Friday, July 11, 2014

Passenger of the Day: Karma Airlines

Mr. Sir stepped on board the full 737 and immediately started in on the customer service agent who was standing in the galley drinking a cup of water and chatting with the flight attendant. “I'm NOT going to check this bag and you can't make me!” he demanded. The agent slowly turned his gaze to the man and took a drink of water. He said nothing and continued his conversation with the flight attendant.

Mr. Sir was a tall and broad man. I was happy he was not seated next to me. Next to me was a demure and quite attractive young black woman, who spent nearly the entire flight reading a book; one of the best kinds of seat mates there are...besides an invisible one! He wasn't next to me, but he and his wife were behind me. He sported a very full beard, nearly white, to match his hair. He looked to me like a Harley rider, one of the cookie-cutter variety, big, intimidating, hairy, like so many I used to know when I was the GM of a dealership. He probably carried a rifle in his arm and Jesus on his sleeve and his mind would be as open as a gift shop on Christmas Day.

Looking to store their luggage, the two of them began opening overhead bins, since most were closed now that we were only moments from the time when we are supposed to be pushing back from the gate. I thought I had seen an open spot over 3C, and mentioned this to the wife, but when she opened it, there was no room. I made an apology, but she didn't seem to hear as she continued her search. I was getting frustrated in watching them, so I turned my gaze out the window to watch the ramp workers load bags onto the plane, instead- I supposed there was a good reason they place every bag on its belly and not its back. Mr. Sir asked his wife if she wanted the window or the aisle, and her decision placed her immediately behind me.

This really began my in flight entertainment. The two began a conversation of complaints that would last over an hour: Airline booked their flights so they had to come from one end of the terminal to the other to catch this flight. He noted that even had their arriving flight been on time, boarding for this flight would have commenced before they were scheduled to reach the gate, so it was a good thing this flight was running late, too. I thought to myself, yeah, Airline sits there and schedules gates just for you, knowing you needed the exercise. “Well, at least this flight will be safer than that last.” she responded. “Let's hope so.” I wondered what was so unsafe about their last flight.

I tried to block them out as best I could, watching the goings on out my exit row window. Soon I could see us enter the penalty box and I knew something was up. Sure enough, we came to a stop and the engines shut down. The captain came on the PA and informed us that air traffic control (ATC) had given us a ground hold due to weather and needing to space out incoming aircraft to SFO. We would be delayed for an hour, however, that can often be altered and we could be taking off sooner. Not on this trip. We'd be there for the full hour and I'd be listening to Mr. Sir and his wife complain and make calls altering their hotel and rental car agreements.

Mr. Sir now blamed Airline for this delay. I wanted to turn around to inform him that an ATC delay had nothing to do with airline, but I knew that would be futile and would most likely only enrage him further. I kept silent and just listened. I didn't want to, but his voice was so loud. “Airline should buy all our drinks for this kind of delay.” he demanded.

The flight attendant made an announcement that due to the delay, the satellite TV system would be complimentary. Soon, it was determined that several TVs were not working properly, so the system was re-set. The re-set did little good and from my seat I could see there were a few not working. I quickly found out that Mr. Sir's was among these. Of course he complained again, “What a great airline, they promise free TV for everyone, but not us.”

When the hour was up we were quickly racing down the runway and alighted from Dulles Airport. The complaints came to an end. When the drink cart arrived to his seat, he ordered 2 rums and 2 Baileys. The flight attendant kept to company regulations, telling Mr. Sir that we are only allowed to serve one drink at a time. While an actual company policy at Airline, it's one mostly ignored by flight attendants. Mr. Sir acquiesced and then, the flight attendant made my day by charging him.

It was later, in flight, when hanging out in the galley, when I found out about Mr. Sir's attitude when boarding the plane and I also heard that he was the only one they charged for alcohol on the first round of drinks. So it's true, bees really do get more honey with sugar!

About 3 hours into the flight, his wife starts bumping my seat at regular intervals; slamming into it, pushing the seatback forward, bumping it. It began driving me insane. It would let up for about 10 minutes, then start again. Finally, at wit's end and fearing for what I was about to start, I undid my seat belt and turned to face his wife. I smiled and I politely asked, “Is everything OK?” “Who me?” she asked. “Yeah, there seems to be something wrong and I thought I'd check to see if you're OK. You keep hitting the back of my seat. Can I get you anything?” She said she was about to go berserk and was ready to get off this airplane, and Mr. Sir interjected that it had been a very long day. I casually glanced at him and then back to her, “Well, let me know if I can get you anything. We've got about 40 minutes left of flying time and we'll be on the ground soon.” She thanked me and I took my seat happy that it went so well and that I decided not to change out of uniform for the flight.

Finally, we arrived at our gate in San Francisco. As his wife apologized to me for the seat, Mr. Sir scolded another passenger for not knowing how to deplane, “You're supposed to wait for the people ahead of you to get out first!” At least this infraction kept his attention from me, as I had about reached my limits with his attitude. Welcome to SF, Mr. Sir, and good luck!

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