There’s a fabulously curmudgeonly moment in the television series The West Wing, where the President’s old-fashioned chief of staff Leo McGarry begrudges the development of the Internet as merely a slightly-more-efficient delivery system for pornography and gossip. ‘My generation never got the future it was promised,’ he complains to his youthful deputy, Josh Lyman. ‘Where’s my jet pack, my colonies on the Moon? We don’t even have Concorde any more.’
McGarry is right – sort of. Science fiction did indeed mislead us. Three-dimension TV and more-real-than-life computer games may lull us into believing that we exist in a zippy new multi-chromatic age, but the truth is that we don’t. Buses are still late. Rain still leaks into our shoes. And no one, not even Neil Armstrong, lives on or even near the Moon.
Yet there is one way of reconnecting with your inner Jetson, minus the jet-pack. They are called Yotels, and they may well be the best concept that anyone, anywhere, has come up with since someone decided, at some point in the early 1980s, that delivering pre-sliced pizza was a pretty darned good idea.
Yotels, in case you haven’t heard of them (and you probably haven’t, at least not yet) are the brainchild of serial entrepreneur and Yo! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe. The concept is wonderfully simple. Let’s say you have one of those flights that leave at a stupendously ridiculous hour of the morning – say, 5.30am. You can’t get a train to the airport (none are running yet); you’re disinclined to hand sixty of your hard-earned pounds (or a commensurate number of dollars or euros) to a whining taxi driver. The only other choice, it seems, is to slum it in the airport overnight, meaning that you are forced to fly, exhausted and tetchy to Berlin (or Rome, or Hong Kong, or Santiago) in the same grundy undies from the day before.
But – wait! There is another option, and a cool, space-agey one at that. They are called Yotel pods, or Yopods, as they probably should be known. Yotels’ pods can be found at three airports – Heathrow and Gatwick in London, Schiphol in Amsterdam, as well as on Tenth Avenue in New York City. The concept of them is pretty simple. You book yourself into a pod, at any time of day – the minimum length of time you can stay in a single pod is four hours – and that stretch of time, on a Saturday night, will set you back between £46 and £84.50.
The pods themselves are funktastic. They are modeled on British Airways’ first-class cabins, retaining the look and feel, and even the compact luxury, of having everything within easy reach. Everything is white, moulded plastic straight out of Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century, from the bed, which can be electronically raised-and-lengthened, depending on whether you want to sleep or potter about. There’s ample storage room for your luggage, a desk, and a bijou bathroom complete with power-shower. Blinds can be raised or lowered depending on whether you want privacy or not, and the Yotel staff (Debasis, at the Gatwick Yotel, was an absolute star, waking us up at 4am with steaming coffee and buns before our flight to Portugal) will cater to pretty much every need.
Checking in is a cinch, too. A swipe card allows you in and out of the pod, which is surprisingly quiet, given that is surrounded by other little pods. And all the while there is this lingering sense that somehow you are getting both fabulous value for money (perhaps this is due to a sense that you really are in a high-end British Airways cabin), and that you are living the sort of uber-cool futuristic sci-fi world that Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury imagined for us, back in the 1950s and Sixties.
The truth, of course, is that none of us got our jetpacks, even The West Wing’s Leo McGarry. We didn’t get to walk on Mars, let alone float in stasis around Saturn’s spectacular rings, while watching the Sun rise millions of miles away. None of that happened. But in Yotel’s Yopods, you can get a little glimpse of the future-that-never-was – minus, thank goodness the snug Buck Rogers dancing pants – at a thoroughly reasonable cost. And you can even have a shower, safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to fly to Timbuctu in the morning wearing yesterday’s underwear. How’s that for a pretty cool deal.
For more information visit www.yotel.com  – minimum booking is 4 hours. Prices are exceptionally good value and start from £47