Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Friendly Skies Bite Back



By Carol Glassman

The next time you decide to fly the friendly skies, I suggest you trust no one. You know how it is when you elect travel by charter and your air route and seat selection are completely out of your hands. In order to go from point A to point B the tour company will toss all kinds of travel gobbledegook at you to justify the shortest line between two points as the crow flies (a drunken crow, it seems) and take you to A-1, A-2. and A-3 before arriving at B, and often flying you to the west coast in order to leave from the east coast to achieve a travel ‘portal’ that suits them (read a cheaper ticket price for them), not you certainly.

Since you are going to spend so many hours in the air, you might as well be comfortable – right? So you dig deeper into the vault for that hard-earned cash (or redeem those Visa points you have been carefully squirreling for such an occasion) and spring for a Business Class upgrade! Here you find yourself surrounded by the older and wealthy, or more likely, the young and restless traveling on the company’s expense account.

On a recent return flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Miami via Atlanta, I found myself in such a situation. After enjoying the pleasure of the Business Class lounge, imagine my unpleasant surprise when boarding, to find my luxury ‘private pod’ located less than three feet across the aisle from the toilet. That’s right; you know how wide the aisles are in an airplane so you know I am not exaggerating. Even with my short legs, when seated I could kick the door. I immediately called for the head steward and explained I had no intention of spending the next 16 hours under an overhead light, listening to the opening and closing of the door every time the potty was used and being treated to the flashing of the interior lights in my face.

“Well,” he said, “that’s just tough because the flight is completely sold out and that was your ‘chosen seat’ according to our records.”

I didn’t choose that, the airline was surprised to hear. Didn’t the travel company tell me where the seat was located? This of course made it my ‘fault’ and my responsibility, subsequently, to track down the culprit and seek justice as “the airline always informs the travel group of the location of that seat.”

I don’t know about you, but the toilet has never been my choice of location for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even a snack. Instead of the 16 restful hours of travel I had anticipated, comforted by the occasional aroma of coffee or other tempting foods, I spent the next 16 tortuous hours with flashing lights and the odor of, well, you know. A toilet by any other name still provides a function no matter how one tries to disguise it with perfumes and chemical cures wafting out from beneath its vented door. This lemon did not yield lemonade.

One very concerned and motherly stewardess went out of her way to alert the pack, and I will say they seemed to sympathize and tried to ignore my petulant sourpuss by wooing me with all manner of chocolate and liquor, to no avail. I simply could not eat. However, in an attempt to stay hydrated I did maintain a respectable water intake and it was somewhat of a comfort to know that relief was never more than an arm’s length away. That is, when that scrawny little couple in first class was not in there together doing heavens knows what, but I doubt that they were brushing their teeth.

The moral of this story is, call and check out the exact location of any airline seat you book. And be sure you don’t book Seat 10-C in Business Class when you keep climbing! (wink, wink)

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