I’m sure you’ve been there. Sitting in the airport departure lounge watching while the Business and First Class passengers board the plane before you, imagining the luxuries that await them and wishing it was you.
Well, there was one time when I was one of those lucky people!
I scored a Business Class seat on a Qantas flight from Sydney to LA. I was super excited to say the least!
What I was looking forward to the most was that the seats go horizontal. I have always struggled to sleep sitting up, my head tends to slide off the head-rest and flop forwards, waking me with a jerk. These days I don’t even bother trying to sleep, even on long-haul flights. I just start binging on movies. Maybe on this flight I may, among other things, actually get a some sleep.
I was also really curious to see what sort of food I would get in Business Class. I am actually generally a fan of airline food, even in economy. So I could only imagine the delights I would get up in the fancy end of the plane.
When I first entered the Business Class cabin I was a little nervous, worried I was dressed too casual, in my jeans, T-Shirt and running shoes. I thought the other business class passengers would immediately know I didn’t belong there and look at me with a mixture of pity and disdain and then complain to the flight attendant that they shouldn’t have to share the cabin with the likes of me. But lucky for me a lot of the business class passengers were dressed even more casual than me (who’d have thought it possible!), in hoodies and sneakers and even some tracksuit pants. Wow, they were normal people after all! As long as they didn’t find out how much I paid for these jeans and sneakers and I should be able to avoid being found out.
Let’s wander down the stairs and back along the aisle to Economy for a moment. When you arrive at your Economy seat on a long haul flight, you will generally find a pillow and blanket waiting there for you. There may also be a headset. And you will probably also have your phone and your book and other assorted things with you. So you have to load book, phone, headset, blanket and pillow into your arms, awkwardly wriggle into your seat then cradle it all in your lap while you work out where to put it all. If you are unlucky at this moment, one of your neighbours will arrive and you will be required to dump all that stuff back on the seat then do the awkward wriggle out of the seat to let said neighbour in, then repeat the complicated sitting-down process. Of course the pocket on the back of the seat in front of you is tighter than the lid on your favourite raspberry jam….. and you can barely squeeze your phone and book in there. As for the pillow and blanket, well, I guess they will be staying on my lap.
But up there in Business Class luxury I had more space than I knew what to do with. There were so many places to put things! There were at least three different compartments where I could store all my stuff. I don’t need three compartments. I should have brought more stuff just so I could use them all! There was more storage room there than my bedroom back home.
I stowed everything away and sat down on my extra wide, extra padded seat. Then I stretched out my legs. Holy god!! I stretched my legs until they were straight and there was still at least a foot of room between my feet and the seat in front!! Now we’re talkin’! And I am tall, so this was a miracle! Certainly beats having my knees jammed into the seat in front.
I had been revelling in the luxury of my fancy seat for only a few minutes when suddenly the partition beside me came down, to reveal the face of my pod-buddy, looking quite alarmed while frantically pushing buttons. “Oh dear, sorry” he said, reluctantly giving up on the buttons “Um.. I’m Matthew” we shook hands slightly awkwardly as I introduce myself. Then he said, “just so you know, this button makes the partition go up and down”. He grinned sheepishly and with that the partition was on its way up again and I was alone.
I saw there were a dozen buttons on the left armrest and they were all seat controls. There was one button that lifted the foot rest. I pressed this and waited as my feet were lifted. Then I sighed in disappointment, as my feet were hanging way over the end of the foot rest. While I was busy lamenting the fact that no-one ever makes things for tall people, I discovered another button that actually extends the foot rest! O. M. G. My long lanky legs were now fully supported, even with room to spare! Hooray!
Oh and the food? Well it started as soon as I sat down. The ever-smiling flight attendant came to me immediately and offered a drink and a snack. She also gave me a menu with the gourmet options for dinner, breakfast and lunch. The food appeared to be never ending. Anytime I wasn’t asleep someone was offering me food.
Ok, so obviously my time spent in business class was quite nice. Fast forward to my return flight to Sydney when I was in my correct seat in economy, where good little paupers belong:
I didn’t sleep much that night (the old head dropping forward thing), and I was hungry. Now when I get hungry, I get REALLY REALLY hungry! It’s not just a mild grumbly tummy telling me it’s time to eat. No. Instead it sounds like a volcano erupting, at the same time it feels as if there are aliens in there eating my stomach from the inside. I get light-headed, I start to sweat and I cannot concentrate on anything except my hunger. ‘Hangry’ is an understatement. If you are near me and you have food, it is likely I will snatch it out of your hand. If you do not have food, I may just grab your empty hand and start gnawing on that. Needless to say the experience for me (and likely you if you are in my vicinity) is not particularly pleasant. This night on the plane, I suffered through hunger pains frequently. At around 1am I went for a scavenge and found an apple. I also discovered a long lost muesli bar in my backpack. But these only held off the hungry monster for so long.
By the time breakfast came around I was suffering level five hunger pains. That’s really bad, like a category five cyclone is really bad. And like a category five cyclone, the hungry monster inside me was predicted to hit with force and cause large-scale damage to the surrounding environment. Breakfast could not come soon enough.
Of course I had studied the menu as soon as I’d boarded the flight, planning all my meals. For breakfast the options were the hot breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns etc) or the fruit plate. Fruit plate? Really, who ever gets the fruit plate? That’s not even real food, is it??
I knew they had started serving when I couldn’t concentrate on my movie any more due to the distracting smell of bacon and sausages. And hash browns. Mmmm….. hash browns….
I kept looking down the aisle, checking where the flight attendant was up to, willing her to hurry up.
She served the lady next to me – hot breakfast. I was all but salivating over my tray table. If I had cutlery already I’d be clutching them tightly in my hands and possibly banging them against my tray table chanting cheerily “Food! Food ! Food!” Instead I just stared longingly at the trolley, waiting ever-so eagerly for my beautiful, precious tray of hot, greasy goodies to be delivered to my table…
At which time the attendant turned to me and said “We’re all out of the hot breakfast. Is the fruit okay?”
Did she just say…? What does she mean they’re out…? I… What… Surely there’s some more out the back…??
I think I was in shock but I still managed a meek “the fruit’s fine” then stared while she placed the little tray in front of me. “Nooooo…. this can’t be” I thought as I gazed sullenly down at the strawberries and grapes and the neat slices of rockmelon and pineapple. There must be some mistake. But through my shock I could hear her talking to the next person “no more hot breakfast, fruit okay?” It was true. There was no more bacon. No more sausages. No more crispy, greasy, delicious hash browns. I was devastated. I truly felt like weeping.
As I sullenly ate my melon (which, let’s face it, is really little more than water and air) I thought to myself how unfair it all was. “Why me??”
And what makes it all even worse… The lady next to me didn’t eat her bacon.
SHE DIDN’T EAT HER BACON!!!
It was only manners (unfortunately I still had a tiny bit of this left) that stopped me from asking her if I could have it. But by then I had sobbed my way through most of my fruit and had put the hungry monster temporarily at bay.
That would never happen in Business Class…