This is a Valentine's week special, designed to grab a few column inches in the media and promote two underused transport services. A few brave freeloaders will get a night out on the river and in the air, plus the possibility of romance (terms and conditions apply). And the rest of London will be reminded that Thames Clippers and the Dangleway exist, and maybe spend some hard cash on a ride later. Well that's the plan.
Now read that last sentence again. Yes, they really did say "singles and their loyal wingmen and wingwomen", which is one of the ugliest phrases ever to grace a press release. PR agency Manifest London have created this 'wingman' idea as the kernel of their MSF campaign, invoking Goose from Top Gun as support, and then appending a female version to ensure political correctness.
I think TfL are being very brave picking Thursday 12 February for this one-off event. Last year the second week of February was wild and windy, and ridership figures consequently hit an all-time record low. Stakeholders will be keeping their fingers crossed that godawful weather doesn't terminate this singles night early.
There is a very important reason why singletons need to bring a friend. It wouldn't be right to trap a random male and a random female together in midair for twenty minutes, for fear of inappropriate behaviour and litigation, so this way everyone brings their own witness with them and the lawyers can sleep easy.
You'll get an hour on the boat, you and your wingperson, where you'll subjected to a comedy routine and the services of "a CASH ONLY bar". Only the travel is free, alas, so if you fancy lubrication you'll need to stump up. And do try to grab a window seat if you can, because the central section of a Clipper service offers fairly limited views of the banks of the Thames after dark.
This is cunning timing because the cablecar usually closes to the travelling public at 8pm, and the Wingman event isn't scheduled to arrive until 8.05, by which time the commuter rush will have died down.
Once arrived, guests will be rewarded with one return trip on the Dangleway, with (it appears) at least two other singleton/wingman pairs crammed into each cabin for the ride. You can imagine the awkwardness at the terminal as flirting guests attempt to manoeuvre themselves into the same cabin as each other, and then the embarrassment in midair when it turns out that the hunky bloke they've been eyeing up is only the wingman, and the ugly sod with them is the singleton.
It turns out that the business doing best out of the whole affair is the All Bar One at the O2, towards which participants will be nudged after their cablecar ride. And before you get too excited by the promise of discounts, the smallprint says the offer is for "10% off your final bill", so that's a Mojito for £7.15 or a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for £17.30, which you'll probably end up sharing with your wingman rather than any future spouse.
Romance wasn't the first thing that came to mind when TfL created the cablecar in the first place, I'll bet, but an increasing need to get bums on seats requires a fertile imagination. And whilst an after dark cablecar trip for two people might well be romantic, so long as the in-flight movie's been turned off, cramming three pairs of strangers into an aerial pod has more the feeling of cattlemarket about it.
...a bouquet of flowers and a night at a top restaurant? ...plumped-up pillows and an array of scented candles? ...a surprise weekend in Venice at a five star hotel? No, Sarah's idea of romantic perfection is being shepherded with some strangers onto two forms of public transport.
I've read that last sentence several times, and I still don't have a bloody clue what it means. It sounds like the PR team realised they needed a killer sentence to finish their press release, but knocked off early without ever reading back to see if it made any sense.
Well thanks goodness for that, because it would be awful to think that TfL had spent public money on an aerial folly such as this. And if you fear you may be too late to sign up in the rush for tickets, never fear...
Yes, you too can ride the cablecar two hours later than usual on the Friday and Saturday nights, or one hour later on the Sunday should you forget to take your loved one out on Valentine's Day itself. Impress them with some free chocolates, because that's the kind of caring partner you are, and show them the scrapyards of Silvertown from above. You might not be winging it, but London's only cable car comes a pretty close second.