International flights: Not as comfortable as they used to be.

We originally planned to try and live and work Australia. (Even though when I visited I was kindly told that some Australians refer to Americans as “Sepo’s”. Short for septic tank because we are full of… well, you know. Cute, huh?) Unfortunately, after some research we both experienced small panic attacks. Jobs hard to come by for foreigners? $4 for a soda? Rent is $300 a week?! We were afraid our savings would dwindle too quickly and suddenly had the terrible feeling that we might have made the wrong choice. Long story short, after a few dozen frenzied phone calls to the airline we were able to change our itinerary.  Unfortunately, the cheapest route was Orlando -> LA -> London. 

We didn’t mind. Everyone knows that airports are an amazing place if you want to people watch. (Or test your ability to act normal after being awake for 24 hours)

Checking in our luggage was the first challenge. We managed to meet all the requirements  in order to avoid fees at Southwest, and barely made it through Air NZ with a gracious heart of a clerk at check-in. She allowed us to check one of our overweight carry on’s at the gate. Small step of victory! Seriously how is the international baggage more strict than the domestic at Southwest? (Ugh.) Anyway, we avoided the $70 fee. I was a little frustrated that they lowered the max weight from 70lbs to 50lbs since 2010, but kept encouraging Amauri that this airline was amazing. “See how nice they are?!”

When going through security, I wanted to pretend like we were on Locked Up Abroad. (Haven’t seen it? Basically young foreigners get lured in by a really friendly man in a dodgy bar they shouldn’t have been in the first place. He offers them a few grand and a promise to go on a free holiday as long as they carry cocaine or heroin back to their country. Psh. No big deal, right? Of course they get there and have no holiday. They get caught and end up in the most seedy jails across the country for 5-10 years. Of course, they then live to tell the horrendous treatment they were given on a television show and share it with the world. ) I can’t stop watching it. Fun fact: Overseas the show is called Banged up Abroad. Yeah, that wouldn’t fly in America. 

Amauri wasn’t amused. (He’s actually been taken in one of those small rooms in the airport and searched before, even though he is the biggest rule follower ever.) Oops. Forgot I married a foreigner. Still, I wanted to pretend. Most likely predictable to everyone else, no one cared a crap about me. Was I not sweating enough? Did I not look desperate for money? There were no dogs. No second glances on my passport. Is it because I’m married and people assume I’m boring? They probably knew that there was no way a Daria-like personality would ever try something like that. 

I am pretty disappointed with Air New Zealand. Yes, they have good customer service, but shouldn’t we be expecting more? As soon as we boarded the flight I knew I’d be eating a few of my words. Since my last international flight in 2010, I have been promoting to non-travelers that international travel is by far better than any domestic flight. “Oh, in international travel you have way more space” Lies. Things have changed. I was cursing myself for not having enough money to book a first class ticket. I wanted to be one of those people that laid in their pod-like beds and were welcomed with a quilt, fuzzy slippers, and a glass of champagne. How mean is it that we have to walk past 1st class, with their smug smiles? I passed a woman and could almost almost hear her thoughts as she looked me up and down. She was thinking, “Did she even brush her hair today? Obviously, she’s in coach with the rest of the commoners.” Another mistake I made to others was saying, “The food is really not that bad!” Lies again. The quality of food has changed. I had to give an apologetic smile at Amauri’s rubber egg omelet.  Did all airlines sell out?

My coworker warned me before my flight: “You have to get up and walk around every once in a while, or you will get blood clots and die!” (Thanks Kelly) Unfortunately, I didn’t need her advice. I had to get up every hour because my back was in excruciating pain. The woman in front of me reclined back so far that I could smell her shampoo.  I was immediately frustrated with her, but it was misdirected. For 8 hours, I tried to adjust and find the most comfortable position in the inch of space that was given. 

I understand that airlines need to make money and competition is high, but its so frustrating dolling out so much money for an airline ticket.  I felt like a giant in a dollhouse.  Yes, they’ve added amenities like an iPod charger, touch screen that allows you to order any food or drink, and a zillion TV and movie options. What did they take away? Comfort. Even the personal AC vent was taken away. I was sweating and I had a feeling I wasn’t the only one. I looked around and no one was using the free blanket. It was an overnight flight and all I wanted to do is sleep. It was impossible. (Side note: I have to give props to Southwest here because at least I was able to sleep on the tray table on their flight.) 

Needless to say, when the seatbelt sign went off after landing, I shot out of my seat. Eager with excitement (and a little delusional after being awake for a day), I forgot all about the frustrations of the flight and was ready to run off the plane towards Big Ben.

Unfortunately, it was then that we checked our emails and found out there was a miscommunication and his brother tried to come pick us up the day before. Now we needed to find the 2 hour bus to his house in a small town called Brandon. Oh, the joys of traveling!

Amauri enjoying the train station in Brandon.
 
I immediately thought of the Emerson quote, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. Emerson clearly didn’t understand my need to be in the city of London. 
One of the greatest cities in the world, London!
UPDATE: After being on several international flights since this post, I feel I need to add an addendum. While our first international flight to start our trip was not as comfortable, we did experience some really fantastic ones. Specifically airlines in Asia will cater to you like you are a king!
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