This post began as a simple copy/paste of some notes I jotted down on my laptop during the second leg of my trip home from Seychelles on 29 Feb 2011. There have been some edits to add links, and where I”ve learned even more, but for the most part it remains intact, as typed out quite uncomfortably on the fold out tray table of a Delta 767 in flight.
Charles de Gaulle airport is HUGE, and once I was in another terminal (E as opposed to F, which is ugly enough to be a modern art masterpiece) it was much nicer than my trip down to Seychelles. There aren’t many places to eat and it’s dreadfully expensive, but lovely nonetheless. I think that was especially so because the French were very kind. I simply thanked them and would attempt to speak what French I could, but they were very nice and helpful the entire time. (I didn’t have my boarding passes for the last leg of the journey once I left Qatar Airways and needed some help.)
The problems began once I boarded the plane to depart Paris. Well, just one problem, really. Delta Airlines. Or to be more accurate, flying coach on an American carrier, it seems. On the single longest leg of my journey, an 11 hour flight, we’re in an old Boeing 767. On a 4-hour flight with Qatar Airways I had my own LCD video screen with on-demand choices. On an 11-hour flight we have small TV monitors hanging every fifteen feet along and above the aisle. On a 7-hour flight Qatar Airways feeds you twice. On an 11-hour with Delta, you get lunch. And the real kick to the tenders came when I walked through first/business class, then through “Economy Comfort” (just as narrow, but about 4 inches more leg room)… and then found my seat directly aft of the wing and engine. Compared to the Airbus (I’m told the plural is “Airbi”) I’ve been riding on, this thing is LOUD. Bose QC15 headphones only manage to turn it down to a dull roar. And as I try and type a draft of this blog post I have an empty blue pleather headrest shoved back into me and closing my laptop screen as the guy in front of me reclines.
How does this happen? That’s a silly question, I know EXACTLY how this happens- Delta is willing to fly this route the cheapest and everywhere they cut costs is painfully obvious. Meaning that it pains me to be on this loud and cramped plane for this long. (At least it’s still better than the Paris-Seychelles flight on Air Seychelles! That was easily the worst flight of my life!)
The other thing I noted is Qatar Airways’ in-flight magazine has ads for nice hotels and Mont Blanc or Tag Heuer, and Delta’s in-flight magazine has ads for lawn ornaments and that Stauer 1930s Dashtronic watch they advertise for $99 in Popular Mechanics. You know the one: it looks really cool and retro or art deco, but is really just filled with the same cheap Chinese movement that’s shoved into a bunch of mail-offer garbage.
I understand this. It’s a matter of budget. And frankly, on Delta’s part, it probably makes fairly good sense. People chose this flight because it was cheap, I imagine. That’s likely why my company bought tickets for me traveling this way: SAVE MONEY. And when saving money is the priority of the customer, why would you flash $200 dress shirts in front of the crowd a la Esquire, Maxim, or Stuff magazine? It’s not the target demographic for that product. I may drool over a Tag Heuer Carrera wristwatch from time to time, but when reality sets in I simply can’t justify spending that kind of money when $300 gets me a “Swiss Made” watch from Oakley military sales that can handle diving down to 10 bar. For TAG’s $6,000, that thing had better shave an hour off every flight and long layover I have for the rest of my life! So obviously, we have a disparity of demographic.
My hangup is this: I really enjoy “the finer things” every now and then. Or perhaps (and more likely) I’m so coddled by my upper-middle class life that I’ve become an obnoxious whiner when I have to “slum it”. Because I was still flying economy on Qatar Airways, but the difference is so great that I imagine flying First Class with them would be a vacation unto itself. It’s easy to see why they win so many SKYTRAX Awards. And it’s downright embarrassing that there’s not a single American carrier in the SKYTRAX Top 10. I have this mental picture of Orville and Wilbur Wright rolling over in their graves with the state of American air transportation today.
Even if I can’t get business class, being seated forward of the engines would be a huge improvement. I doubt I can, but I need to start asking the INCREDIBLY nice and wonderful woman that does my travel arrangements what can be done about that. Or maybe it’s simply worth paying out of my pocket for business class. One thing is for sure: I need to join EVERY airline’s rewards club, just in case.
I also want an iPad, for typing on with longer battery life than my MacBook Pro. I’ve considered a MacBook Air, but I figure an iPad gets me magazine apps and newspapers as well as movies. And a Kindle (sorry, Apple) for lots of books but even better reading surface and battery life. (NO! Not a Kindle Fire! That thing is a compromise in every direction, with the sole thing people praise being it’s price. I’ll keep my $200 or spend it on something with better functionality.)
Alright. Whether it’s the two pair of headphones I’m evaluating, or the food cart’s impending arrival, I’m thinking that’s enough for now.
Summary: U.S. domestic airlines are terrible, and TSA treating us all like barefoot suspects doesn’t help. If you want to enjoy a flight, fly on a foreign carrier from an airport outside the U.S.
P.S.- They just announced they lost galley power in First Class, so they’re going to reset a breaker that will also disable/reinitialize the in-flight entertainment on the whole plane. I’m a little surprised at the wiring, and can’t imagine something like that on Qatar Airways.