Fly And Cry

James Siddall

Douglas Adams wrote it was no coincidence that the phrase “as pretty as an airport” never entered the English language. I do agree.

It’s interesting how airlines feel free to administer a level of “customer service” that only the most suicidal elements of the hospitality industry would dare attempt. Can you imagine a major hotel refusing to provide you with so much as a complimentary cup of coffee if your reserved room was not ready on time? I can’t. But airlines do it all the time.

When your knees meet the seat in front of you!

My Comair flight from Joburg to Durban was delayed, because the plane was caught up elsewhere. Fine, I said to the ground crew. These things happen, but could I perhaps have a Coke compliments of the airline, or go sit in its business class lounge? No, said an hilariously titled “customer service agent.” Not company policy.  It will take a winch, a gross of sedatives and a cattle prod to ever get me onto that airline again.

Here are some more of my pet peeves when it comes to airlines:

  • Cramped leg room – Think deep-vein thrombosis; think joyless little bean-counter working out just how many seats can be shoe-horned into economy class.
  • Armrest fights – Mine! Mine! Mine! No armed territorial conflict has ever been as bitter as the one that erupts over the centre armrest, particularly on long-haul flights in cattle class
  • Sniffy flight attendants – When the trolley dollies close the curtains between business and economy class at mealtimes, it’s often with a look as if to say: “Yes. If you’d been a bit cleverer, worked a bit harder, you wouldn’t be sitting back there, would you?”
  • Boredom – flying is 90% finger-gnawing boredom and 10% mild entertainment, coinciding with take-off, landing and the serving of meals and drinks. When I used to drink, one of the most celestial sounds was the silvery “tinkle-tinkle” of the drinks trolley emerging from the galley. Naturally the canny traveller would try for an aisle seat, the better to lunge at the laden trolley both on arrival and return. Overseas flights in business class, can be exhausting by virtue of the abundance of fine wines and whiskies mated to the lengthy flight time. As John Self, debauched protagonist and narrator of Martin Amis’s novel Money remarked, “Flying First Class really takes it out of you, booze-wise.”
  • The “food” – I shouldn’t pander to cliches. I was served a violently technicoloured breakfast just the other morning, and by dint of not having eaten for the past 18 hours, and closing my eyes I was able to keep much of a grey, cylindrical object purporting to be a sausage down. Only just! Chicken or beef, anyone?
  • Disease – Sitting in a cramped, smelly metal tube for hours breathing the same re-circulated air as a bunch of strangers has to be a quick way to pick up communicable diseases. Air travel is also a great way to disseminate viruses around the globe.
  • Business Class Passengers – Don’t you just detest their supercilious looks as you shuffle past them to the cattle-class corral on domestic flights?
  • Duty free – I have only two words to add here: rip off.