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Upgrades, engine failures and the ideal seat-mate ... the ups and down of modern flying


A recent report revealed that singer Adele was the most popular choice to be seated next to on a plane due to her fun-loving and easy-going manner. Kerry McKittrick asks well-known NI personalities about their perfect passenger pal, as well as their dream or nightmare experiences in the air.

‘One of the plane’s propellers was still... we’d lost an engine’

Paula McIntyre (50), who lives in Portstewart, is a chef and cookery writer. She says:

My first choice would have to be James Taylor so he could sing to me the whole way through the trip. To talk to though, I would like to sit next to the chef Dan Barber, so I could ask him about his book The Third Plate. It's changed my whole way of thinking about food as he talks about everything from farming to cooking and how it's affected the food we eat. It's a most inspiring book and I would love to have the chance to discuss it with him more.

I fly all the time these days and I'm fine with it but for a long time I was petrified with the idea of being in the air. I was flying into Manchester about 20 years ago on a snowy day. It was a prop plane - you could see the propellers. All of a sudden the plane got very quiet and I looked out the window to see that one of the propellers was still. The next thing the cabin crew came around and said the worst possible thing - don't panic. We had lost one of our engines.

We were on our final descent anyway but as we landed we could see the fire engines and emergency crew already assembled.

It was all fine in the end but afterwards any time I flew I was terrified. I got over my fear of flying after a trip to London with Food NI when they offered to book my flights. I told them I would just get the ferry to Stranraer and then a train down to London - but I was told not to be so stupid.

The flight was booked for me and it was probably one of the best things to do because it was fine. Every time I fly it gets easier but the best thing to do is fall asleep and just wake up when you get there.

Because I do some work for a couple of Italian companies, I'm over in London all the time as well as the United States.

Checking in early for my flight means I don't get into a flap if I get stuck in traffic en route to the airport. I usually try to take carry-on luggage but if I'm going to cook somewhere I bring my own knives and I have to check those in."

'I'd like to sit beside Alan Carr as he would make you laugh'

'I get so stressed when the security staff are handling all of the make-up products'

Make-up artist Paddy McGurgan lives in Belfast. He says:

I travel all the time and go to the States for make-up shows at least twice a year. I also visit Paris and Amsterdam to meet with the brands we stock in the shop. I'm more comfortable flying when I don't have to take my kit with me.

Bringing the whole thing means I have to split it up into flight cases and I live in fear that something will go missing. It hasn't happened yet, but if I arrived to do a job with an incomplete kit it would be a disaster.

I bring as much onboard with me as I can, but then I need to get through security. I get so stressed when the security staff are handling all of the products and opening things upside down. Now I try to find the woman who wears the most make-up and go to her - she'll, at least, appreciate what she's handling.

When I'm flying I bring hydration spray, some fragrance and lip balm because it's so dehydrating. I can get really irritated eyes, so I bring a little eye gel too. I haven't had any flying disasters - the odd bumpy landing. I did get lucky once and got upgraded to business class. It was a nightmare trip where I flew from Dublin to London, London to New York, on to Los Angeles after three days and then flew back a couple of days later.

I got upgraded from LA to New York and it think it was because we bored the check-in people so much with the tales of our exhaustion. There were a couple of cancellations in business class so we got those.

I would like to sit beside someone like Alan Carr.

Someone to make you laugh is a good way to spend time on a flight. He's also interviewed loads of celebrities, so he would be able to give me the inside scoop on all of them."

'My best flight was by private jet to see Cognac being made'

Suzan Manning (44) is creative director of Zuni Hairdressing in Belfast. She lives in the city with her partner Peter.  She says:

Professionally speaking I would like to sit beside Sam McKnight - he's the top celebrity session stylist. He does most of the covers for Vogue and has just launched his own range of products. I have met him, as I was trained by him to work on a video shoot, but I would love more time with him.

Personally speaking I'm a girls' girl, so I love the idea of being stuck on a plane in between Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bullock.

Anyone who has been in a romcom, really.

I do travel a lot. I go back and forth to London, particularly for London Fashion Week when I work on the Topshop shows sponsored by L'Oreal.

I've been to LA to do Vidal Sassoon courses and I've travelled the world with Denman.

I try to get a balance of work and relaxation, so I try and squeeze in a girls' trip to Ibiza once or twice a year.

The more you travel the better you get at it, so I recently have been trying to perfect the capsule wardrobe.

The secret is bringing the right shoes - if you have a few good, stylish pairs which go with everything and you can walk around London and New York in them, then you're fine.

Travelling light is important, as when I travel for work I have massive suitcases of kit with me - basically I bring a mobile salon.

The best flight I have ever been on was when a friend won a trip on the Hennessey Louis Vuitton private jet.

We went to Cognac to see how Hennessey was made - I have to say we were trying to figure out how we could manage to do it again as soon as we came back.

Touch wood, I've never had any disasters on a plane. I'm not a nervous flier but I think it's because I haven't had any bad experiences. In saying that, flights to Ibiza can be a bit rough. People are partying away and hammered before they even get on the plane."

'On one trip the pilot tried three times to land, it was so windy...'

Ruth Gorman (31) is a sports reporter for ITV. She says:

If it's going to be a long-haul flight I need someone to make me laugh, so I would like to be seated beside Ryan Reynolds. I did have a great seat-mate once. I was on the way to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup and, on the first leg of the journey over to London, I found myself sitting beside the most fascinating woman.

It was about six years ago and she told me all of the travels she had had.

She was in her 80s and was going to London to celebrate her birthday. She told me she had been all over the world because she married a marine.

They lived in Guam for a while and she ended up being crowned Miss Guam and then went on to become Miss World.

She was so fascinating and so full of life. On the longer flight to New Zealand no-one could speak English and I really missed her for the rest of the journey.

I've been travelling a lot for work over the last few years - each year gets busier and busier.

I'm just back from Switzerland and this year I've also been to Las Vegas for the Frampton fight; England for the Six Nations; New York for Michael Conlan's fight; Glasgow for the football and Southport for the golf. I literally lived out of a suitcase over the summer.

When I travel I always have a toothbrush, a pillow and a pair of socks for the plane. I always have my iPad so I can do a bit of work or watch a movie.

I've never been upgraded. I did try on the way to New Zealand because I knew I would have to hit the ground running when I got there, but because of the World Cup the flights were all booked up.

There was a bad flight once. I was coming back after a Manchester United match and we were flying into George Best Belfast City Airport.

It was really windy and the plane went in to land sideways but couldn't, so it had to take off again.

The pilot said he would try one more time and if it didn't work he would divert.

He actually tried it twice more which was really unnerving as we didn't know what was going on.

Thankfully he got us down in one piece."

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