On Plane Travel

As announced, the Bushsnob has moved continent (if not hemisphere) and is now in Latin America, more precisely in Uruguay. This feels like an achievement considering the rather grueling plane trip endured to get here. Nothing wrong with the flying itself but a lot to be desired on the issue of room on board!

I was taught at school -and confirmed later through various reliable sources- that slaves were packed and transported in ships in the most atrocious of conditions and I fully support the end of the slave trade.* I do believe in racial equality but surely that does not mean that to show it, individuals of all races should be packed tightly together on a plane!

The amount of personal space available on board is so small that it is becoming almost inexistent! The real issue, however, is where does this stop? I am sure that engineers are currently busy trying to find ways of packing more passengers per cubic metre! Are profits so small that stuffing 20 more passengers makes such a difference? Or is it greed?

Whatever the reason, it seems that human air transportation is moving towards modern slavery so perhaps “Ecoslave” could be an appropriate name for the lowest air travel variety? It brings in the “Eco” for ecology and economy as well as the egalitarian tight human packaging.

I am aware that plane configuration varies between airlines and that my comment may not apply to all. However, there seem to be some general rules: (i) the further south you travel, the poorer the service and, (ii) the larger the plane, the less individual space available. Although our flight to Africa last April was acceptable on a smaller Airbus A330, the return on a much larger A340 was very uncomfortable.

Trapped in a narrow seat made of materials with sharp ends, you are completely dependent of the passenger in front of you. The moment he/she decides to recline the seat (as is their right as a flyer) this will not only change the angle of your video screen but also spill whatever plastic food and drink you had been given! In addition, gone are the 2 cm of knee room you cherished to keep the blood in your ageing arteries from clotting and the normal leg ageing process accelerates for the hours you have to endure the trip.

As if restraint by folding seat would not be enough, your plastic table also aids in keeping you clasped-in until the remains of your meal are withdrawn. As a rule, turbulence starts at the time when drinks and food are served, so clasped-in time can be rather long (sometimes as long as the time your food takes to be digested!).. I sometimes believe that pilots have a “Turb” knob that they turn with relish to keep passengers from moving too much!

After the turbulence subsides, you eat your meal and, while waiting for freedom from the clinching table to arrive in the form of the withdrawal of your tray, a fleeting thought that says “toilet” appears in your pressurized brain. While still waiting for your corset to be removed, this thought becomes a more urgent “TOILET” until your stewardess, aware of your agonic look, finally removes your tray. She does this with the same smile that she would have when telling you to remove your shoes before using the slide in a sea landing!

What comes next is a challenge to your physical and mental strength. You need a toilet but your legs are numb so a waiting period accompanied by vigorous massage to re-establish blood circulation is required. Once you regain the feeling in your legs it is time for the next step: the exit from your seat. To achieve it, you move sideways keeping your legs on the floor and your torso behind the seat in front of you, avoiding hitting your head against the bottom of the overhead luggage compartment and also to annoy the occupant in front of you. A contortionist act worthy of Houdini!

Once in the passageway you try to walk naturally towards your target while counting the minutes you can still hold on! Your innards freeze when you see the queue and this actually helps you wait, at least for a short while. Then, to distract your mind from your urges, you look around. What you see if the final blow to your already impoverished situation: while your plane section (seats 41 to 60) is packed chock a block, passengers in the other ones are comfortably sleeping across three seats! You swear at the stupidity of being clever while choosing your seat and promise yourself -knowing that you will never dare to do it- that next time you will go to the airport and get your seat allocated there.

Your angry thoughts are briskly interrupted as the toilet door opens and it is your turn! The relief that follows is so great that -like I am told happens during childbirth- all is forgotten afterwards and you face the return to your clamp with renewed enthusiasm. After all, you only have another eight hours to go!


* Disclaimer: I am in no way making light of the slave trade or the circumstances endured by slaves, but rather over dramatising an event that I experienced (in true Bushsnob fashion!)

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