Saturday Column - Number 36 - January 27th 2002

Happy New Year! And Welcome to Pete’s Top Ten Travel Tips for 2002!

Did you read this week’s news story about the woman flying from Sweden to America who flushed the plane’s toilet and was sucked into the bowl?

She was stuck there for the next seven hours; and had to be released on arrival by a specially trained toilet team.

She is suing the airline.

OK… so let’s make that Pete’s Top Eleven Travel Tips for 2002!





However, if you are flying to Australia, and 24-hour bladder-control is something you have never quite mastered, read on…

You can call me a Paranoid Passenger if you like, but every time I see that little silver lever marked ‘flush’, I like to be as far away from it as possible… preferably outside the toilet compartment.

‘Let the next passenger deal with the ‘Death Flush’ is my air motto.

I like to live on the edge… of the toilet bowl… but not inside it!

Please, do not try and tell me that huge “WHOOSH!!” sound doesn’t scare the hell out of you: Because I Do Not Believe You.

If flushing the toilet on a plane was a ride at Disneyland, it would come with the warning ‘This ride may be too intense for children and all adults… Height restrictions apply: Very thin people less than three feet six inches tall with a fear of falling 35000 feet to their deaths should NOT flush this toilet.’

But, if you still feel bound, by thirty plus years of polite toilet training, to flush, then follow these instructions exactly.

They might just save your life.

Push the flush lever; leaning at an angle of 45 degrees AWAY from the toilet bowl, whilst at the same time tightly gripping (with your other hand) the white plastic handle attached to the toilet wall. This handle, officially there to stop you falling OFF the toilet during turbulence, is REALLY there to prevent you being sucked INTO the bowl and flushed six miles straight down to the Antarctic.

An eighteen-inch fall I can live with. If I want to see the Antarctic close up I’ll take a boat, a sledge and a dozen huskies.

What I want to know is this: How is it possible that the multi-billion dollar airline industry, the world’s most technologically advanced business, still hasn’t heard of the silent-flushing loo? These new Boeings cost ONE BILLION DOLLARS EACH! Is it too much to ask that they build in a $250 toilet like the one I have in my bathroom at home?

Air France must flush a dozen fashion models a week just on the Paris-New York route alone. Anorexia is dangerous enough; these girls shouldn’t even think of flying.

There are notices all over the toilets on planes … ‘Please may we suggest that as a courtesy to the next passenger you wipe down the sink after use…’

‘Please, as a courtesy to the other passengers, do not, whilst in the toilet, set fire to the bombs in your shoes…’

‘Please, as a courtesy to the next passenger, do not throw used small children into the waste tissue container…’

But when did YOU ever see a sign saying ‘Please, as a courtesy to the other passengers, IF YOU ARE SUCKED INTO THE TOILET BOWL FOR TEN HOURS, please remain calm, and remember that you now have far more leg room in the toilet section of the plane than you did in economy. You will be released once we have landed… or possibly even earlier if we experience Extremely Severe Turbulence.’

My bet is on The Swede to win $100 Million damages, minimum.

These particular travel tips result from my own recent Xmas 14-night holiday to Sri Lanka and Disneyland in Florida.

“Usually this is a package that we don’t have a great demand for…” I was told by my Travel Agent; but these days, He Who Travels Boldly is King.

But it’s not all pleasure you know. Some of my more politically aware readers might have noticed that, within 24 hours of my arrival in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers (until Osama’s recent arrived on the scene, the World’s most ruthless terrorists) declared a month long cease fire in their 20 year fight against the Government. (‘We invented the Suicide Bomber!’ is just one of their catchy slogans).

I’d had a few words with Graham the wonderful Assistant General Manager of the Colombo Hilton.

“Listen Graham” I said, “it’s really none of my business, but do the Tigers have any idea how badly their bombing campaigns are hurting your occupancy rates?” I asked, when he graciously stopped by to welcome me to the $5000 a night Presidential Suite that I had been automatically upgraded to on arrival, from my $80 a night single room reservation.

(I always find there’s nothing like checking into a totally empty 700-room, 5-star hotel in the middle of a Combat Zone on a tiny island in Asia for you to stand a fair chance of being upgraded.)

He must have had a word with the Top Tiger because the very next day… they announced a cease-fire. A coincidence? I don’t think so. ( Remember: ‘We are Fun…and Committed to ending Civil Wars’ is this column’s slogan.)




‘So Peter How do you get an Upgrade?’ I hear you ask.

Basically, it’s like asking for a Cease-fire… If you don’t ask for one, you don’t get one


Smiling pleasantly, say to the gate person “I don’t like to bother you… I can see how busy you are… but I wonder if you can help me? COULD I HAVE AN UPGRADE PLEASE for myself, my wife, our two children, their Grandparents, and our Nanny?”

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

I ask for an upgrade every time I fly, and I can tell you that, on average, using those exact same words in that exact same order… I get an upgrade once in every fifty flights. Now that might not sound a lot to you, but if you stop to think about it, that means to get just 20 upgrades a year… you only have to take a thousand flights.

Is that too much to ask? …for TWENTY UPGRADES A YEAR?

Let’s face it, if you got it every time you asked for it… it would be boring wouldn’t it?

Think of it like sex.

In fact for a lot of people, an Upgrade IS sex.

No, let me correct that; for a lot of people AN UPGRADE IS BETTER THAN SEX.




…I am sorry, but I will have to explain this and the remaining Eight Travel Tips another time, as I now have to rush to Heathrow to catch my £10 Ryan Air flight to Stockholm.

I saw the offer advertised in The Evening Standard an hour ago, and so naturally I just had to buy it. With British Air charging £300 return to Glasgow this sounded like a bargain to me.

I didn’t’ want to go to Sweden, but at prices like this, you feel you just have to go to Sweden don’t you?

“It’s to Vesteros really, the lady at Ryan told me on the phone earlier, “but we call it Stockholm.”

“What do you mean? … you call it Stockholm?” I said “How far exactly is Vesteros from Stockholm?”

“112 km” she said.

“112 km! That’s nowhere near Stockholm!” I said.

“Well that’s what we call it.” she repeated.

“Where are you calling from?” she asked.

“Birmingham.” I said, “but we like to call it London.”

“Do you want the ticket or not?” she said.

“I’ll take it.” I said.

I’ll keep you posted on Ryan Air’s upgrade policy.


Copyright Peter Rosengard 2001. All back columns including those that first appeared in The Independent 1993/1995, are now up on the site. Please see The Saturday Column Archive.