Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Where do you fly to, my lovely?

The jet-set were immortalised in the 1969 song by Peter Sarstedt, “Where do you go to, my lovely?”, about a wealthy young lady named Marie-Claire who led a wonderful life, mixed with famous people, and was based in Paris when she wasn’t flying around the world to see her friends – “the jet-set”. The final verse in fact reveals the irony that Marie-Claire came from poverty in Naples. So who were the jet-set? Did they ever exist? Where have they gone to?

It is said that the term jet-set was originally used by journalist Igor Cassini to describe an international group of wealthy people who could travel around the world to different social events that were beyond the reach of most ordinary people.

It was in the 1950’s that jet passenger services became available, with BOAC launching the world’s first ever commercial jet service between London and New York, and because of the expense flights were only really available to the well-off. Soon Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, Bermuda and the south of France were on the jet-set circuit, allowing the wealthy to enjoy a very international social life, very much in the fashion of those portrayed in Federico Fellini’s movie “La Dolce Vita”.

However, from the 1960’s budget package holidays started to become available, and were well within the reach of a more affluent general population. So travelling by jet plane was no longer the preserve of the well-heeled. However, travel for the masses tended to be by package holiday charter plane, with scheduled flights, especially long haul, still being a major outlay to most people.

From the seventies however a new breed of jet-set emerged in the form of intrepid backpackers who travelled long haul, and to places such as India and Thailand that had been a bit of the beaten track for most travellers. Budget travel trips lasting a few months remain ever popular, and a member of the contemporary jet-set is now as likely to be somebody in jeans with a rucksack, as somebody in a fur coat. Let’s hope that rising fuel costs don’t completely put paid to this.

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