Friday, November 14, 2008

The view from row 73

I arrived at Schiphol early to check in for my flight to the US: it had been a long week leading to a longer flight.  I just wanted a bit of quiet and legroom to catch up with my reading, watch a movie, maybe sleep a bit.  Swipe the passport and touch the screens at the check-in kiosk….answer the questions…US citizen, Dutch resident, no gifts to carry, one bag to check, no gels or liquids… seat 44H?

Yike.  The seating chart shows that I’m all the way at the back of the plane.  Bleagh: seat won’t recline, 20 minutes to exit the plane, bathroom lines coiling past my seat, the person in front of me dropping their seat back flat into my tray table.  More taps: no alternative seats available.

The agent smiled at me apologetically.  “The flight checked in full, there is nothing else available.”  Mental note: drink two little bottles of wine instead of one to help me sleep.

The gate agent checks my passport and ticket.  She begins scribbling on my boarding pass, “I’m sorry, sir, but we’ve had to reassign your seat.”  She hands it back with 73B written in.  73B?  Are there 73 rows on this airplane?  “I’m sure that there are, sir.”  Why would they DO that?  “Someone else needed the seat, sir.”  <glare>  <smile> “I hope you have a good flight anyway.”

Now, I’m irritated.  80,000 flight miles this year and I’m bumped 30 rows.  Then I feel guilty and a bit stupid: it’s jut an airplane seat, there’s no entitlement here, ‘get a grip.  It really has been too long a week to let this get under my skin.  I sighed, took my moment of zen, and reconciled instead of charging the ticket desk to get Seat 44 back.

Rows 36 and higher got the first call; I trudged to the back doors.  Can you point me towards row 73?  The cabin attendant pointed the other way: “Left and all the way to the front, sir.”  ummm  “…then up the steps.” ooooo

‘next thing, I’m on the upper deck, first class, champagne in hand, noise cancelling headphones in place.  leg room, expanded movie selection, power for the laptop, (undoubtedly) captains of industry and rock stars all around me.  Stupidly, life now looks so much better.

Trivial lessons learned from my eerste first –class experience:

  • The airlines really can make flights pleasant if they want to.
  • Thank god I didn’t demand my seat back from the gate agent.
  • Captains of industry and rock stars don’t say much or move around at all during a flight.
  • The universe is inherently good and benevolent if I keep things in perspective.

2 comments:

Jul said...

Lucky you!

In all my intercontinental flying, I've never been on a double-decker plane.

Dave Hampton said...

'highly recommended. It wasn't quite the experience that Singapore Air promises with sleeping cabins and fine dining, but it was a huge cut above coach.

Curiously, though, there is no sensation of being up a level higher off the ground. Rather, there's a sense of being in a smaller plane because you can't see the length back along the plane.

'also much quieter....