An exclusive extract from Aisling in the City, the new Complete Aisling book

In this exclusive extract from Aisling in the City, the new Complete Aisling book by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, Aisling’s off to a fancy new job in New York, but first she’s flying business class

I’m in Dublin Airport, and I feel like everyone must surely know I’m flying business class. I’ve broken the habit of a lifetime and worn heels. I really had to force myself not to resort to the most reasonable travelling outfit of tracksuit bottoms, Skechers, my old BGB Gaels hoodie and a handy anorak you can roll into a ball and put under the seat in front of you. I often find myself wishing cabin crew were a bit firmer on people who insist on putting their jackets into the overhead bins, taking up valuable space meant for the little suitcases. I sometimes wonder if I wouldn’t have been good as cabin crew. I pay attention to every safety announcement and know better than to put my coat in the overhead bin on a full flight. But then I remind myself that flying plays havoc with my sinuses, and I don’t think I’d be able for people wasting their tiny dinners. Imagine getting a free miniature bread roll and not eating it?

Anyway, I’m wearing my Clarks heeled boots because Majella said it’s a known fact that if you get dressed up to go on a long-haul flight, you’re more likely to get upgraded because you look classy. Of course, I already have my business-class ticket, but if everyone else is going to be dressed to the nines then I don’t want to look like an interloper. I mean, I know Gwyneth Paltrow wears tracksuits on planes, but I don’t think we buy our tracksuits from the same place. I’ve seen Sadhbh swan around Departures in what she calls her “airport pyjamas”, but to be honest, I had enough new bits to get for the move without buying a pair of pyjamas that aren’t actually pyjamas. Besides, if I’m going to spend money on cashmere, I’d better be able to wear it to the second day of a wedding at least.

I’m wearing a new wrap dress, but the second I got out of the car I knew it was a mistake. I could barely say a proper goodbye to Paul I was so worried about the warm breeze whipping it open right up to my comfortable big knickers. I might have forsaken the tracksuit bottoms but I wasn’t about to go fancy and scratchy on the knickers for a seven-hour flight.

Now inside the terminal, I’m not at the mercy of the wind, but as I stride towards the business-class check-in desk in my heels, the bloody dress keeps threatening to flap open without warning. I should have listened to Mammy and brought some safety pins, but the last thing I need is a security incident.

Mammy has told half of BGB about the fancy flight. I think she got over-excited and mentioned to Sumira Singh that I was going over to run the company

Mammy got up at the crack of dawn while I was in the shower to make me a last “good” breakfast. I told her the “last supper” from last night was enough, but she insisted and did two boiled eggs and some of her brown bread toasted. I nearly took some of the bread with me, but I have a feeling tinfoil and business class don’t tend to go hand in hand. And anyway, I’ll get to use the business-class lounge, and my extensive googling tells me that the food and drink are free.

Mammy has told half of BGB about the fancy flight. I think she got over-excited and mentioned to Sumira Singh that I was going over to run the company, so obviously it makes sense that I’d be flying business class so I could get a head start on all my business. I don’t think the cabin is going to be the bustle of fax machines and secretaries that Mammy imagines, but I would say there’ll be a few people being important on laptops. I brought my own to look the part, but I want to devote enough flight time to the films, which everyone knows is the best part of a long flight after the tiny dinner.

I wonder if I’ll see any celebrities. Majella saw James Blunt briefly through the first-class curtain once on a flight to Chicago to see her cousin, and after a few drinks she’ll tell the whole story about how small he is and how she thinks he was having the beef.

I had a few tears saying goodbye to Mammy, but Paul has said he’s going to give her a refresher course on Skype and, sure, in no time I’ll be back with the Oreos and the Reese’s Pieces. The shine has gone off them a bit seeing as you can get Oreos and Reese’s Pieces in Tesco now, but a tradition is a tradition, and the Americans still have the upper hand when it comes to variety. Now, as I approach the beaming woman at check-in, I feel more grown up than I ever have before, with my heels, laptop in my bag, high-powered job waiting for me at the other end.

Aubrey didn’t even tell me about the class of the flight, which leads me to believe she thinks I would have expected it. I just got the email confirmation and there it was. I googled the price, and you’d get a week in a four-star hotel in the Algarve for the same money, flights included. I suppose this is just the treatment Mandy’s executives get and, to be honest, if I’d known I probably would have said yes to the job right away no matter what.

I even managed to get in my good winter coat and dressing gown. The little weighing hook I got in Dealz especially for airport prep was pushed to its limit but didn’t let me down

“Are you flying with us for business or pleasure today, ma’am?” the beaming brunette lilts in an American accent as she holds her hand out for my passport.

I hold the flaps of my dress closed as a draught threatens to expose me once again. “Business – just going for work,” I reply in the airiest way possible.

“Lovely. And three checked bags with us on the flight today?”

The baggage allowance for business class is a staggering 69 kilos, which felt very generous even though I was packing up my whole life. I even managed to get in my good winter coat and dressing gown. The little weighing hook I got in Dealz especially for airport prep was pushed to its limit but didn’t let me down.

“That’s right,” I confirm, and she whizzes my passport through her computer a few times and notes that my visa status looks “peachy”.

I feel a wave of relief run through me as she says it, because even though Mandy assured me that my L-1 was in the bag, I’ve been dreading Preclearance.

“The lounge is well signposted once you go through Preclearance, and you have plenty of time with three hours before your flight. You’re the first to check in, in fact. Can I do anything else for you today, ma’am?”

I almost ask her about the food and drink in the lounge but decide that what I’ve heard is probably true and just give her my most professional smile and glide away.

Úna Hatton’s Lemsip is weighing heavily on my mind. What if they’ve already scanned my bag and found it and this man with the gun hears about it?

“NEXT, PLEASE,” the short middle-aged man behind the desk at Preclearance shouts while beckoning me. Another American, but I can already tell he’s not as genial as the glossy check-in woman.

I step forward and he immediately raises the palm of his hand. “Ma’am, back up,” he barks. “Stay at the white line, please.” The toe of my boot is about a millimetre over it, but I make a big show of pulling it back. My heart is banging against my chest. He has a gun in his holster and I can’t take my eyes off it.

“Thank you,” he barks again. “Passport, please. And right hand on the machine here.” He taps the little scanner on the desk. I place my hand on it gingerly. I hope it doesn’t pick up the sweat because he’s making me very nervous.

“Spread your fingers, please, ma’am. Thank you. Now thumb.”

Normally I’d try to make some small talk here to defuse the tension, but I can tell he wouldn’t appreciate it, so I just try to keep my face relaxed while repeatedly reminding myself I have my visa and I’m not some kind of criminal. But Úna Hatton’s Lemsip is weighing heavily on my mind. What if they’ve already scanned my bag and found it and this man with the gun hears about it?

“Left hand, please.”

I do what I’m told.

“I see here you’re travelling on an L-1 visa. Who do you work for?”

Mandy Blumenthal, ” I gulp. “Event Architect.”

“What’s an event architect?”

“Sort of like a party planner,” I admit.

He narrows his eyes. “How long are you staying in the United States for?”

“I’m not sure yet. At least six months.”

“It says here your address is a residence in Queens. Who do you know there?”

“My father’s cousin.”

“Do you have family here in Ireland?”

“Yes.” I nod. “My mother. And a brother.”

He snaps my passport shut and pushes it back towards me. “Enjoy New York.” Then he finally smiles. “Go Mets.”

I’ve seen enough films to know that the towel is for your hands, and not for eating or cleaning your TV screen

I’M STILL FEELING a bit rattled as I’m helping myself to a third croissant and a second full-size glass of orange juice. Then a voice booms through the lounge to tell me my flight will shortly begin boarding its business-class passengers. I didn’t even have time to fret about being at the gate nice and early, what with all the people-watching and croissant-eating. Luckily, the lounge is right beside the gate. So handy. This must be what you’re paying all the money for.

I feel extremely important as I walk past the people beginning to queue for the regular old seats. Between the high heels and the laptop bag, it’s possible they think I work for the UN.

I’m one of the first on the plane and the cabin crew greet me as if I’m an old friend. I’ve never seen anything like it. I suppose the smiles fade a bit by the time they get to the people looking for row 47.

For the first time ever I turn left instead of right, and there’s another beaming brunette waiting for me, with a perfectly round beehive and an offer to hang up my coat, which I struggle to untangle from the strap of the laptop bag. She helps me with impossible poise and a cloud of rich-lady perfume and guides me towards my seat, 2A.

I’ve hardly had time to sit down and get my bearings when she’s back in front of me with a silver tray and a little hot towel. I’ve seen enough films to know that the towel is for your hands, and not for eating or cleaning your TV screen, so I take it from her, wincing a bit at the delicious heat.

I take out my phone to start documenting everything in detail for Majella but pretend to be switching to airplane mode when the flight attendant returns

“Now, Aisling,” she asks in a soft Irish accent, “can I settle you with a drink – we have a signature cocktail? Or maybe some champagne?”

I’m so thrown by her addressing me by name that I splutter back at her that I’ll try the cocktail without even asking what’s in it. Hopefully it’s not milky. I don’t like a milky cocktail.

As she sails off to retrieve it, I have a chance to take in my surroundings. I’m in a little pod, with acres of leg room stretching out in front of me. A bit of tinkering with the buttons on the console at my elbow reveals that the seat not only totally reclines but also gives a gentle massage.

I take out my phone to start documenting everything in detail for Majella but pretend to be switching to airplane mode when the flight attendant returns with the mercifully fruity-looking drink. I’m about to ask her how to turn the telly on when she gently releases a remote control from below the screen, tells me to call her if I have any problems with it and indicates that my noise-cancelling headphones are in the little press to the right of my shins. She pushes a menu card into my hand and tells me to take my time with it – she’ll be back with the canapés as soon as we reach an appropriate cruising altitude – before floating off again like an angel of the skies.

The headphones are massive but when I slip them on it’s like my pod is suddenly soundproof. How will I ever go back to regular travel? I suppose maybe I won’t have to. Maybe the next time I’m on a plane I’ll be in first class, although I’m struggling to imagine how they could make this experience any more luxurious. I suppose a bed would be nice.

I start cycling through the available radio stations, then I hear the chorus of Can’t Fight the Moonlight, the song from Coyote Ugly! I take my finger off the scroll button and close my eyes. It’s a sign! It has to be. “There’s no escaping love, once the gentle breeze weaves its spell upon your heart.” What a tune. I listen till the end and then remember I still haven’t ordered my dinner.

Once we’re cruising and I’ve polished off my canapés, I note the man across from me has whipped out his laptop so I decide to do the same. Well, I’d be mad not to take advantage of the free wifi

Stashing the headphones, I snap a few pics of the menu. There’s a choice of succulent beef or fresh sea bass. I’ve smelled enough microwaved office fish lunches to know I’ll be siding with James Blunt and going for the beef. There’s a mélange of vegetables on the side and the promise of afternoon tea later. I wonder just how tiny the scones will be?

As we get ready for take-off, I look around at my fellow businesspeople, and my three nearest companions are all men wearing expensive-looking jumpers. Maybe a suit is just a bit much for flying over the Atlantic. Two of them are already reclining with their eyes closed. Their souls are obviously dead to the wonders of business class. The third is rooting in a little toilet bag that appears to have been in the tiny press with his noise-cancelling headphones.

Back into the press I go. I fasten my seat belt so I can give my own little bag my full attention as we start to taxi. I zip it open and gasp at the tiny treasures inside. A mini hand cream and lip balm. Voya, if you don’t mind. A minuscule toothbrush and dolls’ house toothpaste and even a pair of socks. I’ll get a few wears out of them.

Once we’re cruising and I’ve polished off my canapés, I note the man across from me has whipped out his laptop so I decide to do the same. Well, I’d be mad not to take advantage of the free wifi. I can’t think of anything to do other than checking my email, and I’m surprised to see a new one from Mandy.

Hey, sweets, I just realised it would be good to get you into the office on Friday so you can meet everyone and find out where the shitter is etc for Monday morning. That cool?

It’ll be Thursday lunchtime in New York by the time I arrive but I can’t exactly say no. So much for spending the weekend sorting out my executive capsule wardrobe.

Aisling and the City, by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, is published by Gill Books on October 8th, €14.99. You can pre-order it here