You gotta get the right seat

It’s very important – and airlines know it.  That’s why so many are charging for the privilege of selecting your seat in advance.  What to do?  Pay up or take a chance with the 24 hour check in.  It depends how neurotic you are about where you sit on the flight.  And believe me – I think most of us are totally neurotic where you sit on the flight.

That’s why websites like http://www.seatguru.com are essential in order to prepare.  Some seats look perfectly innocent on the airline’s website seating plan.  Go check that same seat on seat guru and you will find that it doesn’t recline fully or there is an obstruction on the floor minimising your leg room or maybe it is too close to the washrooms or the galley.  Yup – thank you seat guru people for this advance information.

However it can be a problem knowing up front that you have a crappy seat.  Let’s say you have booked a last-minute flight and you have to take what you can get.  You go onto seat guru and read that your seat has limited recline and limited leg room.  Aaargh – now you have to stress about that until you get to the airport.  Then you can try to change your seat at the gate.  Isn’t it funny how there is always that crowd of people hanging around with boarding passes in their hands and hopeful expressions on their faces.

Unless of course you happen to be that Double Platinum Uber Frequent Traveller – well duh!  Of course they are going to change your seat – right?

Mmmm – maybe not.

The people at the desk have the power.  THE POWER!  They can get onto that keyboard and click away – for AGES – doing stuff.

You ask them nicely.  Always a big smile – that helps.  Click click clickety click.  Don’t try to see what’s on the screen.  It won’t make sense to you anyway even if you could.  Click click click.  Mmm – does her face look hopeful – is there any clue you can glean from her expression.

You did tell her that you have difficulty in a middle seat because of your small bladder.  Explained it was a genetic problem.  If she could … perhaps….it would be wonderful …. really appreciated… realise she is very busy….etc etc.

Still no eye contact but suddenly brrrrp brrrrp brrrp – and your new boarding pass is being printed out.  Here you go – she says.  Just hands out the boarding pass – no information about where or what or if she has changed it.   And then she is off to the next person.

You go back to your seat – sit down and put on your glasses.  Look at the boarding pass.  HOLY MOLY!  You have hit pay dirt!  Aisle seat in emergency exit row.
Yeah Baby!  You take that you Platinum Double Edged Diamond encrusted frequent traveller.  I am a NICE person and I deserve this.

Keeping a straight face…

How do cruise ship workers keep a straight face when asked these sort of questions –

-How does the captain know where to go? -When the captain is sleeping, who is steering the ship? -How many fjords to the dollar? -I am married, but can I still come to the singles party? -Do I put my luggage out before or after I go to sleep? -Is an outside cabin outside of the ship? –

Ice carving What do you do with the beautiful ice carvings after they melt?
Is this island completely surrounded by water?
Are you sure that our oceanview cabin will be above the waterline of the ship?

Why don’t inside cabins have a porthole/window?
Can I use American currency in Alaska?

I want to be on the port side of the ship!  That way I can always see the port!

Do you have to leave the ship to take a shore excursion?

Cruise photographer – Many people ask what we do with unsold photos after the cruise. We say to them that we put them on walls in our cabins. A lot of them laugh but some of them get shocked.

My favorite one is the couple wandering around the photo shop saying ” how do we tell which photos are ours?”

Flight attendants don’t get it any easier either –  Some comments from our hard working waiters in the sky –

We ask, “would you like cream and sugar in your coffee?” and they hesitate like it’s a difficult ‘Jeopardy’ question.

On today’s flight to Belfast, a customer asked me to help her locate her missing tooth in her luggage. When I refused to get into her bag and search for her missing tooth, she has asked the captain for a complaint letter!

I had a woman in first class take off her pants in the aisle (though she was standing next to the lav) and ask me to hang them up for her, while she stood there in her pantyhose!

And the stories go on and on.  Everyone working in the service industry has tales to tell which can shock us, make us laugh and even amaze us.   What have your experiences been?

So how did you miss your flight?

You got to the airport in time – check 

You worked out how to do the self check in – check

You printed out your own baggage tags and put them on properly (wow) – check

You took out all the coins from your pockets, took off your belt, took out your computer, put your liquids in a little plastic bag, took off your shoes and got through security – check

You put your belt back on, your shoes back on, packed your computer away, whew, put your boarding pass in your top pocket so you wouldn’t lose it – check

Found the Starbucks ….. Whaaat!

The line up is longer than the one at security.
In fact there seemed to be no end in sight

What to do?  I have 40 minutes before check in. Will I ever make it?  Can I survive without a double short Americano?  Can I drink airline coffee.
Noooooooooooo
I Never Drink Airline Coffee by CaptainDFW
Those little styrofoam cups do NOTHING for me – honestly.

You know what – I decided to tough it out.  It was like playing chicken.  The line slowly moved and the minutes quickly ticked away.  I rationalised the whole thing.  Was I prepared to miss my flight for a cup of Starbucks?  Well I was doing carry  on and I had a boarding pass so perhaps I would just become one of those famous people.  You know the ones – the announcement ringing out all over the airport.  “Flight XYZ is requesting passenger Lesley Keyter to report to Gate 5.  The flight is about to depart.”  You know they won’t really leave without you.  Right?  Really?  So finally the front of the line – grab the coffee – shove a couple of sweeteners and a stir stick into my pocket and RUN LIKE HELL.  You really don’t want to be that person who boards last having kept the whole plane waiting.  It is not the way to win a popularity contest – especially when the reason for being late is right there in your sweaty paw!

It’s in the brochure so it must be true

Those travel brochures!  In this digital age it is amazing to me that travel brochures have remained so popular but there is no denying that they fly off the shelves as quickly as they come in.  Maybe it is the idea of three or four brochures lying on the coffee table just tempting you – or your partner.  Wow – that’s a good idea.  A subtle way of telling your loved one you are just dying to go on a romantic retreat.  Tip for the ladies – leave your favourite brochure in the washroom.  He’ll read it – I promise!

There’s an interesting trend in travel brochures these days – no prices.   Or perhaps just one price that says “from $….” which is no good at all because you know and I know that the “from” price relates to that small inside cabin tucked just under the propeller – or perhaps the tiny dark room at the resort that overlooks the cleaning crew’s parking lot.

The photos are entertaining too.   Can you rely on them?  Truth or dare?  One of my favourite websites to use is oyster.com.  They have their own photographers who take genuine photos of the resorts and the rooms and post them on their website.  They have even given examples of photo fake outs such as this one
Capture
So the purpose of this photo is to conjure up that feeling of a quiet serene beach.  So how long did it take them to move the chairs?
Another trick is to have a beautiful woman or a handsome man posing.  Well you know what they say – Sex sells!  So what do you do with the hot tub that looks pretty blah – put in a gorgeous hunk with a wet t shirt and a surfboard (a surfboard in a hot tub – what the heck?) and, as they say in the classics, Bob’s your uncle!
Capture 2
So why not take a leaf out of their books (‘scuse the pun).  Next time you go away on vacation use a little Photoshop on your Facebook and instagram pictures and don’t forget to pout when you take that selfie!
remember when i thought lip implants would solve all of my problems? crisis averted.

And don’t let your friends just publish photos of you on instagram until you have had a chance to edit.

Flying solo

Anyone who has travelled alone knows that it can sometimes be a lonely experience.  As a single traveller it is important to choose the right experience to get the most out of your hard earned vacation.

A few years ago I hosted a small group on Paul Gauguin cruises in the South Pacific.  One of the single ladies on board decided to extend her vacation in Papeete by a few days after the cruise.  When I caught up with her again in Calgary she told me that it was the most miserable time.  While she had been on board the Paul Gauguin she felt at home and very comfortable as a single.  The staff was attentive and got to know her very quickly.  Other guests were friendly and she met couples and singles who gladly invited her to join their table for lunch or dinner.

Similarly going on excursions was another way to make new friends and have that feeling of being part of a group.

At the hotel at the end of the cruise no-one knew her and she sat alone at dinner every night.  A large hotel can be a very lonely place and it’s harder for a single person to meet and mingle.

There are companies offering a twin share. So how does that work?  Well if they have another single travelling (same sex – sorry ladies) then they will match you up with the other single.  So then you don’t have to pay the single supplement – which is all well and good – as long as you get the perfect partner.  It’s difficult and that’s why many companies have dropped this program because how does the tour guide deal with it when two ladies just cannot stand the sight of each other?

Yep – not the way you want to see Europe but honestly – could she just use her own toothpaste and not soak her undies in the hand basin overnight!  You might think this is an exaggeration but let me tell you – familiarisation trips for travel agents often have you bedded down with a complete stranger and it can be somewhat challenging.

It can be like a lottery from hell – you get the snorer, the person who reads until 3 am and won’t switch off the light, the person who wakes at 3 am and switches on the light, the person who talks non-stop and is a complete know-it-all.

Mmmm – maybe it is better to opt to pay the extra for your own room and then when you see that sort of person – RUN LIKE HELL!

Itsy bitsy teeny weeny airplane seat

It’s the story of the incredibly shrinking airplane seat.  Which is ironic because as people seem to be getting bigger the seats are getting smaller.  Check out this handy comparison courtesy of Bill McGee of USA Today.
(Note – Pitch = the distance in inches from a given point on one seat to the same point on the seat in the next row)

Inline images 1

And it is not only seat pitch – but as our bottoms are getting bigger the width of the seats have been shrinking

Inline images 1

As the seats shrink the popularity of the “premium economy” seat has risen – at a cost.  Now you can get extra leg room and sometimes extra width on many airlines.  Here is an interesting chart –  Premium Economy comparison on the Seat Guru site.

Now – there is a lot of talk about larger people flying and how this is a huge inconvenience to regular sized passengers.  It’s a difficult topic and while some airlines are trying to get larger people to buy two seats this awkward decision is probably left to the check in agent who seems to be the general punching bag for all the world’s pent-up travel frustration.

While researching for this article I came across this website –

Website – Flying While Fat website.  This is an interesting read and offers a different perspective on the whole issue.  However sympathetic you may be there is no doubt that a few hours flying in a tube in the air in a cramped seat is not going to put you in the best frame of mind.

TIPS

  • if you can afford it upgrade – premium economy is worth every inch!
  •  Book your flight early and if you have to pay for seat selection do it.  It’s worth it.
  •  If there is an extra charge for the exit row that too is worth your while.
  •  If you are not happy with your seat assigned during your online check in speak to the gate agent.  Remember to smile!  They are people too and you get more with honey than you do with vinegar.
  • If you are travelling as a couple you can try to book the aisle and window and leave the middle seat empty.  The middle seats are usually the last to go – but it doesn’t work all the time (I know this from experience).
  • Cut down on the amount of stuff you take on the plane – bags, hats, coats, books.  It all takes up more of your personal space – especially if the overhead bin is full.
  • REMEMBER TO BE HAPPY!

What would we do without the airlines?

We have had commercial flights for 100 years now  with the first paying passenger on a flight on 1st January 1914.  KLM is the oldest airline starting back in 1919.  In its first year of operations it carried 345 … in a whole year!  That’s as much as one plane carries today.  And don’t we know about it?  We love to complain about air travel but it really is amazing how it has opened up the world for us.
How is this old beauty?

Flying in those days was very different.  First of all you get dressed up in your Sunday best.  My first flight was back in 1967 when I left England with my parents to go and live in South Africa and although it was a 14 hour flight (in those days) we dressed up to the nines.  My brother (who was 8) and my father both wore suits with collar and tie.  Big difference from today when flight attendants sometimes have to enforce dress code just to protect other passengers.

In those days being a flight attendant was a dream job.  Today you have to wonder how some of these flight attendants get through the week.  It only takes one difficult passenger to create a major headache for the staff and the other passengers.  That’s not to mention pushing those heavy food and drink carts down the aisle (they can weigh up to 400 lbs) and then there is always someone who decides to use the bathroom in the middle of the service.

Further grumbles from passengers surround the whole paying for baggage issue, the size of your carry on, inflight entertainment, meals on board…. and on, and on, and on.    But let me not go on…. the comedian Louis CK … sums it up best at how much we take things for granted in this great little clip from the Conan O’Brien show