The Sunday Times: Mile-high clubbing

DJs, drinking and unicorn onesies at 33,000ft? Last weekend we checked in to a rave on a plane

As preposterous ideas go, a rave on a plane takes the disco biscuit. Yet the promoter Big City Beats has pulled it off — somehow sidestepping both common sense and preconceptions of aviation safety to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying nightclub with four dance areas, celebrity DJs including Robin Schulz, and room for a staggering 500 passengers.

It’s being promoted as the hippest way to reach the World Club Dome festival, in Frankfurt, and, though I jumped at the chance to join this mile-high club, it is only as I’m lugging my case towards Stansted that I realise I might have made a terrible mistake.

There is something fundamentally incompatible about the dual pursuits of air travel and raving. One presupposes organisation, responsibility and sobriety, the other… well, the exact opposite.

Check-in for the 10.45 departure starts at 08.45. This means I find myself getting out of bed to go clubbing at 6am. Dressing proves problematic. My usual flight uniform (comfy jumper, neck-rest cushion, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream) isn’t going to cut it for raving, so, after some hesitation, I opt instead for glitter eyeshadow and skinny jeans.

At the airport, I try to guess who’ll be joining me. Probably the girl with blue hair. Maybe the guy wearing sunglasses and gold chains in the morning. Definitely the boy who can’t stop chewing his jaw.

Heading for a rave jars with being at an airport: you find yourself wondering if you packed glowsticks while putting your liquids in a plastic bag. You realise you’re going to have to chuck your booze when security check your bag, and the whole surreal scene comes into sharp relief as holidaymaking families rub up against German clubbers wearing pink unicorn onesies.

On the apron, the Big City Beats plane — a Boeing 747-400 — is a double-decker monster so enormous that it’s parked in a cargo bay. Before boarding, we are issued with a “code of conduct”, including the edict not to get drunk. Which seems wildly optimistic.

“Don’t jump on the seats, stamp on the floor or smoke,” a voice warns over the Tannoy as we go in and take our seats. The usual flight-safety video whirrs — but no one is watching.

We are issued with a bag containing Haribo sweets and beer. The seat pocket in front has the usual sick bag. As we trundle down the runway, the Tannoy voice crackles again. “Are you ready to party?” it screams. Well, kind of.

We lift off. As we cut through the clouds, the windows gush white and people raise their hands overhead. We reach altitude and the seatbelt sign pings off. Two guys speedily assemble a DJ deck. Beers are cracked open. People get to their feet, opening bottles of duty-free rum, and by the time we reach cruising altitude, 33,000ft, the unicorns are dancing. Crowds form in front of the DJs and the aisle fills so tight with revellers, it’s impossible to get down the plane.



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