘older than a design forum by Plato and Aristotle’ livery the A340 (always hated them) carried me into a sky as midnight blue as said livery and into brilliant sunlight after Athens with its wings juddering like mad!

With the Greek economic woes around the corner Olympic went bust but has miraculously resurfaced. Strangely the re-born Olympic looks not dissimilar from its earlier incarnation.


Auckland – London Heathrow via Kuala Lumpur

Malaysian are a full service airline with the heart of an low cost/indie carrier if you like. The service is good, the food is ok and the fares agreeable. Go fly Malaysian.


Edinburgh – Dublin
Dublin – Bristol

One of the most beautiful liveries, resplendent in its emerald, greens and blues, I’m not quite sure why they settled on black leather seats and moody hostesses for their interior though. This flight was amazing as it was irksome.

In the latter instance it was a tour of Wales; flying over the Brecon Beacons, then Cardiff (including my then home) and Newport, before swooning over the Severn into an unbelievably humid Bristol.

My gripe was getting back to the house viewed from above moments before. Easy in flight, a little longer by surface transport.


London Gatwick – Singapore via Dubai – London Gatwick

This is quite the opposite of Malaysian a full service airline that feels like an upmarket Ryanair. Try ringing the buzzer and see if you can get any service! Nice plane, shame about the staff. Did I mention I hate Gatwick?

Lufthansa Airport!


London Heathrow – Barcelona via Frankfurt Main
Barcelona – London Heathrow via Milan Malpensa

And again, the lead purser was busy living up to the German ice cool stereotype; SIT! WAIT SIR! I don’t expect much from a 2 hour flight, but you’d want a sandwich that was edible wouldn’t you?

Instead I was treated to one that was stale as straw, the plastic pen the miser purser presented me with was more appealing as a snack. He never came back to answer my query either.

Cathay, SIA and Turkish.


London Heathrow – Auckland via Hong Kong

It’s the night flight to HK, through the window the familiar brush wing livery stares back at me, still gorgeous if looking a little jaded on this jumbo. She taxis and climbs into the sky. Minsk roles below us, a jewel in the Belarussian night. Don Henley blasting on the headphones.

Good service from the women in red and memorable views of western China from 30 odd thousand feet. But.. the seats, that was the problem here. I limp from the plane at Hong Kong! Another 11 hours to go and 4 in transit. Ouch! *for CATHAY DRAGON see below.


Auckland – Istanbul Ataturk via Singapore

I paid extra to travel with the almighty, crème da la crème of the airline world. The one, the only SIA and on the first leg from Auckland to Singapore it was money well spent. The 777 ER was newly refurbished with gold patterned seating, even in economy, nothing less than a vision for kings.

However, on the latter part, it was difficult to believe it was the same airline, a tatty 777 200 leaving at 2am was more reminiscent of a flying porno cinema, run down, neglected device needing some TLC. So a mixed bag for SIA who are so self assured they didn’t even ask for customer feedback.


Istanbul Ataturk – London Heathrow

Beautiful flight by a very good airline. Beautiful A330, in seat entertainment and great service with Turkish hazelnuts. BA are a million miles away from this Turkish delight.

Taking to the Gulf Air


Istanbul Ataturk – Bangkok SB via Bahrain

From sarcastic staff to frenetic turbulence; Gulf Air is a so-so experience. Food ok, seat reclining pillock that thinks he is in first class not ok. Lovely green/grey interior for the A330 onto Bangkok.

EgyptAir twice!


Bangkok SB – Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok SB
Cairo – Guangzhou

Egypt Scare by netizen name, Egypt Scare by nomadic nature! An ironic twist saw me skip a flood prone Bangkok on a clear day only to end up in Kuala Lumpur in a tropical storm complete with landing via an air pocket hiding in a cloud.

Woops and prayers got us mercifully to ground level unscathed (in light of events at San Fran with the Asiana 777 a big nod of gratitude to the pilot here).

My second (mis)adventure with the Horace was in 2017 when I did everything perfect but check the date. As I had been checking Emirates, Saudia and Oman Air, all of which arrived in Guangzhou a day later but not Egyptair as they fly directly. Cue nightmare, ticket amendment and a day at Cairo airport hotel, still one screw up in 70 odd flights isn’t too bad.

The (African night) flight was ok but my window seat had no window and even if it had the bitchy stewardess would have ensured its closure. There is obviously a reason but I’m not sure what it is; did she think we would get moon burn?

The same one was all smiles with her colleagues but the passengers, especially those of us in the cheap seats got nothing but frost bite.

PIA – the fairy tale voyage.


Bangkok SB – Hong Kong

Now this is the fairytale surprise here. Who would have thought PIA would be one of the best airlines out there! But they were that day and no put on show either.

Chinese Collection.


Shenzhen – Fuzhou
Shanghai Hongqiao – Guangzhou

A rainy day in Shenzhen and a barking dog airplane; woof, woof, woof, woof it went relentlessly as we taxied to the runway. The flight was ok.

The second flight I chose specifically for it being the 787. Unfortunately the livery was the only outstanding feature. Delayed over an hour due to a tropical storm in GZ – fair enough there. Food? A bread roll, a small cake and some peanuts. Oh, and a segment of orange.

As with Lufthansa I don’t expect too much from an hour flight but this bordered on the ridiculous. The plane was not as smooth as I expected either and the AVOD… do these things ever work?


Xiamen – Taipei

This is a weird one. Left Xiamen and instead of flying out over the strait to Taiwan we fly down coast, then do a diagonal S/E path then another N/E to meet the Taiwanese coast, the central mountains much like NZ. Then back out over the sea before finals into Taoyuan.

What a pity I didn’t opt for the wonderful Songshan, now my favourite little airport. Another notable of this flight was the Xiamen Airlines box, almost like a grandiose KFC box only minus the KFC, I think it had a peanut milk drink in it but I can’t recall what else now; obviously nothing memorable; good or bad.


Taipei – Hong Kong

Delayed by half an hour. Not too bad. This airline has a somewhat bad rep due to said delays but it wasn’t too bad to fly. Another A330, I (having watched far too much Aircrash Investigation) prior to flying took the rare step of taking an aisle seat. I thought she meant aisle but she really meant aisle as in middle rows. It was ok for the short hop to Honkers.

Taiwan and the Phipps.


Hong Kong – Taipei

What possessed me to return to Taiwan when I could’ve and should’ve clocked up country no. 30. Anyway.. flight so/so, another aisle in another A330. The beginning of a nightmare.


Taipei – Manila

And so to said 30th country which turned out to be the Philippines and its mega-metropolis capital Manila. As with China Air above, the service was not impolite but did seem strangely routine. Chicken and Butter cake. I had to ask for milk (coffee mate) and sugar for my tea.

And for a full service airline no terminal air bridge. No, not even a bus, more a series of airline vans! Terminal 2 (PAL’s exclusive use home) at MNL well deserves its reputation. Slow immigration, customs in place of concierge and no airport to city bus. Truly amazing! Transport: more fun in the Philippines – NOT!


Manila – Taipei

Escaping the Philippines after one of the worst typhoons in living history was one thing. I had my own storm to escape from and going back was for some reason only cheap on the budget airline, the bright and cheerful canary yellow of Cebu Pacific was not dissimilar from Court-line, and my first short haul night flight. This was surprisingly not too different from the full service PAL above.

For starters the air bridge at the sparkling new Terminal 3 in Manila was out of action. I knew not to expect any meals but I wasn’t expecting an on board quiz!

The staff were as bright as the airline livery, positively beaming even when the cabin lights were dimmed for take off. The big mystery here was why did they have to fly at such an obscure hour when PAL can do it as cheap at reasonable times.

There was more than just landing, terminal parking fees going on here. The plane was either an A319 or an A320 with sizeable wing-tips curving into the sky like a cheese knife and the kind of smell Air NZ used to have in the 70s. Very nice whatever it is.

Only minor problems were a 30 minute delay and the turbulence that dogs most flights. Other than that it was fairly reasonable but I wouldn’t want to do their Dubai run, even if it is in a canary yellow A330.

More Oriental adventures.


Taipei – Macau – Taipei

Unable to get a visa for Vietnam or a flight to HK courtesy of Chinese New Year, I had a secondary glance at Macau, or rather its airport for no reason other than I had to vacate Taiwan for visa purposes. Onward ticket – check. Passport – check. Airline; so so, food; hot but sadly a little bland tasting, staff; delicate ladies with moist chocolate eyes – probably Air Macau’s saving grace.


Taipei – Hong Kong – Taipei
Taipei – Hong Kong

Nice airline, see my individual blog entry here…


Guangzhou – Shanghai Hongqiao

In the eighties Air Lanka (now Sri Lankan) had a colour scheme that utilised the purest most beautiful red coupled by a white peacock. This was lost when they rebranded as Sri Lankan. Nowadays these colours are made up by the Shanghai Airlines brand this time with a white crane as its tail-fin.

In China this airline receives a similar reputation as British Airways due to frequent delays, service and all manner of other customer woes. I chose it for the fact it was a 767 and I’d never flown on one before.

The fare was reasonable (half that of the China Southern flight for the return leg). However summer storms in China are common and the night I was to fly saw tropical fury in both GZ and Shanghai.

When the storm cleared up in the former it hadn’t in the latter meaning it was too dangerous to fly and a delay of seven hours!! In turn this meant arriving in Shanghai at 3am instead of 8pm and a night at an airport I hadn’t planned for. Nonetheless this was not the airlines fault.

Getting back to the eighties, the 767 entered service in 1982 and when we finally get on board via a bus ride to the other side of the airport I had to wonder whether it was one of the first models!

Devoid of AVOD my desperate Chinese neighbour was intent on endangering everyone on board by using his phone (later hiding it in his seat pouch …the crew obviously didn’t spot his headphones). They did however give us a proper meal which is more than can be said for the flashy China Southern (see above).

Flying west before east on China Eastern.


Guangzhou – Kunming – Guangzhou

And so to yet another Chinese airline. I got the old and the new with this one. The outgoing flight on the newly painted 737-800 was more or less a text book in plane sailing, a ripple of turbulence but thankfully nothing too shocking.

The inflight entertainment and food was more so; no headphones, no AVOD and when I accepted the fish I wasn’t expecting some lame fish balls!

The return on the old livery i.e. a prominent red front below the pilots window and a black nose makes me think of Dan Air at Gatwick in the late sixties or early seventies everytime – was a slightly different affair.

This time it’s a 737-700; no distinguishable features that I’m aware of. Somehow I am pensive as we fly eastward back to Guangzhou which in my absence has seen another typhoon though I dare say it wouldn’t have gotten the brunt of it.

It is about 12.30 (lunchtime) and the clear and deep blue skies of Yunnan are well behind us. In front are the familiar grey of the Pearl River Delta (a bit like flying into Heathrow when you’ve been in more exotic climes) and I sense we have begun descent way earlier than expected.

This is soon confirmed, the white fluffy clouds are getting closer and soon brushing past the window until we are completely consumed by one and a bloody nasty one at that batting us around like a roller coaster out of control.

This surpasses the episode with Egypt Air to the extent I wonder if flying is worth it anymore. Should modern day jetliners not be able to detect turbulence by now!? That and passengers who can’t do without their mobile phones. Yes, flying is convenient but that’s about it. Now I know why the Pope kisses the ground.

Bidding Hanoi a sad farewell on Vietnam’s beautiful blue machine.


Hanoi – Guangzhou

The A321 is the workhorse of Vietnam Airlines fleet. It’s a beautiful livery set in deep blue, with a golden lotus flower. The lower part of the fuselage is a deep grey separated by a white pin stripe but I think this is being phased out in favour of a creamy white and a Singapore Airlines style golden swoosh line which arches from the back toward the nose.

The interior is smart but the magazines are tatty (haven’t been replaced) and there is no in seat entertainment for this quick hop up to Guangzhou. The plus is that I have an entire row to myself! As usual a dash of turbulence is the only minor concern in the bright blue noon sky. On approach to Guangzhou, the clouds reliably return to guide us home to a grey Baiyun.

Staff professional but robotically routine and don’t seem bothered that some passengers are using mobile phones when they have been instructed to turn them off. I don’t want to sound a stickler but this is one of my major gripes with modern day flight. Lunch was a light salad with salami and ham with the addition of a square cake and lemon tea. Semi-chilled orange juice also served. Standard but reasonable for a short flight.

Delayed reaction, departing GZ a day late on Qatar’s A380.


Guangzhou – Doha – Helsinki

Well I made it to 30 airlines and unfortunately it was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I booked Qatar amid political turmoil believing it would be ok but secretly wondering whether I should’ve booked Finnair.

Alighting Guangzhou metro I see huge ads for Finnair. Was this a bad omen? Yes. Normally having passed security and boarding comes take off but not on this occasion.

Another of Guangzhou’s legendary monsoons had us back peddling. Five hours and still we had not moved from the dock. Eating my in flight meal on the ground was truly a first!

Next came the announcement that the flight was cancelled. Could I be hearing things? Wasn’t this a five star airline? Much like my dalliance with their inflight magazine I guess their five star days are behind them.

Other firsts involve going back through immigration and being shunted into the shittiest hotel they could find. Even a 7 Days Inn is a palace by comparison.

However I did feel sorry for the Chinese reception staff being harangued by impatient Tanzanian’s who have not a clue how to behave. A day later, more confusion, more rumours. Was there a flight or not?

Eventually we took off at 19.30 meaning my plans, dates and timings were now out of sync. Suffice to say I won’t be wasting my time with either the airline or its tawdry editorial efforts anymore.

It used to be fun flying via exotic locales but next time I’m going to stick to airlines from less corrupt countries. Finnair, expensive yes but no doubt worth it. Qatar? The British Airways of the Middle East.

UPDATE: The second flight (to Madrid) was an exceptionally better affair, crew fantastic for economy and pretty smooth sailing, moderate bursts of turbulence but good all round and they even offered a blanket and a small doggy bag of food.

TAROM – avoid the bitchy blonde and the Jeremy Beadle purser!


Chisinau – Bucharest
Bucharest – Vienna

Having travelled from Warsaw to Budapest to Cluj-Napoca to Chisinau via day long surface transport, it was time to treat myself and for the first time since 1982 the first leg meant a fixed wing aircraft (ATR 42) that is wings affixed to the top of the fuselage and inside two seats each side.

Pokey but fun; which is more than can be said for their being sticklers on the baggage allowance (though better than Austrian) meaning much kerfuffling for no reason as both mine weigh in below their 23kg limit.

My next gripe came with the transfer at Bucharest (remember Frankfurt and Doha?) whom insist on putting everyone through security again at snails pace. I barely make my smart A318 for the onward journey to Vienna (there are no direct flights to Budapest from Chisinau).

No inflight on either hop but the ham/cheese sandwich was reasonable (take note Lufthansa) and a small chocolate sponge cake with typically bad coffee on the latter excursion.

Factor in a Jeremy Beadle lookalike purser who half jokingly utters something in Romanian to my female neighbour hoping I can’t gauge that he’s being semi-derogative.

She herself is a bit pissy and gets upset on arrival because I don’t move (as I can’t walk through 100 or so people waiting to alight and neither could she, so why the rush?).

Vienna airport, beautiful, a European Hong Kong but staff predictably Austrian. *Couldn’t get a shot of the airbus due to time constraints and airport layout at Vienna.

Into Africa, flying from Athena to Cairo.


Athens – Cairo

Standard A320 across the Med to the shores of north Africa (a first for me). This flight was unusual not for the food or service (as I say standard) but for the company and the extraordinary events that followed.

A young Erasmus student from Alexandria begins chatting to me on take off and we talk much of the flight to the extent that descent seems to come sudden and sure enough there outside my window is the sand city of Cairo; my first (Arabic) African adventure.

Cathay Dragon – the new Dragon Air!

33 CATHAY DRAGON (and the former DRAGONAIR)

Guangzhou – Hong Kong
Hong Kong – Phnom Penh

In what must rank as one of my craziest flights ever and one I always wanted to do because of its ridiculous duration is the route from GZ down to Hong Kong (a bit like Bristol to London or Sydney to Canberra).

Come boarding time the absence of said plane was somewhat odd in that delays are usually the cult of Hong Kong airlines NOT the Dragon.

When it did eventually arrive more than an hour later it wore that same beautiful livery as its mother company Cathay Pacific only in deep red or maroon if you like. Just cookies served for this route.

For the leg onto Phnom Penh, it’s the older Dragonair livery – as bland as the fish and mashed potato they served. This was complimented by Hagan Daaz strawberry and mango ice cream. Livery aside the screens, as you can see, are in sync with the new brand.

Brussels to London to Malta via Covid international


Lisbon – Brussels
Brussels – London Heathrow

Travelling in Business class I made full use of the food options. It was strange that my seat didn’t seem any different to those in economy. The romantic nostalgia was present in the SN airline code, SABENA in spirit. My last flight to date in 2019 and obviously pre-covid, the next one will be very different.


London Heathrow – Malta

If there is an airline I wish I could have flown in the eighties or even nineties, Air Malta is it. I travelled from Brum to London especially to fly with the Maltese carrier. From the outset the warning signs were there.

A vacant ticket desk even when a flight is coming up (I later found them at the actual check in desk and its them who issued my ticket). The alternative was to fly Ryan Air – something I didn’t relish for a new country but in the end would have proven little different. 

Like Brussels above the seats in the A320-neo were exactly the same for business and economy. This time I was in the latter and that means cramped leg space, no room in the overhead baggage facility for my bag, no entertainment, paying for meals (I didn’t) and being refused a window seat in the back rows which according to the purser was for covid measures. 

I couldn’t see his logic so I missed out on a view which in the end never came – the Maltese islands were beneath a serious storm, it was one of the most violent descents I’ve ever known and my vision of the warm sunny afternoon on arrival was instead a grim grey washout. 

From this I learnt three things; one it may now be better to fly low cost airlines within Europe and second the full service airlines have now resorted to similar tactics to the low costs. A full service airline now accounts for a snazzy livery and not much else.

Thirdly buy lunch on the ground – luckily I managed to do that so wasn’t starving in the air. I know the airlines have taken a heavy blow during the pandemic, however overall the beautiful Maltese carrier is an emperor without any clothes, a big disappointment.


Thanks for reading here. Should anyone be interested in my work; principally writing, photography, and teaching, please see the MEDIA and UNIVERSITY pages. Meanwhile, stay tuned with Kulture Kiosk via The Atlas or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and 500px (Kelvin Hayes) where you can see some of my photos from around the world. Blog originally posted April 2020. Playlist and credits follow…

*for some reason I can’t remember anything from my long haul flights post 2011, weird I know.

One on One – Hall and Oates
Lonely in Your Nightmare – Duran Duran
Crying and Laughing – Chris de Burgh
Look Mama – Howard Jones
Who Said – Guy McDonagh
Break Down the Walls – Full Marks
Chillin’ – Modjo
Suicide Blonde – INXS
Hold On – Razorlight
All She Wants to do is Dance – Don Henley

Photo Credits:
All photos by me except the Court Line tristar, a postcard of the time.
TWA shot by unknown photographer.
Air New Zealand promo shot of the time, unknown photographer.
Air Lanka tristar, unknown photographer.
Malaysian, unknown photographer.
Lufthansa, photos by Lorenzo Giacobbo and Xavi Higuera.