A New Look at Air Travel

>> Thursday, July 8, 2010

Recently, I took a plane flight to Cairo, Egypt from JFK airport in New York.  At first blush, the only part of that previous sentence that might sound even slightly exotic is the destination.  After all, I have flown overseas before.  In fact, I have flown further, longer, and any other "er" that might apply ... except "colder."  I do not believe I have ever been on a flight that was colder.

We were flying on a foreign carrier, which led to a lot of interesting observations on my part.  Early on, I noted that several members of the crew spoke only the most halting of English when they provided the English translation of whatever-it-was they just said in Arabic.  Quite apparently, the chief flight attendant and the pilot each had a sheet of words they were reading, with the most entertaining of pauses and long gaps while they apparently struggled to figure out how to pronounce something.  William Shatner has nothing on that pilot.

(As a side note, I also noted that the little cartoon man on the TV screen demonstrating the safety features of the aircraft had a unibrow.  I was not aware that a unibrow was a trendy or desirable facial feature in any culture, but I must be mistaken.  No one "goofs" and inserts a unibrow into a cartoon man.  That brow had to be intentional.)

Of course, while we were proceeding to taxi from JFK down the Jersey turnpike to Trenton for takeoff, I had the misfortune to recall some documentary channel expose' about the number of foreign pilots maneuvering large aircraft at major US airports without sufficient English to understand the air traffic controllers.  While we made a series of seemingly infinite turns, I fervently hoped that our pilot was not one of these.  After all, we were delayed pulling away from the gate because one of the passengers chickened out.  We had to wait while she and her party deplaned and while the baggage handlers identified and offloaded their luggage.  I couldn't help but wonder what she knew that I didn't.

As it turns out, she may have taken a look at the large number of children under 5 on the flight and determined that one or several of them were bound to cry the entire way across the Atlantic Ocean.  She would have been fairly accurate.  My only question was whether she also realized that the young baby in the front, right hand side of the airplane would sound an awful lot like a cat when it cried. 

Still, there were more differences.  I knew I was on a "foreign" airline because the food was good -- really good.  I don't know when I've ever had good food on an airplane before that day.  Drinks, on the other hand, were a little on the skimpy side.  The flight attendants were serving beverages out of big plastic containers that looked to be somewhere between a one-liter and a two-liter bottle.  Nobody got their own cans, and the little cups we were provided looked to be about the size of the Dixie cups in my mother's guest bathroom.  All four of us were sitting across the center, so Darling Husband and I were serviced from the cart on one side while Niece and Mother were served from the other.  We had the choice of all kinds of exotic juices, including hibiscus juice.  (Interesting.)  We also seemed to have a very wide selection of sodas from which to choose.  I figured I'd play it safe.  I asked for a Diet Pepsi (they seemed to be serving Pepsi products.) 

Oops, sorry.  No Diet Pepsi.  I can have regular, though.

Okay.  Regular is fine.  Maybe where we are going diet sodas will be hard to come by.  I can live with that.  I think I see a diet 7-up or something on the cart, but I'll go with regular Pepsi. 

Along comes the cart down the other side, and people on Mother/Niece's side of the aircraft are getting Diet  Pepsi!  Hey!  What's up with that?  No shouting across the aisle and passing drinks like on U___ Airlines back home? 

At that moment, I realized I was experiencing something new.  Good food, small drinks, and I take what they have on hand.  I could make an obnoxious fuss and give Americans a bad name, or I could just drink my Pepsi and move on with it.  I moved on and quickly began taking notes for my blog.  Obviously, I was going to learn/observe an awful lot on this trip, and I might be diet soda deprived before too long, so I'd better get started before the withdrawal symptoms set it.

PS -- after flying subsequent domestic flights on the same airline, out over the desert, I have decided that the purpose of the small drink cups is to deliberately dehydrate the passengers so that they spend  less time in the restrooms.  I think they want to make sure the passengers save up their bathroom tips for the ground where there are people to hand over toilet paper for one Egyptian Pound tip.  (If that sentence didn't make any sense to you, you need to read this post from two days ago; and keep up, will ya?)  This bathroom conspiracy may even be part of an economic stimulus package.  Also, on overseas flights, it saves on massive amounts of cleaning of the restrooms.  Airline passengers are pretty sloppy.

Also, I learned shortly after arriving in Egypt that our flight was the coldest on record for a reason.  All air conditioners all across the country are continuously turned to "extra-super-duper-high."  I'm not even sure the air conditioners in my own home town in Virginia even GO that high.  Egyptians sure love their air conditioning.  Whew!

For more on this dramatic flight, you should check out the thoughts of Niece, who also has a flair for the comic:  http://sarahdell.blogspot.com/2010/07/day-one.html


Dazee Dreamer July 8, 2010 at 9:48 AM  

maybe they just don't want people joining the mile high club :O

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