Air Babylon

31 Aug 2006 by intern11

Imogen Edwards-Jones, Bantam Press, US$18.17

Reading Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous, while cruising over the Atlantic Ocean on a long-haul flight, is not for the faint-hearted. Described within is a flight from London to Dubai piloted by a hung-over captain. The flight attendants are knocking back tequila shots; rock stars are doing drugs in First Class; a plastic-wrapped heart attack victim is stowed in the galley; and a couple are having prolonged sex in one toilet while a junkie overdoses in the other.

An unfortunate turn of events for one desperate passenger, who is suffering the effects of laxative a disgruntled steward has stirred into his drink. But not as unfortunate perhaps, as leaving a landing wheel behind when the plane takes off.

In this novel, Edwards-Jones applies the same formula as her previous book, Hotel Babylon, to provide the reader with an insightful view of the air travel industry. Her information, gleaned from interviewing a collection of airline staff, is supposedly based on fact – a rather alarming thought.

The story is narrated by an anonymous airline employee working for a fictitious airline. The funny, outrageous and sometimes downright appalling anecdotes (a live snake in the overhead locker; duty-free designer watches replaced with fakes; dogs freezing solid in the hold), unfold over a 24-hour period.

 By condensing as many tales as possible into a relatively small book, the author has compromised on narrative structure and character depth. However, what this book lacks in development, it makes up for in shock value. It is a memorable, light-hearted read that can be put down and picked up again without fear of forgetting the plot.

Air Babylon contains an important lesson for any person who boards a plane – never, ever antagonise a flight attendant. But if you do – don’t eat the food.

Michelle Brown

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