'These machines! On a day of bad weather they are far from steady, far from steady. I myself have felt seriously incommoded once or twice,' bemoans the French chief of detectives in Agatha Christie's 1935 novel Death in the Clouds. The titular murder takes place aboard a Handley Page HP42, which was arguably the world's first luxury airliner and which entered service 75 years ago today. These giant biplanes, eight of which were built, could carry up to 38 passengers in previously - and some might say currently - unheard-of comfort. Passengers sat in plush armchairs surrounded by fresh flowers and were served freshly cooked meals on bone china - together with fine wines drunk from crystal glasses - by stewards in starched linen uniforms. The HP42s flew from Croydon, England, to cities as far away as Karachi and Calcutta, and in almost a decade of service with Imperial Airways they didn't lose a single passenger.
The last of the eight employed, 'Helena', had her wings and undercarriage removed and was used for some years as a comfortable office by the Royal Navy. The Imperial 42 project is said to be rebuilding an HP42, although details are sketchy at the 'official website' (www.imperial-airways.com). A project is also underway to create a flight simulator, for use on PC, for the entire Imperial Airways fleet and help from anyone with the relevant computer skills is being sought to recreate and relaunch, virtually, the earliest days of luxury air travel. Visit www.imperial-airways.com/Hp42_project_information.html for further details. Perfect inflight reading, Death in the Clouds, is available from Paddyfield.com in various editions and formats (including a CD audio book), priced from $47 to $240.
There is just enough time to refinance your home before the Rainia Experience launches in the Maldives next month, offering a combination of private island and private yacht (left) for US$9,500 a night. This price is for a couple, and think again if planning a price-reducing group tour - extra guests must pay US$500 each. What's more, this is an introductory rate; from October 1, the price goes up to a tidy US$12,000 a night per couple. Not surprisingly, there are some inclusives thrown in, such as gourmet dining, all drinks including Veuve Clicquot champagne and other wines, unlimited spa treatments, diving and instruction, snorkelling and dive equipment and water sports (and 'boat fuel' in case that tips the scales for the undecided). A full yacht crew and shore-based staff, including a private chef, spa therapist, PADI dive instructor and butler, will also be at one's beck and call. Full details can be found and reservations made at www.raniaexperience.com.
In a move that would, if carried out in that country, probably ground every airline in the United States, Indian Airlines is to suspend any flight attendant found to be even 1kg more than his or her ideal weight. 'We are part of the service industry and we have to be more presentable,' Vishwapati Trivedi, the airline's chairman and managing director, informed The Times of India. 'So we are trying to get the cabin crew members to be fit.' The new policy is not the first time the carrier, which recently rebranded itself as simply 'Indian', has attempted to smarten up its staff. In 2001, a male flight attendant, Victor Joynath De, was suspended for having a moustache of unseemly dimensions, which had been 25 years in the growing. He sued the airline and was reinstated, whiskers intact, a few months later. Indian must surely be hoping he hasn't gained a few extra kilos since then.
Access to resorts along the west coast of Thailand should be much easier from next month with the arrival of Destination Air, a small outfit operating floatplanes up and down the Andaman coast. Aircraft will fly out of Phuket to a variety of coastal and island destinations such as Koh Lanta and Krabi, with the list, and fleet of planes, increasing in the coming months. Sightseeing flights over Phuket will also be on offer. Round-trip connecting flights will start from about 10,000 baht ($2,000) a person, with 45-minute scenic flights costing about the same. For a list of the resorts served by Destination Air and for reservations see destinationair.com.
Plug and play
For a taste of the future, if you're heading to San Francisco, take a look at the electric cars on offer at Electric Time Car Rentals (www.etcars.com) for self-drive tours around the city. 'The perfect city transportation vehicle for leisure or errands', these two- (below) and four-seater cars have a maximum speed of 40km/h and come with optional GPS-based audio tours. That taste of the future, by the way, isn't in reference to the mode of power as to the price. A day in one of these diminutive electro-cruisers will set you back US$208 for a four seater. A regular car in San Francisco can be had for less than 10 per cent of that.
Deal of the week
Swire Travel is offering a two-night Singapore package, with a choice of four daily flights each way on Singapore Airlines and accommodation at some of the city's best hotels, from $2,350. This price is for a Deluxe room at the Intercontinental (www.ichotelsgroup.com), or you can choose from the following: Grand Hyatt (www.hyatt.com), $2,590; Shangri-La Hotel (www.shangri-la.com), $2,690; The Fullerton (below; www.fullertonhotel.com) $2,890; and the Ritz-Carlton Millenia (www.ritzcarlton.com), $2,990. The four flight options are spread throughout the day from morning to evening. Breakfast is included at each hotel but airport transfers are not. These prices are available until July 14, when they will increase by $750. For further details and reservations call Swire Travel on 3151 8833, or e-mail email@example.com.