Read the text carefully and answer the questions that follow it. Use your own words throughout as far as possible.

Airlines are constantly devising new wheezes1, presumably to distract the attention of the customers from the fares; if it isn’t hot towels, it’s propelling pencils, or beds-in-the-baggage-compartment. But British Airways have surely earned this year’s IATA Award for Conspicuous Daftness2 with their latest lark. It is called Fun-Flying (a more implausible conjunction of words3 can never have been seen since the invention of the Bombay Duck), and it works like this.

You pay £35 and go to Heathrow; you have to be there by 10 a.m. You are then directed to a plane, but they don’t tell you where it is going. Moreover, you have little hope of finding out even when you get there, because you are not allowed, under the rules, to leave the airport.

But if you don’t know where you are going, and indeed can be said only in the most desperately literal sense4 to have gone there at all, what is the point of the journey? Even with the knowledge that this is the brain-child of an airline, so that nothing is barred for absurdity5, few will believe the answer: Fun-Flying enables the Fun-Fliers to buy duty-free goods at the airport to which, blindfolded and gagged6, they have been taken.

It is possible, to put it more strongly, that somebody hasn’t thought this idea right through7. Fun-Fliers whose Magical Mystery Tour takes them to Clermont-Ferrand, Stavropol, Trollhättan, Maastricht, Inishmore, Erzurum or Split may find the duty-free facilities there far from lavish8; it would be a pity to go all that way (and back) to collect nothing but some tie-dyed skirts and a set of spanners. And even at airports where the display is ample, there must be a limit to the fun that can be extracted from buying a duty-free Walkman9, particularly since the same thing is usually available for half the price at your nearest Dixons with the instructions in English.

But those who draw the lucky cards, and find themselves in beautiful and romantic spots, are even worse off10. Outside, it is Venice or Arles, Granada or a rose-red city half as old as time; but for all the Fun-Flier can see of it, as he listens to the incomprehensible bellowings of the loudspeaker, it might as well be Faskrudsfjordur (regular connections to Breiddalsvik, Hofn and Egilsstadir), and if he sidles nonchalantly towards the exit he will encounter a stewardess with a fiery sword intoning the IATA Oath.

It11 will never catch on12, not just for the reasons given above, but because regular airline passengers13 will find too little novelty in the scheme. After all, the idea is that you pay through the nose, you are kept in total ignorance, and you are virtually bound to be disappointed. So what else is new?

(The Times)


1 What does the writer mean by ‘devising new wheezes’?

2 What word or phrase could be used in place of ‘Daftness’ in this context?

3 Why is Fun-Flying described as an ‘implausible conjunction of words’?

4 Why do Fun-Fliers go to their destination ‘only in the most desperately literal sense’?

5 What reason is given for the statement ‘nothing is barred for absurdity’?

6 Why are Fun-Fliers described as being ‘blindfolded and gagged’?

7 Explain the phrase ‘somebody hasn’t thought this idea right through’.

8 Give another expression for ‘far from lavish’.

9 Explain what the writer means by ‘there must be a limit to the fun that can be extracted from buying a duty-free Walkman’.

10 Why are Fun-Fliers who go to attractive places ‘even worse off’?

11 What does ‘it’ refer to in this context?

12 What does the writer mean by ‘catch on’?

13 What are ‘regular airline passengers’?

14 What is implied about the service they usually get?

15 In a paragraph of 60–80 words, explain what Fun-Flying is and what the drawbacks are.

Sample Answers

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