Bored of boarding music? Air India, try this playlist

All travel comprises two parts – journey and destination. No matter which marketing parvenu cooked up the line, ‘The journey is the destination’, the last one month has pretty much proven that even if the destination is Hell, it’s the journey that is unbearable Purgatory.

The journey, itself, is divided into pre-OWG – Off We Go — and OWG slabs – stretches before take-off and after, the former holding the potential of being as harrowing for First Class passengers as it is for soggy French Fries-eaters, since inclement weather and fog conditions are brutally democratic. Which makes it even more crucial that pre-OWG – when you’re entering the aircraft, right up to when you lift off – morale is high, even enjoyable.

Air India, I am told by hifliers in the know, is extremely keen to become the world’s premier airlines. As it transitions from being ‘That PSU in the sky’ to ‘Move over Emirates‘, one quick, easy, palpable way of reaching that ‘destination’ would be to gobsmack boarding passengers experientially. Not just with a flute of Midas 2013 Rose, or a Queen Anne ethically-sourced goose down pillow, but also with… wait for it… pre-flight music.

A recent Emirates first-class passenger spoke almost mystically about being hit with a fancy ‘nightclub’ vibe as he entered the cabin. It takes as much effort to create an indelible boarding music playlist as it does to play piped muzak. Air India international flights, like most meh-lines, continue to play elevator music, which I associate with stress, delays, loud co-passengers playing even louder jagraan videos on phones, and the sickly sax of Kenny Gee.

But it mustn’t fall into the ‘ethnic’ trap of playing overwhelming eine kleine sitarmusik, or ersatz instrumental versions of filmi music to emphasise that its world-travellers are flying Air INDIA! Lufthansa doesn’t only play Beethoven or Kraftwerk as its boarding music. And Emirates certainly doesn’t fill its aircraft air with Habibi Hits. Along with Khaled’s ‘Aicha’ (Algerian-French), their boarding playlist has Frank Sinatra’s ‘Come Fly With Me’, Imagine Dragons’ ‘On Top of the World’ (both American-English), and the Shires’ ‘Sleepwalk’ (British-English).

To make Air India a truly high-flying world airlines — and give it the oomph it once had when Hank Williams came out with his hit, ‘Jambalaya’ a year before JRD Tata’s airline was commandeered by the government in 1953 – I suggest it tries out the following boarding music playlist in all its international sectors, necessarily in this order: 1. Avalon Roxy Music: The perfect pacifier, with Bryan Ferry’s hypnotic voice to lull you into your seat. I once heard the eponymous album non-stop on loop as inflight listening on a Delhi-London trip. I Heathrowed dreamy-eyed. 2. Heart of Glass Blondie: That perk-up, preferably with the aforementioned welcome champagne, can only be provided by Debbie Harry’s protective air bubble voice, and the spring this song has in its heels.

3. Superstar Carpenters: Karen Carpenter sings this in-the-clouds melancholic number anticipating your plane cruising above granular daily life.

4. Wonderwall Oasis: Anthemic, the Brothers Gallagher put some swag in the sadness and some sadness in the swag – which has to be the theme for all journeys, no?

5. Baat Ban Jaaye Nazia Hassan/Biddu: Fasten your 80s seatbelts with some delightful, happy-gulping, this-side-of-the-Suez disco before you fly over foreign climes and chimes.

6. Leaving On a Jet Plane John Denver: Obvious song to listen. But obvious never had such a good reason to be so flightfully emo.

7. Dream a Little Dream of Me Mamas and the Papas: This delectable, dreamy version of an old jazz-y song already has the cabin lights dimming when Mama Cass sings, ‘Say, ‘Nighty-night’ and kiss me/ Just hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me.’

8. Heer Harshdeep Kaur/AR Rahman: This ethereal tune, given gossamer voice, is a look-out of the plane window even before the seat-belt signs come on. Aren’t all flights really acts of pining – to ‘get there’, or to ‘get back’?

9. Blue Eyes Elton John: As departure (hopefully) approaches, this sigh-song is happy longing for arrival at the other end.

10. We’ll Meet Again Vera Lynn: Evergreen, evervoiced, this (wartime) classic is all the ATF you need for your flight ahead.

You’re welcome, Campbell Wilson.


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