Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Monday 20th February 2006

The other Saturday afternoon I put on my suit. Just the jacket and trousers - none of the trimmings. Underneath, I wore a dark grey M&S shirt, with a pair of trainers poking out below the trousers. No tie, no stiff collared shirt, no cufflinks, no polished squeaky shoes. But I was wearing a suit nonetheless and felt a bit smart.

I had spent the previous 48 hours ticking boxes on a protracted To Do list. At work, I cleared my desk, tying up loose ends and palming off various files to less than appreciative colleagues. I got my hair cut (badly) and packed a large bag of possessions, giving it to a man who came calling on Friday morning. He put it in the boot of his car. I haven't seen it since, but am still optimistic that somehow it'll make the journey halfway across the world to my side.

Two of my suits were with that elusive bag. With the third hanging off my shoulders, I headed to Heathrow, accompanied by my better (in every way) half. Sadly, she was only coming as far as Terminal 1. My flight was due to leave at 10:20pm. It was 7:40pm and there was no queue at check-in, so I swaggered up to the desk, pleased with my earliness. This flight wouldn't be so bad. Not only would I be relaxing in "World Traveller Plus" but, seeing as I was this early, I'd also be able to bag a window seat. I was looking fairly smart too. I hadn't worn the suit to be upgraded - I just didn't want it creasing in my bag - but if it got me into Business Class, that would bode well for this whole trip, the wisdom of which I was starting to seriously doubt. I felt lucky.

I thrust the bag onto the conveyor belt, slapped my passport on the desk, and told the check-in attendant that I was flying to Hong Kong at 10:20. She slowly lifted her head, weighed down as it was by multiple layers of foundation, eye liner, lip gloss and blusher. This make-up mask expertly conveyed the image of the aging stewardess, looked over by multiple pilots and shortly destined to be waving passengers onto a big orange plane (...can you see where this is going?). Without a dreg of warmth, let alone charm, she dragged my passport towards her and started listlessly tapping away at the keyboard.

"Please could I have a window seat?" I smiled.

"I'll just see, sir. It's a very busy flight tonight": her best officious receptionist voice.

She spoke for a while on the phone. She replaced the receiver, tapped on the keyboard a bit more and pushed a boarding card towards me.

"Right," she said, in the same soulless monotone. "You've been downgraded for this flight sir. Boarding gate 52."

Downgraded.

What the fuck?

I looked at the boarding card. Involuntary downgrade. In an aisle seat.

13 hours to Hong Kong in economy. During a night flight. How dare she try and act as though this was the most normal thing in the world - actually, as though it was more than I deserved? Doesn't she, or anyone in British Airways, care that the full fare has been paid (yes, yes, not by me, but let's not dwell on that at the moment)? Doesn't anyone care that I'm going to have to fold my 6 feet and two inches in to a miniature metal frame loosely covered by some mite ridden canvas? She didn't apologise, she barely explained - she only snapped at me for getting angry. Of course: no-one has any rights in an airport because everyone's so bloody sensitive. You can't even raise an eyebrow in dissent, without the risk of a trigger happy policeman pushing you up against a wall, his assault rifle in your face and his eyes twinkling with the memory of Stockwell.

"Poor Rob," you may be thinking, your mind oozing with sarcasm, "he had to travel cattle class, how will his delicate soul cope? And he's not that bloody tall."

To that, I say, fuck you. Fuck you, fuck the bitch at the check in desk, fuck the piss smelling old gimmer from the ground staff who informed me that compensation was a measly 75 presented in the form of a cash card (have you ever tried getting 5 from a cash machine? Fuck 'em) and most of all, fuck British Airways, who overbook their flights and downgrade decent punters not because they're last in the queue to check in, not because they've chosen to take a downgrade for a decent pecuniary reward, not because they look like shabby cunts (you should have seen some of the smug bastards in World Traveller Plus) but because they're not members of the manipulative BA air miles club or other such exploitative scheme, designed to keep travellers away from the better airlines. Proper fucking bastards.

Although, having said that, the flight wasn't too bad.

I ended up sitting at the front of economy, and I could stretch my legs under the curtain in front, giving my feet a taste of the high life. At least until, irritated by the constant bumping of my seat by the passenger behind, I turned to see a gargantuan German freak trying to make himself comfortable. I had to swap with him: I felt too guilty not to - he really was huge, about 6 foot 5. So I moved seat and tucked myself into a little gap for 13 hours, dozed for about 5 minutes, and suddenly I was on the Airport Express, heading to Hong Kong island.

85 - posted at 13:04:04
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