Hands up all those who think that the flight attendants onboard the aircraft are there for your “comfort and safety”?

Well, I was on a flight back from Jersey, following a performance there earlier this week. And something happened that made me stop and think.

I’m not going to tell you which airline I was flying, but the steward and stewardess obviously though they were a comedy double act. They laid on an unrelenting stream of cheeky banter and quips to the passengers. Okay, they weren’t that funny, but it was better than the standard-issue fixed smiles.

Now, on other flights I’ve noticed that very few people purchase anything from the duty free trolley. After all, they’ve had plenty time to shop in the terminal lounge. But this duo of funsters had created such a rapport with their “audience” that they were able to badger the passengers into buying goodies from the trolley – albeit in a pleasant and fun way.

They pointed out the savings that could be made, shot out one-liners about the suspected drinking habits of individual passengers, and so on. Between them, they had one of the greatest sales pitches I’ve ever seen.

And they certainly unloaded a mountain of duty free while keeping up the line of friendly banter.

When it came to me, I decided to buy 200 cigarettes. In a flash, the steward told me the savings, but pointed out that I would save even more if I purchased 400, and even MORE should I purchase 600 – as had most of the other passengers.

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “I seem to remember that despite being within the ‘footprint’ of the EU, the Channel Islands are outside the tax territory.”


“Well, that would mean passengers can only bring in a limited number of cigarettes – namely 200. So why are you trying to sell them 400s and 600s – that’s well above the allowed limits, isn’t it?”

Leaning low, and sticking his face next to mine, the steward shrugged and said: “I’m not trying to sell them. I’m just advising everybody of the price.”

Hmmm. Really?

I watched as little old couples wandered through the green channel at Edinburgh airport, unaware that at any point they could be stopped by the Customs and Excise officials, and find themselves in a whole heap of trouble. All thanks to the staff on the airplane who had seemed so friendly, are happy to sell the goods, but not so keen to inform them that they would be breaking the law.

So, be warned. And ask yourself this: do the flight crew simply not care whether or not you end up being prosecuted for attempted smuggling? Or maybe – just maybe – they are on commission?

Okay, you can put your hands down now.

Drew McAdam


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