I have to say that most of the journeys I have taken by air have been reasonably satisfactory; some very good, some slightly not so, but it’s been difficult to remember ones at the edge of each of the categories on offer.
I suppose I could mention the trip at night from Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, to Jersey. My family had just attended a funeral and were returning home on an 18-seater Britten-Norman Trislander, in high winds and poor visibility. One of our group was so sure we were going to crash, that many of us, despite reassuring him that all was ok, began to actually believe that it may all end in disaster
But my Oscar for worst flight is in fact one on my favourite airline, Turkish. I had been looking forward to this journey, from Istanbul to Johannesburg; having travelled many times on this airline using their narrow-body jets, I couldn’t wait to go on an Airbus 330 on an overnight trip. It was a nightmare. Despite Mrs B. being registered as disabled, with assistance required at the start and finish of the trip, we were given middle seats on the middle row of four. It meant poor Mrs B., and the even poorer bloke sat on the aisle seat, had to negotiate her every-20-minute trips to the toilet. The person in front of me decided that she had to recline her seat to the maximum angle, and the unexpectedly poor legroom meant that my limbs were in agony by the end of the 10-hour trip. I had expected so much, and received so little…..
Incidentally, the return trip was quite the opposite. Mrs B had an aisle seat, and I couldn’t believe that I could watch my footy team, live, on the TV player; ok, we were thrashed 3-0 in the worst performance of the season, but hell, I was watching live football at 35,000 feet!
My best flight experience though was on a British Airways Gibraltar-London Gatwick flight. My BBC buddy and I had been reporting on the International Island Games of 1995, and we decided to leave at the same time as the closing ceremony, to try and beat the crowds. Smart move, as we were the only passengers on board! So, a fully-staffed A320 had me and my mate to see to, and we were treated like first-class royalty. With first-class food and drink . A lot of drink. So much, that the latter portion of the trip would have been a haze had not the captain invite me into the cockpit for a night time approach and landing. Brilliant experience. I still believe he was told that the best way to keep me sober-ish was to keep me suitably occupied. It worked. Just.
As a footnote, later that night, my colleague and I were thrown out of the lounge in our Gatwick hotel, for making too much noise. I was playing a grand piano, and my unsober friend was singing, very very loudly, and very very badly. Great memories…….
My best and my worst Airline story
We start from the shitty side of my life.
2005. JAL. Tokyo to Moscow. The last moments. Ten minutes before landing. Jumbo 747.
Approaching to Moscow, it started to shake.
The pilots switched to manual landing mode. There was a guy on board, a JAL engineer.
His words: heta kyoso.
Translation: Fucking idiots.
I’ve never had more horror in my life.
The silver lining.
This is easy. All flights to, in and from Alaska. Nobody really checks you up at the control. Just show your ID.
This is kind of relatives travelling together. You don’t have to kiss the guy to the left of you.
Still. They believe you’re not a bad guy.
I was sooo surprised in 2011. It was still in there in 2017. Sure, it is still now. Larger than life. Fuck Arab/Moslem suicide killers.
P.S. When I was travelling to Kodiak in December 2017, I met a waitress in a bar at Ted Stevens International. She gave me a beer and noticed my ring and was obviously disappointed. I was stupid then.
I was leaving South Central Alaska impressed.
My worst and best flights
Domestic flights in the US are a nightmare. A couple of decades ago Southwest came on the scene and the entire industry went straight to hell. Yes, prices dropped but so did the service. The prices advertised on websites often are not even real. Hello? You want to charge more if I actually take luggage on a vacation?
International flights are always better. Nobody wants to charge you for a bag that’s a half-inch too big. The food is better and the service is noticeably superior. Maybe that’s because the crappy discount cattle car airlines mostly stay out of the international market in North America. Ryan Air goes all over Europe.
So there’s plenty of opportunity for a title of worst flight. I once took United out of Chicago and the woman behind the counter at the gate was nasty… without provocation. But alas, no, I will reserve the worst flight title for another.
Aeroflot’s Boing 777, the Pushkin was maybe the worst. This flight went from Washington to Moscow a couple of times a week. This was an old plane that had received no love at all. Remember back in the day there were these old CRT tube TVs that hung from the ceiling down the middle of the aisle? There would be little TV sets maybe every 15 or 20 feet. That was the set-up and they were all shades of green and blue. Not one worked correctly. It doesn’t matter anyway, they were showing old Soviet cartoons.
My seat was made with old, fake vinyl and the seat bottom was busted out. Busted seat bottoms were pretty much standard for all passengers from what I could tell. 9½ hours in that seat made for a long evening.
The passengers were no better. Men wearing ratty old T-shirts and flip flops. This one woman was splayed out in the floor picking her toe nails. I was shocked at the condition of the plane by the end of that flight. There was trash, clothes, and food just thrown all over the floor. The place was worse than a teenagers bedroom. No, I’m not exaggerating.
To be fair, the staff were excellent. The Attendants were fluent in both languages and did their best. One Attendant told me that the Pushkin was to be retired and that’s why they would not fix anything. I hope they did retire that thing.
My best flight was with Turkish Airlines: Washington to Istanbul… simply fabulous. Now that I think about it, I’ve never had a bad experience with Turkish. This is a top-notch company that understands the balance between price & service.
The Attendants were serving Turkish delight and other candies while the plane was still on the taxiway. Several choices for dinner, free drinks and outstanding service. I always ask for a window seat and I keep my camera under my chair.
Yeah, I’m one of those nightmare people constantly playing with the seat-back entertainment center. These guys have top notch, first run movies and tourist videos of destinations. I like the video feed from the exterior and those little maps with oversized yellow planes showing our current location. I’m like a child when I fly.
I understand that Emirates Airlines are even better. I know their attendants have those cool uniforms with the red hats & white scarves. Maybe I can take a flight with them someday.