Having recently returned from playing a Festival in Germany, involving 5 flights in 28 hours, via Alicante, Madrid, Bilbao and Frankfurt, kicking my heels in any number of departure/waiting/transit/boredom lounges gave me time to ruminate on the modern torture that is air travel. I’ve broken it down into four main bones of contention:
1) Seat Allocation.
Nowadays, not a given, although it doesn’t prevent the mentally challenged myopic woman looking for seat number 236. I have lost count of the number of times the stewardess has to repeat “It’s your allocation number, you can sit anywhere.”By the time the penny has dropped with these people, “anywhere” is usually in the cargo hold. Happily, some economy airlines still offer you the opportunity to choose your seat, if you’re at the airport early enough. Like before you were born.
I requested an exit seat, requiring extra legroom. “Aisle or window?” I was politely asked. I opted for the aisle. I got the aisle, but not the exit. I attempted to dislocate my knees, so that I might insinuate myself into the miniscule gap between my seat and the one in front. Once wedged, I could observe the tide of humanity coming down the aisle. Which brings me to the next point;
2) Passengers from Hell.
There are several types to avoid, but we can narrow it down to two.
1) Mother with screaming kids
2) Extremely large person
You definitely don’t want screaming kids near you. They don’t shut up. Ever. Babies don’t know how to compensate for the air pressure thing with the ears. It hurts. They don’t know what to do. They cry. You try and put them out of the emergency exit. It’s all very embarrassing.
A word to families with noisy and/or badly behaved kids; If you’re going on holiday- TAKE THE CAR.
Extremely large people can be a problem in several ways. If they sit next to you, your armrest becomes enveloped in the folds of their body. I once sat with such a person and they could only open their dinner tray to their chin. Still, I guess it was easier to sweep the food in…
The second ‘large person’ hazard is the one I suffered at the weekend. They sit in front of you. They like to test the “springiness” of the seat, and, even before take-off, see how far it will recline.
NEWSFLASH: This seat is reclining nowhere buddy, my knees are nearly coming out of your face, and I might never walk again but you’re getting NO extra degrees on this angle!
3) The Terrorist Inspired Mini-Industry manufacturing little bottles and transparent bags.
Who said Al Qaeda doesn’t believe in Free Enterprise? Why, singlehandedly they have created a new market for stupidly tiny receptacles for a pointlessly infintessimal amount of hair gel/toothpaste/pile cream etc. Retailers have been quick to jump on the band wagon “catering to our needs” -thereby lining their pockets. There’s even a vending machine at some airports selling empty plastic bags. Now that’s cutting edge commercialism…Oh, sorry, no it isn’t, It’s a bloody great rip-off, I was confused.
So, there we have it. If Mr and Mrs Grey Haired Anglo-Saxon retirement couple from Dorking want to blow up a plane they’ll only be able to take a hundred millilitres of each dangerous substance in a clear plastic bag, that virtually no-one looks at, so that’s all right then,. We’re all safe.
4) In Flight Food
So called because it’s quickly thrown back at the stewardesses. Most economy (i.e.crap) airlines now fail to provide any food unless you provide them with the deeds to your house, so I suppose I should be grateful that I got “food” at the weekend.
On the first flight, a bottle of water and some cheese “snacks”. On the second, a slice of reconstituted turkey in a J cloth…no, sorry, it was bread. An easy mistake to make. And the turkey looked like the nearest it had ever been to a bird was the woman who was serving it.
Of course, this freebie food is designed to make you clamour for their executive menu, where you can pay 10 euros for…well, pretty much the same thing, but with some sauce.
So there you have it. If you really need to fly, buy your own plane.