Since I moved to Edinburgh nearly fourteen years ago I've spent a good deal of time on aeroplanes travelling backwards and forwards to London. Over the years you learn things about UK domestic travel.
First, it’s not at all glamorous, and second, you shouldn't read any confidential papers because you have no idea who is sitting next to you.
This lesson I learned some years ago, when I found myself sitting next to someone who was typing up a report on a laptop for his executive team on where to take their protection strategy next. He was working for a key competitor and unwittingly he let me see a significant chunk of what they were planning to do over the following twelve months.
Third, you become immune to the drudgery of air travel, including the ever-lengthening queues, constant delays, circling in the holding stack (or ‘sin bin’ as many pilots call it), and the mad scramble to turn mobile phones on as soon as the plane's engines begin to spool down. It’s not often that anything pleasant happens on a UK domestic flight.
But about a year ago I was boarding a plane from London to Edinburgh and the gate agent informed me that there was a blind lady in the window seat and that her guide dog would be sitting on the floor in the middle seat nest to my aisle seat.
I was soon introduced to this charming lady and was delighted to find that her German Shepherd dog was still almost a puppy, complete with floppy puppy paws. She was called Rebecca (the puppy) and she was as good as gold all the way through the flight.
Her owner was very interesting to talk to and put a new perspective on many things as a result of her disability. For example, turbulence didn't worry her at all. As she couldn't see the fact that the plane is thirty thousand feet up to her it felt just the same as being driven in a car down a bumpy road. Since that flight I have told many people about Rebecca the guide dog and her owner.
Then, last week on my way down to the Health Insurance Awards, as I arrived at the gate I had an amazing feeling of déjà vu. The gate agent told me that there was a blind lady in my seat row and also that I was to share the row with a guide dog. As I walked down the air bridge I wondered - could it possibly be the same lady?
As I arrived at my seat there was Rebecca the guide dog - no longer a puppy and taking up much more room than last time. Her owner appeared apologetic and asked me if I minded her dog being there. I replied that it was lovely to see her and Rebecca again.
Now it was time for her to be surprised - how did I know her dog's name? I explained that I had sat with them almost a year previously. She told me that they travel very rarely - and their last trip had been almost a year ago.
As I buckled myself in I thought about what a coincidence this had been and how unlikely it was to find myself sitting next to Rebecca twice. This sort of thing happening really makes you think about odds and risk.
And the reality is that’s what protection is all about. Thinking about the likelihood of something bad happening to you, how it would affect you and your family, and then insuring the risk.
With Rebecca's help my fellow passenger copes with her blindness. But very few of us really take time to think about what it would be like if one of the senses we take for granted were to be taken from us, or if an accident affected our mobility or if an illness prevented us from working.
And while guide dogs, medicines and other modern appliances can address the physical aspects of illness and injury, when it comes to finances, protection such as critical illness cover or income protection cover could be just as important a lifeline.
So, a chance meeting turned my flight into a pleasant experience for once – and I didn’t think there was much chance of that ever happening!
Roger Edwards is product director at Bright Grey.
The views expressed are those of the author and not those of the company he represents.IFAonline
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