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I’ve lost count of the number of gossip column snippets I’ve read about celebs flying in first class while their kids are in economy.
All too often, naming and shaming is about the optics rather than the logic – and I’m with Ayda Field on this one. To my mind, keeping your kids in the real world only makes you a better parent.
With characteristic honesty, the actress, former X Factor judge and wife of Robbie Williams told The Sunday Times: “My kids fly economy whenever we fly. I turn left and they turn right. That’s terrible. I mean, people will think I’m such a d---.”
Some people will think that – the kind who have preconceived ideas about the rich and famous and the bad parents who – gasp – leave some of their parenting to nannies.
They’re the same kind who reacted with outrage to Gordon Ramsay’s admission, when speaking to this paper in 2017, that his kids “don’t sit with us in first class. They haven’t worked anywhere near hard enough to afford that.” Which is why “I turn left with Tana and they turn right and I say to the chief stewardess: ‘Make sure those little f------- don’t come anywhere near us, I want to sleep on this plane’.”
Given his brood is now the size of a small country and you could probably buy a small country for the price of a first-class plane ticket, this makes financial sense. Then there’s the fact that, as Field said on Sunday: “There’s no interest in raising brats. My kids will know [economy] is where they will sit in a plane until they can pay to put themselves in a different part of the plane.”
People will argue that when these children are already living in such a rarefied, one-percentile world – enjoying luxury holidays, gourmet meals and designer clothing – downgrading them to normal life in this one context is hardly going to make a dent, but they’re wrong.
I’ve occasionally flown first class as an adult, and if someone offered me and my daughter an upgrade, I’d definitely take it. But there’s something uniquely corruptive about that level of 35,000-feet-high pampering.
Suddenly, you’ve regressed to the state of a giant toddler, clad in a sumptuous, chenille-lined sleep suit, with half-a-dozen indulgent sub-mummies and daddies tucking you in, plying you with lemon-balm scented hot towels, and a vast array of food and entertainment on offer. That level of comfort can’t be good for anyone – let alone an actual child.
Twelve years ago, I interviewed Dr Francois LeLord, the French psychiatrist-turned-author, who after years of treating clinically depressed rich and famous clients on his couch had written a bestselling novel, Hector and the Search for Happiness, about what really makes us happy.
Wealth, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, does not. Hector discovers this when he is upgraded to business class. “So the good news is that the hedonistic happiness which comes from material goods doesn’t last,” LeLord explained, because “as soon as we attain a certain level of material prosperity we compare ourselves to people at that level and want more.”
And why prime a child to keep on wanting more?