As the last few beads of sweat dry on my clammy face, I finally extricate the little earplugs from my complimentary wash bag and start moulding them into my ears. I kick off my shoes and down my glass of milk. In a few minutes, I’ll be in a deep sleep and no special ‘á la carte’ menu, soft toy, in-flight magazine, movie or stewardess will be able to disturb me.
Wrong! As soon as I’ve fallen asleep, I’m woken by the sound of a drinks menu on offer. We’re in the air and already, it’s feeding time. It’s hard to resist a moment of excitement as we all fold out our tables, ready for our first snack. The distinctive aroma of reheated luxury food drifts though the cabin like a deathly breeze in a hospital ward. As most take‑offs are late, we have breakfast at lunchtime, lunch at dinner-time and dinner at midnight. It seems as if every time we fall asleep, we are woken to eat yet again.
Penned into our seats with posh plastic trays in front of us (licked clean out of boredom) we wish we were six years old again – when we could call for mum to clear up, while we went off to play. Instead, we sit trapped, surveying the stain damage to our clothing – at the mercy of attractive staff, hovering nearby, too busy to take our trays away. Eventually, we are released… and now the race to the few toilets begins. Toilet activity is so intense after meals that the seat never gets a chance to cool down.
Still half-asleep, we make our way on wobbly legs to immigration. The trek through endless corridors seems to last an eternity.
We arrive at the baggage hall, where everyone looks confused, but pretends not to be. Waiting by dormant conveyor belts, we offer up silent prayers that our luggage has not been lost, and will appear soon.
Finally we make our way through immigration and out to the taxi ranks. Once again, we entrust our lives to the care of strangers – as local taxi drivers from hell take us to our destinations by the “scenic route”. Eventually arriving at the Generic Global Chain hotel, I wonder if I shouldn’t have made an effort to seek out more bespoke accommodation. But it’s too late… again.
As I lie with my head on the neatly ironed hotel pillow-case, TV remote in one hand, mobile in the other, I’m reminded that – as sure as the sun always shines above the clouds no matter what the weather below – we can be certain that, despite gold cards, airport clubs and leisure lounges, tomorrow will be just another achingly similar day in the life of the international business traveller. Slight variations will mark our encounters with the same old frustrations ‑ but, in essence, all will remain exactly the same.
Closing my eyes, succumbing to fatigue in body and mind, I find myself hoping a time will come when we really can work and play from home. But, stumbling red-eyed into yet another airport tunnel on the return journey, I’m wondering if long haul flights in the future will really be that different?
Welcome to the world of International Business Travel. It’s still got an awfully long way to go…
All photographs for this project were taken on small pocket sized ‘point and shoot’ film analogue cameras. Nikon 28 Ti, Olympus MjuII 35mm f2.8, Ricoh GR1s 28mm f2.8.
All taken between 1990-2003. Various colour films used.