A secret rule for international flights

IT’S one of life’s mysteries, like the single sock in the drawer and the place mossies go when you miss them.

I want to know why no international flights ever leave or land at civilised times.

I know it’s not one of those daily frustrations, like the yoghurt pot in the fridge that always has green mould in it, but just once before I die I’d like to be able to get up at 8am, have a leisurely breakfast, drive sedately to an airport and catch a plane to somewhere foreign at noon.

It can’t be done. There is a secret rule followed by all international airlines everywhere in the world that flights may not take off, nor land after 7am or before 11pm.

It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It could be Papua New Guinea, which is only about five hours away.

That means that, if you are forced out of bed at 3am to eat breakfast and get to the airport for the obligatory two-hour airport wait, to catch the plane at 6.30am, then you ought to arrive in Port Moresby about noon.

Forget it. Arriving by international flight anywhere in the world at noon is not allowed. I don’t know how it happens, but the Port Moresby flight will somehow lose half a day in transit.

You’ll disembark just after midnight, when all the taxis have given up hope, the coffee shops are shut, the lavatories have a notice outside saying they’re being cleaned and that the nearest ones are in Townsville, and the hotels are staffed by security guards who have fallen asleep at their desk and wake up thinking it’s a rebel coup.

It’s the same the other way. Just once I want to meet a relative in daylight. I look better in daylight. I look better at almost any time but 2am, which is when most people appear after queuing through immigration and customs.

I have given up being jolly and welcoming. I growl at them and stride away to the car while they drag three month’s luggage on their own.

And while we’re at it, if the airlines can introduce a rule that forbids landing at civilised times, why can’t they introduce a rule that forbids people talking to you while the plane’s moving?

I do my best. I steadfastly refuse to make eye contact with any other passenger, especially the one sitting next to me. I grunt monosyllabically when they make hearty comments about going home, or leaving home or who will be waiting for them. But sometimes they just can’t take a hint.

If they can forbid mobile phones or smoking in the lavatory, they can forbid banal conversations with complete strangers.

And the swapping of contact details should be banned by international treaty.

Do I sound like a bad traveller with a very antisocial personality?

On the contrary — I’m a very good traveller with a very antisocial personality.

I want to board the plane and not be a nuisance to anyone until I disembark. I want to sleep, mostly, because I’m tired.

And I’m tired because international flights are designed to do maximum damage to international relations by throwing together visitors and their hosts at the most inhospitable time of day — sorry, night — in the most irritable, smelly and crumpled state they can devise.

If they’d just let us arrive when the sun’s shining I’m sure it would go a long way towards world peace.