Brian Johnston's article brought back memories of first seeing the grandeur of our planet through the oval window of a plane. But what a pity that today it is virtually forbidden to enjoy this delight in economy class.
Lift the shutter to see the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush and there will be reproving mutterings from fellow passengers, and cabin staff will move to nip the light beam in the bud.
If you are lucky you might be able to negotiate a fleeting peep at a peak, but if it's just to watch cumulonimbus clouds ascending, then forget it.
It seems most passengers prefer the solitary gratification of viewing movies or games, so illumination is the last thing they want. Cabins of long-haul daytime flights today have become like pokies venues, darkened demi worlds of serried faces glued to screens.
John Wallace, Carlton North, VIC
LETTER OF THE WEEK
It was a thrill to read Brian Johnston's article, "Windows on the world" (Traveller, February). Not having spent anywhere near the hours flying as I assume Brian has, I was nevertheless heartened that I have shared so many of his experiences.
My landing into New York (1995, from Los Angeles via Indianapolis) was late one summer afternoon. We dropped out of a cloudbank at the tip of Manhattan and tracked up the Hudson (not East) River while I was in a world of my own, unwilling to share. Then we banked along the Harlem River, headed for a 5pm touchdown at La Guardia.
Towards the end of the same trip I can recall landing at Kai Tak, Hong Kong, while they were still putting the finishing touches to the new airport at Lantau Island.
The highlight of a flight from Dubai to Geneva was looking north up into the lakes and mountains of northern Italy – Sirmione jutting into Lake Garda; Bellagio nestled in the crux of Lake Como; the Borromean Islands in Lake Maggiore.
Finally the snowy Mont Blanc massif, surprisingly free of cloud as we commenced the wide arc to the north and east – surely I'll see Geneva, But, once again tricked by scale and angle, we floated down across farm and forest, a little suburbia, now too low to see the lake over the rooftops as we touched down.
I'll have a window seat, please.
Owen McFarlane, Newington, NSW
I read with interest your article about the joy of the window seat in planes. Some years ago we flew Japan Airlines (JAL) to London and the planes had cameras on the belly of the plane so that for much of the flight (while in daylight, obviously) we could see the world below us as we flew over.
It was absolutely amazing. It was particularly good as the flight landed in London in the late afternoon so we had hours of viewing. Unforgettable – and I wish Qantas would do the same.
Susan Grant, Toowoomba, QLD
I read with interest the comments by the Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, (Traveller letters, February 17) about the Smartraveller website.
Smartraveller states that for the US, travellers should "exercise normal safety precautions", while for both France and Belgium its advice is to exercise a "high degree of caution".
In 2017, the number of road deaths per 100,000 people was for the US, France and Belgium, respectively, 4.88, 1.58 and 1.95. In 2015, the number of homicides per 100,000 people for the same countries was 10.6, 5.1 and 6.7.
Based on this latest information about two important indicators for travellers, as a minimum the ratings for these countries should be the same, if not reversed.
While Bishop says Smartraveller draws information from a wide a range of sources, these statistics indicate that Smartraveller's country ratings include an assessment of matters other than traveller safety. That is not in the travelling public's interest.
Greg Poropat, Albion, QLD
SHE'LL BE RIGHT
As a retired 40-year airline industry veteran with British Airways and Qantas, I would like to express my appreciation for Michael Gebicki's excellent article "Flight Changes" (Traveller, February 17), in particular the part headed "Fair seat for a fair price".
Premium economy offering 50 per cent more leg room for a 50 per cent loading on the economy fare for international services, and shell type seats to avoid "recline rage", seem to me a terrific idea.
Of course the airline bean-counters would have to work out if the "revenue per square centimetre" would stack up and that would be a big ask, given financial returns to shareholders and senior executives has now overtaken passenger comfort on their priority list.
What about running with that Mr Joyce and let's see how good you really are.
Richard Davies, Hawthorn East, VIC
Solo travel (Traveller, February 24) is not as difficult as many seem to think. I started in my teens and got used to solo backpacking, and hitch hiking around the world. It was interspersed with 30 years of great travel with my husband.
Now I'm back to solo travel but in greater comfort. I recently had a wonderful trip to Ethiopia using an excellent Ethiopian travel agent who arranged everything. I'm doing the same in Uzbekistan and Georgia soon.
Elizabeth Foster, Blackburn, VIC
Robin Douglas (Traveller, February 24) may well count the ways that bare feet are unacceptable, however, on any flight numerous male and female passengers wear footwear such as thongs, sandals and other open shoes which leave plenty of toes exposed to the alleged safety risks of exposed if not completely bare feet.
Denis Goodwin, Dee Why, NSW
One scenic flight that should have been included in your "Six of the Best Scenic Flights" (Traveller, February 17) is Fly Denali's scenic glacier flight and landing in Alaska,
It is impossible to find words to describe the experience of flying around Denali over glaciers and snow-filled valleys with sunlight reflecting off the pure white snow.
Upon landing on the glacier you are free to explore for about half an hour. As most people will only make one visit to Denali National Park in their lifetime, this is an experience not to be missed. For us this was one of our greatest travel experiences.
Jannette McGuinness, Bellevue Hill, NSW
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