Dispatch from thousands of feet in the air

I am writing this, because I think it may interest a few people of my acquaintance (by which I mean grandparents), from the plane (and posting it later).

I was supposed to fly out yesterday evening on a direct flight from Ottawa to Edmonton after my week-long serious-type family visit; however, Air Canada in their infinite wisdom (read: infinite desire to make as much money as possible by not having any empty seats) overbooked my flight by three (3). So the agent asked for volunteers and, after waiting to see that nobody was desperate to accept the inconvenience of flying the next day in exchange for the many perks that such an opportunity offers (to be discussed shortly), I stepped forward along with two others. Owing to the fact that we were each travelling alone and in no particular hurry, we did not feel very much inconvenienced, and our reward was as follows:

-flight of our choice to Edmonton the next day
-seat selection
-upgrade to executive class (which includes access to the executive lounge at the airport)
-dinner voucher redeemable for up to 15$ that evening (i.e. last night) at any Ottawa Airport food vendor
-complimentary taxi service to hotel or, in my case, chez les parents
-complimentary overnight stay in hotel (which I was able to decline)
-200$ voucher redeemable within one year towards any journey with Air Canada

This last was of course the deciding factor for me. Here I am, thinking, how am I going to afford to go to Scotland again next summer? Well, that voucher will sure help! On the other hand, there are a certain number of relatives who are at this time quite ill; more serious family-type visits may also need to be made later this year or early next year (who knows?!)

Anyway, here I am today flying executive class, where the food and drinks (including alcohol) are free, the napkins are linen (with a buttonhole), the cutlery stainless steel, the seats comfy and the space around them generous, and where they ACTUALLY HAND OUT HOT TOWELS. And while visiting the executive lounges at both Ottawa and Pearson Airports, I was able to use the wireless internet for free, help myself to snacks, drinks and magazines, relax in comfortable chairs, use clean and spacious toilets, all while studiously avoiding the stares of countless business executives and other very important travellers.

An interesting and luxurious experience, to be sure, but I do not know if I would want to do this all the time. For starters, I cannot by any stretch of the imagination afford it. Secondly, even if I could afford it, I would have to object based on the grounds that is extremely environmentally-unfriendly to have an executive class (apart from the reusable dishes and napkins). This plane could have ten more people on it, if all the seats were the same, instead of creating another flight for those left off this one. Plus, all the stuff like hot towels, complimentary newspapers and magazines, endless packets of roasted salted almonds- not exactly encouraging minimal waste, are we? (And on international flights it is much more extreme: executive class consists of what can only be described as lounge chairs, situated diagonally to the walls, where they supply you with shaving kits and sleep masks and god knows what else.) It might be hypocritical of me to say that while enjoying that very luxury, and I will admit to feeling a teensy-weensy bit bad about it- but on the other hand, it is an adventure, and now I know what it's like, and I can write about it and tell others about it. And it is unlikely that I will ever be in this situation ever again, so I am trying to enjoy it.

To me though, the most annoying thing about air travel isn't the cramped spaces or the shitty food or the other people or the presence or absence of certain perks; it is the noise! Forget about having to turn the volume on your iPod way up, or not being able to sleep easily, or any of that (though those are tiresome of course). The noise from the engine and whatever else it is, the air passing by at high speed or whatever, is actually kind of deafening and probably effects some sort of permanent hearing-loss in frequent flyers. And that noise is something you are exposed to regardless of what section of the plane you are seated in. Gah!

11:14 p.m. - 2008-08-25


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