“It used to mean a better meal … now it means a better life.” That’s how Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger) described first-class air travel to her uber-adorable son Ray in Jerry Maguire. And having just stepped off a plane from a trip to south Florida to deal with aging-parent issues, I have to agree. (I also have to agree with “You had me at hello,” her line at the end of the movie when Jerry (Tom Cruise) finally figures stuff out and returns to her. But I digress.)
On our outbound flight from LA going east, we paid an upcharge of about $20 to board early (in coach, of course) as Priority Group A. Imagine our surprise when, after first-class boarding, there was Select boarding, followed by Gold, Silver, and Bronze boarding, followed by Honorable Mention and Congeniality boarding, followed by, oh yeah, Group A. And once we did board, imagine our additional surprise to find that the overhead space in our immediate area was filled, and that we needed to stow our bags several rows away.
Let me paint you a picture of why that overhead space was filled. It had been taken up by the carry-on suitcases and miscellaneous bundles of a group of about six seniors (not a single one under 80), on their way home to south Florida. And instead of the one bag up, one under the seat in front of you, they’d managed to put all their carry-on luggage in the overheads. Gotta give them credit for that upper arm strength, though.
And then there was the irony of our being seated in row 5 with the coach restrooms at the very back of the plane and the first-class restroom a mere four rows away but forbidden to us (somehow that always triggers my lifelong issues with self-esteem). One hapless coach passenger, nature calling and the rear restrooms occupied, went over the wall into first class to use the vacant restroom. He emerged to an utter death stare from the flight attendant, and the aisle being immediately roped off (literally) to prevent us peons from peeing with the upper crust. I kid you not.
Overall, the flight experience was a good one (in my mind, any flight that arrives safely is a good one), even if we were merely allowed to sniff at the warm chocolate chip cookies being served to our first-class brothers and sisters (okay, we get it — we’re not worthy).
We collected our bags from a few rows back and emerged from the aircraft on time and on our toes. The race toward the car rental desks was beginning, and we had free Gold membership on our side.
Pedal to the better-life metal.
© 2013 Claudia Grossman
Alas. But when I remember being stuck in the smoking section on a transatlantic flight in the 1980’s and nearly asphyxiated, I’d say some things have improved. I couldn’t make too much of a stink on that flight, because I was conducting a press trip and the airlines had provided airfare gratis. I didn’t want the travel writers to clip the wings that flew us. Most of them, however, criticized the airlines in their articles anyway, so I felt avenged.