If you’ve ever travelled by plane then the likelihood is you were faced with at least one of the following inconveniences. I think every plane journey that has ever been inflicted upon me by my desire to visit absolutely everywhere I can has been overshadowed by one disastrous circumstance or unfortunate incident or another, and with hindsight these situations are moderately amusing. At the time, however, when stuck at 30,000 feet with a plane full of equally tired and irritable fellow passengers, the entertainment value of these situations doesn’t rate quite as highly on the scale.
At the time of writing this I am sitting in a 6/10 comfortable “economy comfort” seat with quite a lot of leg space and a nice, soft headrest with four hours and 40 minutes to go before reaching New York! It’s all going swimmingly, though based on my past experiences of air travel that is more than likely going to change soon enough. But for now I am going to appreciate the novelty that is this almost enjoyable(!) journey as best I can by listing the catalogue of disasters that has grown with each plane journey I have taken…
From someone who is not nearly a travel expert but is far too well acquainted with annoying neighbours and embarrassing incidents, I give you my guide to plane nightmares and how to avoid them – or at least make the best of the situation.
Nightmare #1: When someone opens a packet of peanuts (or any food you hate with all your being and that makes you feel violently ill – this is peanuts for me. The smell. Ugh).
Deal with it: Pretend you’re allergic and politely request that no one eats theirs near you because it could trigger a reaction. Be prepared to fake it should someone happen to ignore your request. (Genuine question: what would happen if someone did have a severe allergy? What with the air being recycled and all?)
Nightmare #2: Being trapped in a middle seat by a deep sleeper whom you have to straddle in order to escape to the toilet.
Deal with it: Avoid the potentially mortifying possibility that they wake up mid-straddle by accidentally nudging said deep sleeper repeatedly until they wake up. Politely request they let you pass.
Nightmare #3: You escape but undoubtedly choose the worst time to venture to the toilet and are trapped by the oncoming refreshments trolley, which dominates the whole aisle. This inevitably leads to uncomfortably squeezing into the personal space of someone grumpy who will make faces and murmur annoyances under their breath.
Avoid it: Train your bladder to resist the urge to need to empty itself at inconvenient times.
Nightmare #4: You are sitting next to someone who doesn’t understand that you don’t want to uphold a conversation for the entire duration of the 13-hour flight.
Deal with it: Pretend you’re foreign.
Nightmare #5: You have been allocated a middle seat and after lots of shuffling around a lot you sort yourself out and get completely comfortable, so the aisle seat passenger sits down. Then you realise that your book / earphones / journal is in the overhead locker. No one is amused.
Deal with it: Remind the aisle person that getting up and sitting back down again is good exercise and how regular stretching during the flight will help them avoid stiffness.
Nightmare #6: An aspiring gymnast across the aisle decides to sleep in the strangest position ever i.e. feet sticking out awkwardly into the walkway. She (it is usually a she) then decides to remove her shoes. Unpleasant for everybody involved.
Deal with it: Lie in an equally strange position so they realise how weird they are and subsequently reconsider their career path. Either that or accidentally walk into their feet every time you get up so they get the idea.
Nightmare #7: You check the time and discover you only have an hour left of the journey! You reflect on how quickly it passed and how it wasn’t that bad at all before realising that the time zones are playing tricks on you and in reality you have four hours to go, not one.
Deal with it (Well, kind of): cry.
Nightmare #8: You get stuck next to someone who is scared of flying and tells you all of their worst nightmares and out-of-proportion facts that make flying sound extremely dangerous before proceeding to vomit for 70% of the journey (the remaining 30% will probably be spent weeping, asking the flight attendants if it’s safe or having nightmares).
Deal with it: Give them lots of sleeping tablets and strong alcohol to wash it down, as on Bridesmaids.
Nightmare #9: You end up sitting next to a businessman (obviously belongs in business class, duh) who is wearing a suit even though it’s a really long flight and types important things on his laptop, making you feel inadequate.
Deal with it: Read your Harry Potter book or do your sudoku with conviction and look important.
Nightmare #10: You have the misfortune of being seated in close proximity to a screaming baby or toddler who has a tendency to throw a tantrum every hour.
Deal with it: Kick up a fuss – cry louder or throw a tantrum too. It confuses them.
Nightmare #11: It’s 11:00 and the hostesses are giving out meals, so you pick the chicken that sounds quite nice and it ends up being curry. And it’s 11:00. You also go for a glass of Coke because you really fancy it but it tastes weird because of the effect of the altitude on your senses and you end up feeling sick. Boo!
Deal with it: Check that it isn’t curry before you say yes and don’t ask for Coke because it won’t be nice. I have made this mistake far too many times.
Nightmare #12: The air hostess for your section of the plane is the grumpiest, bitchiest, most good-mood destroying person ever and they snarl at you every time they ask a question.
Deal with it: Lighten things up by making a game out of it. Call a bet with your fellow passengers: first person to make them crack a smile wins. Guaranteed it’s better than the on-flight entertainment.
So, in conclusion, plane travel can be draining, challenging, tiring and emotional – and that’s all before you check in to discover that your hotel room is infested with flying ants and that you’re sleeping on a ‘bed’ in the kitchen of your ‘apartment’ for the entire two weeks (actually happened)!
Considering the number of nightmarish situations I have been in and the fact I haven’t been on that many aeroplanes, it appears that my experience of flying to date has been plagued by misfortune. Thinking about it, this journey is going suspiciously well so far…
(Update: the outbound journey was actually alright, but there were peanuts on the return journey. It was horrible.)