Dorothy Boyd, who was Renee Zellweger’s character in the film ‘Jerry McGuire’ said “it used to be a better meal, now its a better life” when speaking about first class and how wrong it all was. Well Dorothy, sorry, but I can’t agree.
Today has me on a 31 hour odyssey from Melbourne to Copenhagen, via Sydney and Dubai. The first leg is a manageable two hours and I think I may have referred to my usual position of being right at the rear of the plane before? On a flight like this one, I can sit anywhere, even in the middle seat, if I had to, but one of the perks of air mile numbers that look like Lat/Long references, is that I can usually book ahead to achieve an aisle seat and one thats somewhere near the front of the economy rows, just so as I can get off the thing faster. I refuse on principle, to use my airmiles to upgrade on work trips and instead, I cling to the forlorn hope that on the rare instances when I fly for fun, I’ll be able to lord it up over the plebs in the back and give the impression that I always fly this way.
On the short leg of this trip, as one of those plebs, I witnessed the hoi polloi scrambling to get their numerous bags in the overhead lockers regardless of the actual location of their seats. Passengers who struggle in late find themselves having to sit with their luggage at their feet, which isn’t the best prospect, even for a couple of hours. Those unlucky souls who will spend their trip folded like a swiss army knife will often exclaim sotto voce “well, SOMEONE has taken the luggage space above MY seat” and then another shirty voice will justify their swinery with the claim that “SOMEONE took MINE first” It’s funny, but you never seem to hear that up the front of the plane.
I travel with the absolute minimum of luggage (note that I didn’t say baggage, as I have plenty of that) and I pride myself on being able to move through airports like a guided missile, from A to B like I was on rails. A is usually the taxi and B, thanks to excess Qantas air miles, is the first class lounge. I can always get a decent meal and successfully self medicate on cabernet sauvignon before leaving this haven of civility and head back to the lower decks, both literally and figuratively. On this occasion, I had sufficient warning of a trip to carefully book myself a seat on the upper deck of a relatively new A380 aircraft, it was economy of course, but the economy seats on the upper deck seem to be populated with a more discerning clientele. I moved through the almost empty business class section, with the air of a person who was just going to sit down amongst the nobs and ever so casually, slipped my small suitcase in their overhead locker. Ha, no fighting for locker space for me!
Seeing the semi detached palaces of business class seats took me back to a previous incarnation when I worked for a US bank. Banks, of course, always sit up front as they are spending our money, not their own and this just happened to be the first Singapore airlines flight on their brand new A380. There was a great celebration in the business class lounge and lashings of champagne to be had. My boss at the time and I had arrived some three hours early for the flight, which was unheard of in Singapore as even with as little time as 30 minutes (with carry on luggage mind you), I have made flights, the airport is just so efficient. Needless to say, our time in the lounge was quite convivial and we were amply hydrated for the journey. We had found ourselves chatting to a couple of pleasant young ladies who had been working as flight attendants for some years and had been detailed off as hostesses for the celebration. They promised to ‘put a good word in’ for us with their colleagues on board with regards to the liberal service of alcohol and off we all unsteadily trooped to the gate with great fanfare.
The business class seats looked at first glance to be a huge leather bench and had an airbag in the seatbelt. They were also about as comfortable as a court bench. I had actually been sitting two rows behind my boss and so, when the seat belt lights went off, I was invited to join him by one of the hostesses who sweetened the deal with a bottle of champagne. I realised, of course, that the seats were for one person, but as they were so generous, it wasn’t a hassle to share one for a while. As one bottle became three, I realised that the attendants in the lounge had completely misunderstood the relationship that my boss and I had and this was reinforced by the staff’s knowing smiles and merry “cheers” each time they topped up our glasses. A visit from the very clean cut and winking second officer who laughingly declined a glass of champagne finally convinced me that they had been ‘greasing the skids’ (so to speak) for the first homosexual tryst on board the inaugural flight.
My innate hetrosexuality plus increasing fatigue defeated the persistent matchmaking intentions of the flight crew and I declined the offer of a nightcap and struggled back to my cold court bench. I then attempted to get some sleep before the inevitable hangover arrived. After a couple of hours, I awoke to the feeling that I had been pulled out of a matchbox to see one of the attendants standing over me with what looked like a swag (for non Australians – that’s kind of a bed roll). As I looked around, it dawned on me that my time in the dock was wasted, there was in fact a completely flat bed, lurking under the hard leather seat. Needless to say, once she had finished fluffing, I wasted no more time and slipped under the duvet.
On this current and not nearly as glamorous flight on the ‘upper deck’ I had pre booked an economy aisle seat, so there was a reasonable chance of at least having some leg room and it turned out that the crew were delightful mix of Aussies and Brits, who smilingly served the almost edible pap that passes for airline food. Without the self medication (I am occasionally sensible pre flight) I struggled to do more than cat nap, but I have survived MEL-SYD-DXB and I am just about to land at LHX where I hope to able to pass quickly through the great unwashed and into the once more rarified air in the lounge for a wash and brush up before the next leg in a couple of hours.