Friday, 21 June 2013

Come fly with me?

Now, far from turning this self-indulgent writing into Trip Advisor some observations need to be made on the airlines and airports I have had to use as a fairly frequent flyer - well for a teacher anyway. Not usually an exciting or interesting topic but one which does exercise some necessary venting of mild bile, dollops of sigh soaked spleen, and fermenting frustration. Being but an ever so humble teacher as opposed to say someone far more worthwhile or important such as an oilman or one of the very worthy arms dealers that proliferate the region, you find your travel allowance stretches only to travelling on Very Pleb Class so even for a shorty there is little leg room, uncomfortable chairs, tiny film screens and proximity to wailing vomit stained kids.

In the region cheaper tends to be Qatar Airways or the Bahrain based Gulf Airways both of which have been generally OK largely because of the copious amounts of wine they give you. The tiny peninsula  that is the gas-fuelled state of Qatar may be ripe for loathing for buying the 2022 World Cup or providing another  chubby, oleaginous public schoolboy with inherited wealth to be its leader - like the world needs another. More seriously it should be treated  very carefully for funding very dodgy friends of bin Laden style militias in Syria.

Digression. Apologies

I should save my current mild spleen for Doha airport  for its singular crime of lacking a decent bar or cafe beyond the $30 hideaway. It fails to have even one of those sad generic  Filipino run Irish sports bar which litter airports and have bugger all to do with Ireland. One in which bored and tired blokes called Mark sit around with the phones / pads idly wasting time while stroking some badly kept Guinness or Kilkenny, unable to get a decent sausage sandwich.

I have been delayed by Qatar Air more than a few times including for the indulgence of some fat religious women who didn't like their seats in among the alcohol imbibing, pig eating infidel plebs  which meant  missing my onward flight. Interestingly, well for me anyway, the no-nonsense KLM crew refused to get into an argument about it dealt with the whingers by giving them a form to fill in which would of course never be answered. Nice. On the plus side well, chiefly and cheaply, the cabin crew are universally gorgeous and there is a choice of wine which is given out as and when with a cheery indulgent smile. No more can I or any person ask on a seven hour journey...(ponders) well, other than being seated far away from children, serial snorers or folk who wish to talk to me about golf...

Etihad were pretty good too after mucking up my booking once and trying to get me to go to Manchester instead of London - they grovelling bumped me up to Very Rich Class which is normally fully booked by Emiratis and used by them as a champagne quaffing changing room where they exchange their traditional robes and ninja outfits and morph into that most unlikely of superheros Mismatching Middle Eastern Designer Boy/Girl complete with dangling hairy arse hanging from unnecessarily baggy jeans 'cos that's how people dress in London.

Nasty.

Come fly with... me?!!
I have very fond memories of KLM from many years back in the last century when I was able to hitch a lift on the crew bus from Santiago airport at 3.00 am to the middle of town but I suspect that would not be indulged these days. However, back then times were dark and very different - the late and unlamented Thatcher's best friend the equally late and unlamented Pinochet was just about still in charge and the place had the cloak of darkness dictatorship, death and fear over it. What a gruesome pair.

Anyway,  I was pleased when KLM took over the former Battle of Britain and USAF base at Manston which is not so far from the family pile. Despite a few hours kicking around Schipol - the best place for a refreshing guilt free 24 hour Universal Airport Pint -  the convenience means I don't have to endure Gatwick Ghastliness or Heathrow Horrors and then getting down south and east from there. It's great - although for the plod and immigration crew protecting the borders from the hordes of Very Bad Guys who are out to ruin our way of life, it is definitely the sort of end of the world place where you get sent for failing your appraisals elsewhere.

Not a machine gun or forced smile (on view) which pleases me.  Barely a score came off with me a few weeks back including three aging Paraguayans who may have been lost and got gruntily told to move on when they asked in best broken British for a photo with an uptight slightly pissed off-at-being-there broken British Bobby. From landing to the waiting car took so little time the fifteen minutes free parking still had some credit owing. Novel.

However, not having travelled on a first world airline for years you note the KLM cabin crew tend to be older, much taller and well, yes I know it's shallow and a bit seedily 70s, they are a little less easy on the eye, with an enveloping odour of disapproval when you ask for a top up of the not that good wine. Not sure that I approve either. Still, it all has to be better than dear little Royal Brunei Airways who, while they are very cheap,  run a Saudi style dusty desert dry fun free flight (including scary pre-flight travel prayer) which is not good as there seems to have been a larger proportion of foul screamy and leaking forms of other people's children on that flight, more than can ever be considered acceptable or possibly legal in a high flying confined space.

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