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 Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch

martin FIRST-CLASS FANTASY

BY MARTIN B. DEUTSCH

April 1, 1984 -- Had a good fantasy lately? At least, one that could stand public scrutiny? The probably answer is not just one, but dozens. We all daydream. Eugene O’Neil wrote the pervasive nature of pipe dreams in The Iceman Cometh and as a youngster I was propelled into space by Buck Rogers. (Even now I’d still like to hitch a ride into the ether.)

Travel has always provided a vivid vehicle for fantasy: getting away from it all, starting over, new experiences, different people, an exotic fling. Since World War II or shortly thereafter, the airplane, particularly the jet (since 1958), has allowed us to translate many of our fantasies into reality, at least as these activities are travel-related.

Staying well within this planet’s atmosphere, I flew a fantasy of sorts recently; among other things, I experienced a haircut going 600 miles per hour at 39,000 feet. And while the vehicle for this tonsorial trim was merely a converted 727, I felt the inflight setting and the available activities must rival—or exceed—what I imagine a nineteenth-century tycoon like August Belmont would have taken for granted aboard his private train.

My magic carpet late last November from New York to Los Angeles was provided by Regent Air. We left from Newark at 7:00 P.M. that Sunday, a gracious time to fly since the schedule allowed me to watch the Jets renounce the New England Patriots that afternoon. (Maybe Newark was fitting departure point, since next season the Jets will join the New Jersey Giants in the Garden State. You can’t have two loosing football clubs in one stadium, can you?) I did not, incidentally, avail myself of the gratis limousine service that Regent provides (at both ends of the journey), but the passengers who did were pleased by the luxurious door-to-door transfers.

Seating a maximum of thirty-four travelers, the aircraft’s interior is indeed elegant, as advertised. Very little has been spared to make you feel that the cost is justified. Beyond the glitzy décor, the plane is essentially comfortable; the configuration is both spacious and intimate. My night flight had a clublike atmosphere—strangers mixed easily, particularly in the bar lounge. There was a free flow of people and conversation—no one appeared to be intimidated by the scene, which could well be considered ostentatious. (Regent Air executives later told me that, for psychological influences still to be explained, the night crossings usually generate a casual ambiance; the daylight flights are more businesslike.)

Moving on to the menu, the appetizers were unveiled buffet-style at the mahogany bar; you could help yourself or be served by any of the five flight attendants—four stewardesses and the male bartender. The spread included caviar, cold lobster, pate, smoked salmon and cold roast beef with horseradish sauce. Fellow frequent flyers (an assumption) sat around in the lounge area to snack and imbibe. Or they were served at their seats or in one of the four private compartments (which seat four each).

The main course was a choice of lobster or lamb; I partook of the latter with an acquaintance at one of the roomy tables for two by the bar. (Contrary to what you’ve inferred by now, I did not spend the entire time at the bar.) I was particularly impressed by the white wine: Acacia Chardonnay (California) and a Puligny Montrachet. I did not sample the red and there was no printed menu. Service was white linen, silver and crystal. But of course.

I had two thoughts (surprised?) dining one-on-one up there in the sky. I recalled that Pan Am once served candlelight meals in the upstairs lounge on 747 intercontinental flights. And I liked to escape from my seat to eat. But there’s even more elbow room on Regent. And, this was probably the sort of setting and seating that those long-gone moguls enjoyed on their legendary trains.

We were also offered a selection of fruits and cheeses. The final decision: mocha or chocolate cake? Too much.

The entertainment choices were also overwhelming. At least a half dozen movies (any two can be shown concurrently), more than a hundred cassettes of music and business seminar programming, old radio shows and current comedy routines, plus the normal range of stereo selections. I chose tapes by Streisand and Pavarotti. I never did get to Michael Jackson, the Flashdance soundtrack, Olivia Newtown-John or Ronnie Milsap…

Since some of the customers opted for manicures as we were jetting west, I enlisted for a haircut. Not that I needed one, but I figured it might be something to write about. Laurel, who doubles as a stewardess, tucked me into a special chair in a rear compartment; she went at it like any good old neighborhood barber (okay, stylists). I was relieved to learn she is a licensed cosmetologist (not in any of my dictionaries) in Wisconsin, Minnesota and California. Landing in LAX made the whole thing legal, I guess. (Tipping is strictly forbidden.) Laurel did a nice job on my head; the compliments reverberated for days.

Anyway, there’s my fantasy for the month. Regent is worth a try; the carrier is going all out to give passengers a ride for their money. Go ahead, pamper yourself now. Fantasies have a way of disappearing into thin air.

This column originally appeared in Frequent Flyer magazine.

Copyright © 1991-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.