Pre Flight Ramblings
Some Quick Observations...
As my tenth trip to the ‘land of smiles’ approaches, a few observations come to mind.
Thirty plus hours ‘in transit’, with a typical flying/connecting time of 27 hours, can take some psychological girding….unless….you are getting to fly in business class.
As one keen observer has noted on a trip to the opposite side of the World, you can’t wait for the trip to end (coach), or you NEVER want it to end (business).
This year Wendy and I are fortunate to be traveling business class – Hooray. It takes around 4 years worth of trips to Thailand to bank enough points to score business class travel.
We always book at least 6 months prior to our trip, and make sure to ‘request’ emergency row seating – caveat – this can mean winding up in the deadly middle row (5 seats) with screaming babies. Yes folks, that’s where they put the diaper squad. So, regular screaming baby incidents can seriously try your patience. Not to mention the ear damage possibly caused by the genetically fine-tuned decibel level of the baby scream, which goes directly to the ‘most annoying sound in the world’ part of your brain. Not that I hate babies, more the parents that would bring any human being under the age of, say, two, to the other side of the World.
If you have scored exit row, (window please) you can at least stretch your legs out a bit. But once again there is a price to pay. You often wind up in the row right behind, yes, you guessed it, the crapper. Second only to the screaming baby in annoyance level, is the sound of the flush of an aircraft toilet. Another tip. The further into the cross Pacific leg of around 14 hours, the skankier the crapper becomes. It can become quite similar to a visit to an old fashioned outhouse.
If one winds up in the middle of the ubiquitous middle section of 5 seats; well, all I can say is, you have my condolences
Food in coach: can barely qualify as food. It is at about the same level as hospital or prison food. My personal favorite is the ‘cuppanoodles” that they trot out in the last couple of hours of the flight.
Which brings me to the flight attendants.
We have collected reward points from Air Canada for years now….that is about to change. Between indifferent check-in staff, to overworked gate crew, to the bevy of ‘surly flight attendants that pass as staff supposedly there to make your trip as easy to bear as possible (they want to be in business class too) We have finally had enough and are going to fly with other carriers if humanly possible.
Flying Business Class:
OH MY GOD. Pleasant flight attendants! Yes, even Air Canada. Double-wide seats, that recline to near bed status. Relative peace and quiet.
Before you even have time to play with your seat controls; “Hello Mr. Carver, would you like some champagne or orange juice? I start our relationship on a personal level. After putting her name in my memory bank (business class flight attendants have name tags; coach flight attendants wish to remain anonymous, and rightly so.
I digress: In response to Stephanie’s request I reply; “Yes please Stephanie, by the way, just so you know. Any time you are dispensing food or drink, I am in. If I am asleep, wake me up, if I am in the facilities, leave whatever you are handing out. Thank you”.
After sipping our champagne from a crystal flute, adjusting my extra-comfy double wide seat and snickering at those suckers in coach, Stephanie will come by and drop off our menu: appetizers such as braised duck with confit, shrimps and scallops on soba noodle, and other such delicacies is followed by entrée choices; filet mignon, smoked salmon, lamb….I wonder if I can push the envelope and ask for seconds?. Even though I will be stuffed, I will, by god, eat the dessert.
The Business Class Care Package: a cute little package the size of a shaving kit containing travel socks, your own toothbrush and toothpaste, comb and sundry other items; lotions and such….I’m keepin’ it.
My own personal entertainment system. Multiple movies, tv, and tunage available.
Sleep: Thank God, yes, you actually can get pretty good winks.
You really don’t want the flight to end, but, as they say, “all good things…”
But there is yet another perk; The Executive Lounge – comfy lounge chairs – free booze – free food – free internet – want a shower? Right this way please.
A humorous anecdote from last years trip:
Through unwittingly flying to Asia twice in one calendar year, I received the semi-coveted ELITE status. Cool. Special tags for your bags, special check-in, special exemption on changing itinerary etc.
I have scored this perk one other time, so I knew I was going to get some upgrade certificates. Four for travel within North America. Two for Asia – Bingo.
But our friends at Air Canada have been making things more difficult (surprise). To redeem coupon you have to purchase a certain class of seat…yeah, you guessed it, at twice the price of their lowest quoted fares, so flying within North America is out. However, Long haul international trips are somewhat easier to access.
So on last years trip we had two upgrade certificates. We try to get the upgrade at the Ottawa check-in, only to be told we will have to try at the gate in Toronto.
After waiting for an agent to show up (along with about six other wannabees) I learn that I can only redeem one certificate…no amount of whining or offer of a small bribe brings success. After a short powwow with Wendy, and quick game of rock-paper-scissors, I wind up “up front”. Sorry honey.
Feeling somewhat guilty I buy some really nice ice-wine chocolates from Stephanie and have them hand delivered to my now plebian co-traveller.
However, we are both able to hang out in the executive lounge. Some small comfort. One more leg from HongKong to Bangkok; yes, once again, me in the land of splendor, and Wendy in the back dukeing it out for the last crappy bit of food being handed out in coach.
Wendy is not too bitter because she knows the shoe is going to be on the other foot on the way home. She just silently harbors her gloat until she has that coupon in her hand.
After three weeks of our forays in Asia we call the aeroplan number in Bangkok, to ‘cash in’ our second coupon. Due to some language issues we actually wind up with reservations for 2 business-class seats for the trip home. Can we actually be that lucky?
Check-in. Eureka, we actually have 2 seats in business class from Hongkong to Toronto…quick, keep your head down, move quickly to the lounge.
After keeping our fingers crossed during the entire 31/2-hour flight to HK in coach, we go to a transit counter and I work my charm on the girl. She indeed shows us sitting in business class together, but I only have one coupon.
Problem. I smile, I tell her she is beautiful, I offer her money. It doesn’t seem to be working. But then, a miracle, she hands over two Business Class Boarding Cards. After exchanging furtive glances we head immediately to the executive class lounge, keeping our heads down.
About 45 minutes later, the other shoe drops. "Would Mr. Bob Carver please see the Air Canada staff".
"Mr. Carver do you have your other coupon?". I plead ignorance; what other coupon? Maybe the girl dropped it. Using the, possession is nine tenths of the law rule, I grip the coupon with all my strength, but when the girl looks like she is prepping for the Kill Bill 5 point kill technique I back down and give it up. I could have used the little known counter technique the Larry Curly and Moe three move eye poke counter, but it too is fatal, and I didn’t know if HongKong now has the death penalty since the commies took over.
So I bitterly fought my way to my seat with the rest of the great unwashed, thinking vainly of the opulence being enjoyed by my sweetie, who is being served hand and foot by the beautiful Stephanie.
Only 18 days till business class lift-off!
Watch for updates starting late January.
Bob (who do I have to kill for business class seats every trip) Carver