The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 29 June

Dear Thomas

We’re going to Croatia with a group of friends in July. It’s rather shocking to discover that on the flight there and back, two of the party won’t be with the rest of us in economy class as they have elevated themselves to business class. There’s something not quite right about this. Do you agree?

Miranda Pearce, Sevenoaks

Dear Miranda

Oh how annoying! I don’t like it. So wasteful on a short flight. A few years ago I flew to Vienna for a summer visit. On board, in ‘cattle class’, were a Booker Prize winner and Ian Hislop, as well as me, of course. Economy was good enough for them/us.

It’s not playing the game, is it? It’s not joining in. If you’re going on a group holiday, you ought to be… well… in a group… from the start. I mean to say, are these two going to be dining in different Croatian restaurants, staying in better hotels? Are they actually in your gang at all?

Some people just can’t help it. There are friends of mine who are kind of ‘professional’ air travellers. They know every trick in the book and always end up in business or first class. Priority boarding; luggage labelled ‘very important’. They must be waited on hand and foot, their coats hung in the special cupboard; they want all the available miniatures and more. If you happen to be flying with them on a joint outing of whatever kind, it’s just too bad. They’ll be wrapped in blankets at the front of the aircraft while you fend for yourself in the back. One gets used to it.

Did you hear about Kirstie Allsopp, who revealed that she flies business class while her children are confined to economy? She doesn’t want to spoil them. If they want luxury they must earn it. There’s some sense to this. Another mother I know proudly declares: ‘My children have never turned right in an aircraft.’ One time an airline balked at the number of children she was proposing to bring into the first class cabin. So they took the whole of first class. Fortunately, these children have turned out perfectly all right and quite able to manage in the real world. But it could have been a disaster. Kirstie’s old-fashioned attitude has something to be said for it. I wonder if her children have plain nursery food and no en-suite bathrooms at home.

Perhaps these nose-in-the-air travelling companions of yours will take a similar line. Will they say, ‘We’ve earned it and you haven’t?’ But the circs are hardly comparable. Merciless ribbing is what they deserve. There may not be many opportunities on the outbound leg but you’ve got the whole holiday to perfectly ruin the longed-for splendour of their return journey.

Please write to Thomas at the usual Bedford Street address or email

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Quiet carriages

Disturbing developments at South Western railway before Christmas, when they announced they were carrying out a survey on whether passengers really want quiet carriages. Of course we want quiet carriages, I hear you cry. No business people shouting into their phones, trying to book a hotel in Finland, etc. Other train companies have apparently been prevaricating; I’m fairly sure at one time the quiet option disappeared from the first class service on one of the other lines, but now has returned. I’ve been badgering South Western Railway for months; they’ve been oddly reluctant to reveal the result of their investigations. But nobody asked you to announce you were doing a survey, I felt like saying. At last,I get an evasive response: they have no plans to alter present arrangements, but are looking into improving the signage. How? I ask. No response. Sso quiet carriages to carry on. Ssignage to be made more prominent. By the sound of it, though, train companies would like to get rid of quiet carriages. So make sure that doesn’t happen.