Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Joy of Flying

I've written before about how flying used to be such fun. Planes were rarely delayed, the seating was reasonably comfortable, the food edible, the drinks free and the flight attendants attractive and attentive. This blog is the flip side of that coin; a condemnation of the living hell the flying experience has become. My latest nightmare in the unfriendly skies was courtesy of Alitalia on our recent flight to Sicily. I have never flown with the airline of my homeland before, and though several people warned me, I was confident my pisanos would prove them wrong. That was my first mistake.

The trip started out innocently enough; we were met at the airport by our tour representative and checked our baggage with no problem. My son and his wife were not seated together, but this was easily corrected. The trouble began when we got into our seats. International flights, where people will be in the air 8 hours or more, should provide more comfortable seating. We were jammed into three-across seats with virtually no leg room. If the pinheads in front of you recline their seats (which they did) you begin to feel like the proverbial sardine. The poor sap in the middle seat has to disturb the person in the aisle seat every time they need to get up. Unconscionable conditions considering what these flights cost.

We finally get to the airport in Rome with cramps in every body part, and now the exit dance begins. Some jaboneys toward the front of the plane, who had plenty of time to retrieve their steamer-trunk sized carry-ons while everyone else was doing so, now wake up and start pulling down their crap while the rest of us wait. They then put on their coats, check their cell phones, and carefully fold their newspapers, unfazed by the yelling behind them to get the hell off the plane. Unfortunately, unlike most airports of any size in the U.S., the planes in Rome do not taxi to the terminal for connecting flights. Instead they leave you on the outskirts of the airport where you board a bus to your connecting flight. How convenient.

After a glorious week in Sicily, the adventure continues. We arrive at the airport in Catania, Sicily for our connecting flight to Rome. There is a check in line for Alitalia that appears to wind through several terminal buildings. Apparently, the night before, Mt. Etna had erupted, spewing ash into the air and grounding all Alitalia flights. As you can imagine, this caused severe delays the next day. It took us two hours of alternately waiting and pushing like cattle before reaching the check-in station. We thought we were home free only to learn that my son and his wife were bumped from the flight. They caught a later flight to Rome but our plane to the U.S. had already taken off. Alitalia put them up in the Italian equivalent of a Red Roof Inn and they arrived in New York a day late.

When Jasmine and I boarded the flight, we learned that not only were we not seated together, but both of us had been assigned middle seats behind more of those thoughtful, reclining passengers. On that endless flight I learned to read, sleep and eat a meal without moving my arms. I couldn't even plug in my earphones without disturbing the people on either side. The flight attendants made themselves scarce, so if you needed anything like an anesthetic, you were S.O.L. If I'm ever lucky enough to make another trans-Atlantic trip, I swear I am going first-class.

Here's the moral to this story: if your doctor every gives you 24 hours to live, spend it on will seem a lifetime!


Children's Craniofacial Association

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