the friendly skies
You know. I travel quite a bit. And despite my best efforts (online seat selection, lucking out with free upgrades, pleading with the gate staff), I very often end up sitting in front of a kicking child, or behind the guy who insists on leaning his seat all the way back within 37 seconds of takeoff, or next to an airline executive who wants to talk, talk, talk when all I want to do is sleep, sleep, sleep. This is the story of my life.
One of the worst airline experiences I ever had involved a nine-hour LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to New York during which I had to sit in front of the lavatory, next to the galley, and smack in the middle of seven unaccompanied, Polish-American minors (the oldest of whom was maybe 9) who'd spend the summer with their grandparents on the Baltic coast and who switched between Polish and English with no warning in the middle of sentences. Did I mention the flight attendants, all of whom were middle-aged Polish women who didn't ask you to raise your seatback, but rather took matters into their own hands, meaning you'd wake up from a nap because someone had reached into your seat to raise your seatback for you?
I know bad flights. Twelve hours to Dubai in the row behind three screaming babies? Done it. Bumpy flights on Congolese jetliners that aren't allowed into Europe with no security checks and semi-drunk Russian pilots? Yep, although my mother doesn't want to know about it (sorry, mom). Flights over the Cameroonian jungle in a Cesna? No problem. Being sprayed with disinfectant and bug repellant by Air France every time they leave Africa? Yes (And you should always cover your mouth. Just because they say it's not harmful doesn't mean there's not a reason the flight attendants cover theirs.) Listening to thirty Northwestern MBA candidates who are apparently incapable of shutting up yap for all thirteen overnight hours of a flight to Tokyo? It was awful, but I survived.
In all my bad flying experiences, however, I have never had an experience as bad as this. Especially not in first class. On British? Oh. My. Oh, MY. Oh, my, my, my.