Plutocracy has so far eluded me. However, from time to time I am fortunate enough to be invited to join what Betty Kenward used to call “kind friends” on their aeroplanes and so I am beginning to get the hang of jetiquette.
I find that a well-judged enquiry about the tail number usually masks any wider ignorance about the minutiae of flying private. Then of course there is the understanding that wheels-up time is pretty much sacrosanct – unlike EasyJet, if you’re late, your host will probably wait, but don’t expect him or her to be happy about it. Other than that, the only thing that I have learned to adopt is a lot of ostentatious BlackBerry and iPhone checking as the plane takes off, thus demonstrating (a) one’s conversancy with the fact that (b) the so-called danger posed by mobile signals to avionics is just airline propaganda intended to keep the punters quiet.
However, what really interests me is whether it is appropriate to swipe the cashmere blankets. The other day, when flying to Sofia, the pearl of the Balkans, to attend an art show and party, I took a leaf out of Valentino’s book and cranked up the air conditioning so that I could snuggle under a giant, heavy, oatmeal-coloured cashmere blanket, the size of a smallish tennis court. Upon calling for some hot soup and warming drinks, I got chatting with the help, who told me that quite a few of these blankets end up in the hand luggage at the end of a charter.
I like to think of myself as moderately dishonest, so it shames me to admit that until that moment, intrinsic naivety, timorousness or a worrying bout of honesty had militated against me contemplating such petty theft. However, the moderately well-off, if not the super rich (after all, owning your own plane rather takes the fun out of stealing its blankets) are plainly not above a little pilfering, treating the in-flight accessories as if they were hotel bathrobes (although I do not believe that anyone really steals these towelling behemoths).
Next, I asked the important question – were they Loro Piana? The answer was that for some reason, while Netjet flights in the US serve Loro Piana blankets, in Europe we have to rough it with Portuguese cashmere. On learning this, you can imagine that I left my blanket on the plane; it wasn’t honesty that got the better of me, you understand, but a severe bout of luxury snobbery.