Thursday, June 29, 2006

FINALITY OF FLIGHT

The airline industry is quite simply, the most sadistic industry in the world.

From the time you pass the last “smoking allowed” zone in the airport, until the time you exit your arrival airport, you are constantly bombarded with “NO SMOKING.”

Your pilot or flight attendant will tell you that smoking is a violation of federal laws and that smoking in the toilet is banned and that there is a smoke alarm in there and that if you remove the battery or otherwise disable the smoke detector, you are also a federal criminal.

OK … I get it … No Smoking!


But THEN … a quick look around shows you … that rather than pay to remove such items … the airlines have left the ashtrays in all the armrests. The smoking/no smoking light … next to the fasten your seatbelts light … is still in place on the ceiling of each cabin … additionally teasing you and reminding you that you may not smoke now …but had it been years ago – different story.



But here’s the kicker … so then what do the airlines do? They convert their flight crew into meandering sales people. It’s weird to think this ditzy stew … or effeminate steward …who has been trained to save my life in the (unlikely) event that the plane will land in water …that this person now must meet his/her duty-free sales quota.

“CIGARETTES SIR?”

So if I can’t smoke …PLEASE don’t come down the aisle with your trolley of over-priced teddy bears, Armani-Gucci-Prada leather-bound personal planners and souvenir model airplanes, and then have the audacity to sell me discounted cartons of cigarettes!

Not sadistic enough for you? What other industry would require you to pay attention to their hackneyed safety pantomime … where they point out ALL the exit doors … and then just open ONE door when you land so that it takes 45 minutes to get off the damned thing, while every jag off in front of you de-wedges their tuba case-sized “carry-on” out of the overhead?


If you had the window seat, this means anyone over 4 feet tall is standing for 45 minutes with their head at a jaunty angle … giving you a neck cramp guaranteed to last you the first half of your vacation!

It all starts with booking your flight. Whether you do so online, through a travel agent or at the airport itself, you pay some arbitrary price, knowing no two passengers have paid the same price for their seats, though all will arrive at the same time (barring any “unlikely” event).

And though you have paid in full, this does not guarantee you a window seat, an aisle seat, the bulkhead seat … well for that matter any seat! You can still get bumped, since it is common “accepted” practice in the airline industry to overbook.

If the plane holds 200 passengers, there is nothing stopping the airlines from selling 300 tickets. Do the math. Can anyone else get away with this? Could your favorite football team sell 70,000 tickets for a stadium that holds 50,000 people?

Once, on a flight from Kansas City to Pittsburgh, rather than be bumped, I agreed to take the jump seat … not knowing what the “jump seat” meant other than being assured it did not involve me having to clip on a rope overhead and then bail out when the green light went on.



The jump seat is essentially a seat at the front of the cabin which folds up to the wall when not in use and faces the rest of the passengers. I asked if this is usually used by the crew and they said yes but that flight attendant would sit elsewhere (the floor?) during landing. I was tempted to offer to allow the flight attendant to sit on my lap during take-off and landing - you know – for her safety but whilst my first imaginations conjured up visions of …



Or …



Or even …



And I realize I am now just posting gratuitous sexy stewardess photos for no redeeming comedic value, but what the heck – I already downloaded them.

Or even …



I quickly realized that I would most likely get an involuntary turbulence-induced lap dance from the likes of …



Or worse yet …




Speaking of which … whatever happened to the image of the eager-to-please, gorgeous, nympho-ditzy stewardess? Yes Mr. Left-Wing, Bleeding-Heart Politically-Correctoid, I said STEWARDESS – not “flight attendant.” What’s next? Calling strippers “lap attendants?”

At one time, STEWARDESSES were required to be of a certain height, weight and attractiveness. Oh, and they were required to be female. I want to have my 2 oz minican of coke brought to me by someone who looks like ...



… not like ...



Oh well. Of course, being married now and probably with most of my flying time behind me, it doesn’t matter now anyhow.

So from KC to Pittsburgh I flew backwards! I had to hold my meal on my lap, whilst watching all the other passengers chow down, many with their mouths open. I did not get to see the in-flight presentation of “Ishtar” or whatever B-movie they were offering. And just what the heck was MY “crash position” I should assume in the (unlikely) event of a “water landing.”?

Alright, so you booked your flight and are not going to be bumped. You still have to show up hours before the flight for the check-in. You get in a massive queue and inch your bags through the cattle maze so that by the time you get to the desk you’re minutes away from boarding with no time for duty-free even though when you joined the queue it was three hours before the scheduled take-off … if in fact the plane will take off at its (unlikely) scheduled departure.

Before you get to the desk … and admit it …everyone does this … you size up your fellow travelers to see if you can play “spot the terrorist.” A quick scan of the mob and you’ve identified 12 turbans, at least half a dozen broken English speakers and three bearded guys who just look wrong.

And that’s just the airport staff. Go through Heathrow Airport’s passport control sometime and you’ll think you just landed in Mumbai. The guy checking your passport to see if you can legally enter the United Kingdom, looks about as British as a sun tan. They’ve got enough Indians running the joint to open their own tech support hotline.

Now once you reached the desk and found your ticket and your passport, you begin to sweat the thought of being overweight (in terms of baggage allowance I mean).



IF your bags are over the arbitrary (from airline-to-airline) weight allowance, you must pay a penalty per pound (or more likely per kilo). The logic behind this (the airlines tell us) is that excess weight requires excess fuel to fly the plane … and that costs money. But go ahead and try to ask them for a rebate for each kilo if your bag is UNDERweight. Shouldn’t the same logic apply? Less weight, less fuel, less money?

Keep in mind that the same baggage weight is offered to a 98 lb. woman that a 350 lb. man is also allowed. Doesn’t the combined weight of passenger AND luggage affect the required fuel? Or do the plane’s engines somehow know how to distinguish passenger weight from baggage weight?

And really, what does it matter what my bags way in relation to the cost of the fuel on the flight which I will board, when there’s every chance my bags will be on a different plane with a different (usually better) destination anyway?

I propose that they weight the passenger with his/her luggage, though I suppose many women would just flat out refuse to fly if this were the case.

But since they don’t weigh the passengers, whenever I fly and know I am going to be close to the weight allowance, I try to wear as much of my clothes as possible … and stuff my pockets with all the heaviest small items. They also rarely weigh carryon-on (which if I am not mistaken …goes on the same plane that they are so bloody concerned about the weight-to-fuel ratio). So stuff that with your heavy stuff too!

Then once you get through the metal detectors, just unload all your pockets into your carry-on.



Another way to beat the system is to remember although they have tight weight restrictions to your luggage … that with the possible of exception of (some) carry-on … there are virtually no restrictions on the volume or size of your bags. So you can take a couple of really long bags …say the kind that pole vaulters would tote their equipment in …. sew them together … and you’ve created a bag so long, that it can’t all fit on the bag weigher machine in one go.

Don’t even get me started on those ridiculous security questions!

The airlines are completely insensitive towards people’s fear of flying. This is primarily because people do not fear flying. They fear crashing. And the insensitivity begins at the check-in desk.

“Will Phoenix be your final destination?”

“Well that all depends on the skill of your pilots now doesn’t it?”


“Final Call” “Final Boarding” “Final Approach”

Everything sounds so final in airline speak, that I am always concerned that my pilot is just a little too anxious to meet Allah.

I saw a documentary recently about 911. They showed how the hijackers took over the cockpit and then immediately switched off the transponders. The transponders are the instruments that send information about the planes speed and altitude to air traffic control.

With them switched off, the plane can still be tracked on radar but the control towers will have no clue as to how high (or low) and how fast (or slow) the plane is traveling. All this begs one simple question – which the documentary failed to ask mind you – WHY and under WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES would a pilot WANT to be able to switch off the transponder? Why was that even an option?

OK … well I could go on but instead …. I offer you my …


Top 30 ways to make airline travel a little more fun

30) If flying to a warm weather destination, board the plane wearing a fur parka, scarf, mittens, ski trousers etc. When the pilot welcomes you aboard on the PA system, on your flight to where ever, stand up and shout, "Miami? SHIT WRONG PLANE!"

29) Half way to your destination, stand up and point out the window, desperately screaming in some made-up language. "DOWWA DA KABUNGA! DOWWA DA KABUNGA!"
28) If the pilot apologises for delays on the PA system, BOO loudly.
27) Present passport control home-made passport from cardboard and paper and a drawing of yourself for the picture, On the cover of this passport, make up the name of the nation you are from (EX: Flogmikistan) and say you own your own island which is technically an indepedent country.

26) Use a coleman cooler as your carry-on. Write on the side of it (in big letters) "HUMAN HEAD"

25) If you’re a black woman, check in using a white man’s passport. Keep a straight face as they look at you and at the picture in “your” passport … maybe drum your fingers on the desk impatiently and ask, “Is there a problem?”

24) Wear a full suit of armor, chain mail, two fistful of rings, a few body piercings, wrap your legs in aluminum foil and wear a set of about 300 keys on a janitor’s key ring dangling from your side. Get in line for the metal detector and walk through without taking anything off or putting anything in the little plastic basket. When they stop you, say, “Oh wait” …then take off your watch and start as if you’re going back to walk through again.

23) Wear a pilot’s uniform and carry a blind man’s white cane in one hand and an open bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. Walk around the airport bumping into travelers and ask them. “Will you be flying with me today?”

22) Board your plane holding a large clipboard. On the clipboard have a stack of paper … the top page of which says (in very large letters) “FAA - AIR CRASH STATISTICS ANALYSIS” Laugh loudly and frequently. Feel all around the door opening as you enter and act like you’re jotting some notes on your clipboard.

21) Bring a coffin with you to the check in desk and insist you can fit it in the overhead compartment.

20) Sit at the gate reading a book. Cover the book first with a book cover that says, “Home Made Bombs for Dummies”

19) When an airline goes on strike (and they all do) …go down to the airport when the stews are coming in to get their last paycheques. Stand at the door as they leave and say, “Bye-bye…bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye ….”

18) Dress as a priest. When you check in and they ask about seating preferences, ask, “Are there any unaccompanied young boys traveling today?”

17) If there is a long queue for the toilets aboard the plane, stand in the queue making loud straining noises …. They say … “Ahhhhhhh ….Never mind” and sit back down.

16) Wear a tuxedo and a chauffeur’s cap and stand with the rest of the chauffeurs at the arrivals gate. Hold a sign that says either, “His Holiness” … “U. Bin Laden” “DB Cooper” … or my personal favorite: “Any young girl with big tits who needs a lift”


15) In mid-flight …stand and bend to look out the window …then scream …throw yourself to the floor and get up saying, “THAT was close!”

14) Once on board, sit in your seat reading a copy of the Koran …whilst moving your lips as if praying. Take out a copy of your life insurance papers from your jacket and place it on your tray table then blast Cat Stevens’ music through your headphones.

13) Take a LOT of notes during the pre-flight safety pantomime. Immediately afterwards, raise your hands and ask a lot of questions about things like the lifeboat seating capacity, can asthma sufferers make use of the drop-down oxygen masks? Can you demonstrate how to use my seat belt again?

12) If you get to your seat before anyone else has arrived who will be sitting next to you …crazy glue his seat belt in the locked position.

11) During the flight, go into the toilets and come out wearing a superman costume.

10) If by chance, the check-in girl says you will be sitting in seat number C4 …just chuckle an evil chuckle and with a smug grin say, “how ironic.”

9) Wear a t-shirt that says “Future Mile High Club Member” and hang out by the toilets the whole flight. When a member of the opposite sex comes to the toilets, send them an inquisitive, inviting glance, motioning your head downward towards your t-shirt.

8) During an overnight flight, pretend to sleepwalk throughout the cabin. Do it zombie-like style … you know …with your arms outstretched in front of you,

7) Stand in the queue for the on-board toilet, holding a copy of Hustler magazine in one hand, and a box of tissues in the other. Groan loudly while in the toilet and be sure to leave behind an opened condom packet by the sink.

6) Whisper to the person in the next seat that you’re going to highjack the plane and take it to … (where ever the plane was headed to anyway).

5) When the stewardess comes around to collect the trash, hand her your empty bag of peanuts. Ask her, “Excuse me, were any nut products used in this item?” Then begin convulsing violently to the floor

4) If flying with a group, spontaneously begin doing the Macarena or the Electric Slide whilst in line for passport control. Act as if you don’t know each other. Have just two people start if off and the others join in randomly.

3) No matter what line of work you’re in …walk behind the stewardess as she is wheeling the duty free trolley down the aisle. When she finishes offering her wares to one row, immediately hand out business cards to that row and offer YOUR services or products. “Hi I was just wondering if you have enough home-owner’s insurance!” (You have a captive audience – take advantage of that)

2) Again, if flying with a group …try not to get your seats assigned all in the same part of the plane. Instead …sit scattered throughout the plane. And for the ENITRE length of the flight… each member of the group should loudly participate in a game of “MARCO” – “POLO”

1) Laugh loudly and hysterically during the in-flight movie – especially when inappropriate – like if they are showing “Schindler’s List” for example.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

what the hell airline were you on? most of this stuff sounds like bullshit. on the airline i work for only certified flight attendants can sit in the jumpseat. they arent about to give that seat to a passenger!

Colombina said...

Hilarious stuff. I especially loved DOWWA DA KABUNGA! DOWWA DA KABUNGA!"
and the Flogmikistan passport ideas.

And, Dear Anonymous, you should ask the hell industry why the hell they overbook and then are forced to do whatever the hell they can to accomodate angry passengers. Even if it means sitting them in the jump sits and Cerified Flight Attendants on the floor or wherever.

Christina H. said...

Thanks for making me laugh out loud!It's been a long time since a blog has managed to do that.I love the part with all the finality and seeming anxious to meet Allah!That and the fantasy flight attendants were the best parts for me!I wish you'd post more!

katiedid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
katiedid said...

Ach, man. Sorry, my comment is so long that now that I just dashed it off, I realize should be just be a post on my flipping blog! So forgive me, I'm deleting that sucker and updating my neglected-as-of-late blog. Will link back! :)

Ina said...

Utterly hilarious! Thank you for a good laugh! ;D

andy said...

Wonderful, hilarious! Having to fly from time to time, too, I have somewhat adopted my (otherwise very civilized) manners to fit with the industry's deficiencies:
When being asked to pay for over-weight bagages, I simply say "no", with a look that makes clear that I am really, really going be angry. I try to look like the average guy back in 1789, in the crowd getting rid of King Louis in France, (I am 68 kg ...thus... why pay for 1 kg overweight!), when being told that my hand luggage is too large (it is too large because the swiss airlines still has these planes in use that has almost zero overhead compartment), I simple do not react and if they repeat their complaint, I just look deep into their eyes, trying to remember my lion-killing ancestors, usually they say something like... ."next time we gonna charge you" and I usually say "next time I won't fly with you anymore" and we both are happy..., when being asked whether I would like to have a sandwich with toona or ham, I usually ask for a steak. When reserving my flight on the internet (not having a choice on the carrier basically, because my flight from zurich to brussels is always managed by swiss), I always choose menues like "diabetes", or "zero gluten" or other exotic choices. I love the moment when they come by my seat, telling me that unfortunately on this flight they do not serve this particular menu... sometimes it gives me an extra drink with bubbles, gluten-free.

Elle said...

OMG, laughing so hard I'm crying. I so relate. I've been flying a great deal this past year and it really is just insane. Thanks for the great post!

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Anonymous.

I assure you it did happen. It was sometime in the mid/late 80's and was on USAIR.

Every crew member had a seat on the flight so perhaps they were flying one short.

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Colombina,

Now YOU are the only one I'd want on my lap during a long hard flight. :-)

NewKidOnTheBlog

AKA MR. Colombina

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Hi Christina!

Nice to hear from you (as always)and I always enjoy giving you a good laugh!

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Hi Katie,

I first read your airline story (before you moved it to your blog) when it came in my email. And how nice it is to have someone else's story to make ME laugh.

Thanks so much for the link on your blog!

NKOTB

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Ina,

Thanks for reading and commenting!

I really appreciate it!

NKOTB

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Andy,

I am honoured to have your comments on my blog!

I never flew Swiss Air. Though I did once fly (BA) to Geneva and flying through the Alps is at the same time breath-taking ... and reminds one that this pilot had better do well on the FINAL approach.

NKOTB

NewKidOnTheBlog said...

Dear Elle,

Glad to provide some laughs particularly for those who fly a lot and can relate to the general insanity.

One time I was flying on Martin Air which was one of the last transatlantic carriers to offer smoking-allowed flights. (I later found out its a subsidiary of KLM - but at the time I half expected some guy in a pilot suit to come out of the cockpit and say. "Hi I'm Martin! Thanks for flying).

Anyway, I was flying from Amsterdam to Newark, NJ and the flight was 8 hours late taking off - the plane wasn't even in Holland for six of those hours.

We took off and flew the most northerly path I'd ever taken (over Greenland then down across Arctic Canada).

We'd naturally lost our landing time (having taken off so late) and had to circle Newark so long that we were running out of fuel and had to divert to New Haven, CT for fuel.

Then when we took off again from New Haven, they announced that this was no longer considered an international flight and therefore smoking - which was ok for the earlier 90% of the flight - was no longer allowed.

We all smoked anyway. Sod 'em

NKOTB

Anonymous said...

Why, when you pass through passport control, and you are technically no longer in the country, why cant you smoke???