Fourth World Airways

 By John McNeil


A humorous look at the hazards of international travel.



Nervous Passenger
Frequent Flyer


(Scene: Passengers are boarding an aircraft for an international flight. Nervous Passenger is carrying a small suitcase.)

Hostess: Welcome aboard Fourth World Airways, Sir. And you Sir. (Examines tickets) I see you have seats next to each other. Row 10, down on the left aisle. I hope you have a nice flight, even if we have run out of peanuts. (As they start to move towards seats) Oh, mind the hole in the floor. Our apologies -; it's where the hijacker on the previous flight ........... but I shouldn't be telling you that. I've asked the engineers to put a piece of wood over it before we take off, to keep the draught out. (Passengers make their way to seats. Nervous Pax looks extremely agitated, but Frequent Flyer is quite unruffled.)

Nervous Pax: I don't like the sound of that. Hijackers! I knew I should never have chosen this airline.

Frequent Flyer: Don't worry. There's more chance of being run over by a bus than having a hijacker on your aeroplane. The security checks are so tight these days, it's very rare for one to get through.

Nervous Pax: I must say I found the security checks on this airline rather strange. Is it normal to be asked to take all your clothes off while some guy beats your suit to a pulp with a great wooden club?

Frequent Flyer: They have to make sure you are not carrying any hidden weapons.

Nervous Pax: Well I don't like the clothes they gave us in exchange. These look like they came from a second-hand shop. (Indicates clothes. They can be any weird assortment.)

Frequent Flyer: Third-hand actually. The pilot's cousin owns the shop. The in-flight entertainment will make up for it, though. (They reach their seats. FF sits down. NP looks for somewhere to put his suitcase. There is nowhere. Looks puzzled.)

Frequent Flyer: What's the matter?

Nervous Pax: I can't find anywhere to stow my suitcase.

Frequent Flyer: You have to sit on it. It'll give you a better view of the entertainment.

Nervous Pax: (Does so. Looks very uncomfortable.) This all seems very irregular. What movies are they showing?

Frequent Flyer: Movies! You don't get movies on Fourth World Airways. Here you get the real stuff. Cabaret. Live entertainment. (Pulls out programme from pocket of seat in front.) Let's see, what's in store for us today. Ah! The Great Moscow Circus is travelling on this flight, and the captain has asked the Liberty Horses to do a quick circuit around the aisles. The Amazing Hercules is going to make his eighth attempt on the world weight lifting record -; he's failed all previous seven attempts. And the El Gonzo Flying Trapeze Act will perform a triple somersault.

Nervous Pax: In here??!!

Frequent Flyer: It says they won't use a safety net.

(Enter a partially sighted man, with stick. He makes his way up the aisle, bumping into things, apologising, etc. The hostess runs up and escorts him through curtain at rear.)

Nervous Pax: Well, at least they take personal care of handicapped passengers.

FF: Passenger, nothing. That was the co-pilot.

NP: (Screeches) What! (Struggles to get up) Let me out, I'm leaving.

FF: (Pulls him down) Sit down. It's an old joke. He plays it every flight. Just likes to get the passengers going.

NP: Going is right.

SFX: (Old aircraft engines)

Captain: (Pokes his head round a curtain. He is carrying a megaphone which he uses to speak to the passengers.) We'll be taking off shortly, if we can shift the cows off the runway. In the meantime, will you mind checking your seatbelts are done up and your seats bolted to the floor. Oh, and does anyone have a hammer? No? Never mind. (Exits)

Hostess: Ladies and Gentlemen, just before we take off, I ask that you bow your heads with me in prayer.

NP: Prayer? Who are we praying to?

FF: Oh, to anyone who's listening. We do it just before every flight leaves. Last time they forgot to pray. What an interesting flight it was, with those hijackers. We ended up in the Shetland Islands instead of Sydney. Of course, it's not the first time we've ended up somewhere unplanned; the Captain uses charts drawn up in 1842 for British navy ships, not planes, so they're bound to be a bit out.

NP: What??!!

FF: Shh! We're praying.

(Long pause)

NP: Nothing's happening.

FF: It's a silent prayer. Fourth World Airways operates on the idea that if we all spoke at once, God wouldn't be able to make sense of what we were saying. And the Captain would probably go deaf.

NP: I wouldn't think it matters how many people pray at the same time.

FF: (Shrugs) I didn't make up the rules.

Hostess: Ladies and gentlemen, have you seen this? (Holds up a paper bag.) As we prepare to take off, you are advised to read about our aircraft safety procedures, which for reasons that will become obvious are printed on the inside of this bag, which you will find in the pocket of the seat in front of you. If anyone has a spare, by the way, could you pass it along to the captain. He lost his....well, he just lost his during a bad bout of turbulence on the last flight. Emergency exits are on the left and right hand sides of the aircraft, or for those of you sitting near that hole in the floor, just lift the wooden flap. Should there be an emergency during our flight, a black bag will drop down from the rack in front of you. Simply place it over your head, tighten the drawstring and breathe deeply. The increasing carbon dioxide levels will bring you a sense of calm. You have no need to panic...the crew are trained to do that in all situations. As soon as we reach cruising altitude, we will be serving in-flight refreshments. (Sound FX: Chickens squawking.) Today, the menu features barbequed chicken. (Sound of axe on block of wood. Squawking stops suddenly.) Relax and enjoy your flight.

NP: Barbequed chicken! I don't think so.

FF: Could be worse. Last time I flew, they served barbequed beef...on the hoof! The vaqueros had a dickens of a time catching it.

Hostess: (Comes along the aisle, carrying an open bottle of soft drink and picking bits of something off the floor. Stops alongside passengers.) You'll be pleased to know we haven't run out of salted peanuts after all. (Offers peanuts)

NP: Er, no thank you.

FF: (Sniffs them) Licorice flavour this time? No thanks, they look like chicken droppings.

Hostess: Drink then?

NP: I don't seem to have a glass.

Hostess: No glasses. But you can swig out of the bottle - just leave some for the next person.

NP: (Shudders) Uh, no thank you.

Hostess: Your choice. (She moves on)

FF: Oh look, the in-flight entertainment is about to begin. Hello, this wasn't on the programme. (Sound of pipe band warming up is heard.) It appears we have the Clan McGoneghal Pipe Band travelling with us, and the captain's persuaded them to give a quick item. I hope they don't stampede the Liberty horses.

NP: Goodness gracious me, I've never seen that on an international flight before. Especially the mace tossing. He'd better be careful, that's looking decidedly ..... (Sound of glass breaking.)

FF: Too late. I expect the engineers can fix that at the next stop.

NP: (Very agitated) I knew I should never have travelled on this airline. The next thing you know they'll be asking us to get out and push.

Captain: (Pokes his head round curtain.) Hello again, ladies and gentlemen. We're now cruising at an altitude of 5000 feet, and that flock of geese that just passed us was doing approximately 60 miles an hour, or I miss my guess. (Sound of gunshots heard. Captain shouts back through curtain.) Take her up another thousand feet, Jim. Just till we get through the hunting season. (Turns back to passengers.) Our estimated flying time is 3-and-a-half hours, which means we should reach our destination about tea time. There has been a slight adjustment to our flight schedule, though. Because of the delay in takeoff caused by the fire in the starboard engine, we won't be stopping at Marwitaan. If you had been wanting to leave the flight at that point, notify the hostess and we'll touch down and run along the runway at slow speed so you can jump out. Okay? Oh, and has anyone here been to Hawaii before? It's sort of kidney shaped, isn't it?

NP: (Breaks down) Aaagh. No! Let me off! Find me a parachute! Anything!


© John McNeil 1998, All rights reserved.
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at:
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 2, New Zealand.