Thursday, December 20, 2007

My Own Personal Seinfeld Moment

The other day, La Belette Rouge posted about the probability of her getting to fly Business Class on her flight to Paris in July. In tribute to her post, I would like to tell you my experience of a trans-Atlantic flight on Business Class.

The year was 2005, the plane was an Airbus long haul craft operated by Lufthansa, the destination was Rome. The origin was somewhere on the West Coast. We were a family of four, traveling with a so-called Friend. :)

We invited Friend to come with us on this trip, as she usually traveled with us, and she happily discovered that she had enough miles to fly Business Class.

When we got to the airport, she tried to convince the gal at the counter to upgrade our family, so we could be with her in luxury. The lady said sure. But it would cost us dearly. $850. Per person! Each way.

As we boarded the flight, said our goodbye's to Friend and parted ways, she assured us she would come back and check on us. Incidentally, we were in the 2nd row behind The Curtain, which separated the classy people from the sardines (us). That meant that we were literally just a few steps away from Friend, with The Curtain being a one-way prison door to be used only by Biz Class who wanted to come see how bad it was back here and laugh at Family of Four having a nightmare flight. (No, she did not laugh, really).
But I was impressed with Lufthansa. They were efficient, clean and the seats weren't as bad as the hellish flight to Paris on Air Canada a few years before. (LBR described our flight exactly in her post). Lufthansa fed us well, we had good movies, and it was so far the best long haul flight we'd had.

Six hours into the flight, Friend decided to get out of her cocoon and come check on us. She made the 9 steps trek down into the belly of the beast (Coach) and with a smile asked how our dinner was. I raved about the Greek Pasta for dinner, we said the seats were not bad, and "by the way, I thought you were coming to check on us like 5 hours ago?" She smiled and said she had been busy with dinner. "So what did you have for dinner?" I asked.

She hesitated. Then she said, " crab." Snow crab?! I said, disgusted, because I love snow crab!
Then she said, "Well, that was the starter. Then I had...." and she proceeded to tell me all the courses presented, and "did I mention they dressed my table with linens and china?" Thank you, dear Friend, for mentioning that as well. I really hated my arm-rest tray that had a coffee ring from the previous flight still on it. I could have used that linen table cloth.

Then she said, "I have a present for you." And she handed me a pair of long, blue, thick Lufthansa socks. I asked where they came from and she said, "Oh, in my goody-bag I got when I boarded. I thought you might need them back here." Goody bag??? I snatched them from her and promptly stuck my lower class feet into them and decided that I was definitely made for Biz Class.
I needed to take some meds and could not get the flight attendant's attention to ask for some water, to Friend said she'd go get me some from her section. She popped back through The Curtain with a glass of water for me. A GLASS, a real glass. I began to laugh and said, "We're gonna get busted for being caught with this!"

After I gulped it down, she took it and said, "Ok, I'll go back to my seat now, but I'll make sure and send you back some of the warm, fresh baked cookies when they're ready."

Well, we never got them (I think she passed out in her cocoon seat) and when we landed in Frankfurt we made our way through customs and to our gate to wait the 2 hours until the connecting flight to Rome was ready for boarding. We sat down on uncomfortable (efficient)German airport chairs, feeling like death because of the flight and the fact that our bodies were screaming out "It's 2am!", when Friend announces with a look of guilt upon her face, "Um, could you watch my stuff, I'm gonna go into The Lounge." What is THE LOUNGE? I knew nothing of a so-called Lounge, other than where we were supposed to lounge, and we were already there.

"Well, they have a Business Class lounge for those flying in Biz Class. Do you want me to get you some coffee in there?"

I think that at that point, I decided that we never should have invited Friend on the trip at all, and how could she ditch us for The Lounge, after just having 12 hours of pure luxury?!
She came back about an hour later bearing gifts for the kids. She brought gummy bears and cookies. Then she handed me her boarding pass and said, "They didn't check my ID at all. Take this and go inside! I left early so you could go!" She was so excited for me to go in, but I was terrified. What if they caught me? Would I get arrested by the Airport Police and be deported without my family?
I walked to the inconspicuous door that led to The Lounge. When I opened the door, there was a marble floor and seated at the desk was a lady with perfect makeup and a French Twist. I showed her the pass and she smiled and pointed the way. I opened the huge double doors and as I entered The Lounge, I swear I heard a choir singing "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" It was fabulous! It was all leather! There was a cookie buffet and espresso machines and a bar! There was a sign pointing the way to the showers! Whaaaa?!

I got a cappuccino, and sat down in one of the leather chairs that instantly began to massage my poor, sore, Coach Class bum.

But I could not fully relax. I felt out of place. I was ragged from 12 hours of coach, and I couldn't help feeling completely guilty sitting in luxury while Hubby and kids were out in the torture chamber, heads bobbing violently because the body was on Pacific Standard Time.

I think I lasted all of 8 minutes. I walked out, cursing rich people and diligent Mileage Plus hoarders who didn't make the mistake of prematurely cashing in their miles for a coach class ticket to Cabo.
I got a taste of Business Class. It's something I can't forget now. It's something that I will dwell on the entire flight this coming spring, when we are squished in like sardines, with no warm cookies to console us and no eye-masks so we can at least try to go to a Happy Place in our minds and shut out the annoying seat-neighbors.

I will, however, accrue miles on this flight and then have enough to go to Hawaii. Coach Class.


La Belette Rouge said...

Hey, CC!
I am so happy to serve as a source of bloggy inspiration. And, as to your expereince on business class, I am so sorry! I think you took it like a champ. I wouldn't have been so nice about it--especially when your Friend flaked on the cookies. You are a very good friend!!

La Belette Rouge said...

Ugh, hate when I don't catch a typo. I meant, "experience."

Cassoulet Cafe said...

After re-reading my post, I think I made Friend out to be evil....when in reality, she's about the nicest person I know and am glad she got to have a luxurious flight.
But she DID flake on the cookies.

Ann (MobayDP) said...

lol! :-D I remember that Seinfeld episode!
Happily I've never had that experience. :-/

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the first class upgrade. It's such a fabulous experience that one is almost tempted to dole out the money for the comfort. Still, who can afford this?

I managed to smooze my way into first class only once. I was desparate, tired and on the business end of an airline strike that re-routed me from Copenhagen to Oslo then to Paris. I fixed myself up a bit, showed a little cleavage, wit, and a calm pleasant attitude. Walked up to the airline desk and asked for an upgrade. Oh and oopps I didn't quite have the required airline miles to cover it. Oh is there anything you can do? Frankly, I'm surprised it worked. he didn't even take any miles off my account. Maybe he was tired and delusional too.

French for a While said...

I love any and all Seinfeld references. Loved it.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Joyeux Noël Cassoulet! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your time in France.

Cécy said...

I was upgraded to buisness once, on Air France from Paris to Atlanta. They overbooked the plane, I was on my own and didn't rush to the doors when they started boarding. Every time I fly now I wish I could get that again...
I like that your friend got you in the lounge even if you felt uncomfortable there.

My Inner French Girl said...

Bonjour, CC! I missed reading your blog while I was away!

I would love to fly Biz or First class more often, but considering the premium (often 2-3x the cheapest coach!), I can't justify it. Maybe when I'm a multi-millionaire. I keep thinking about how much more I can spend at my destination if I just suffered through the indignity of the cattle car.

I've flown enough FC or BC (either the company paid or I was bumped up) to really appreciate the amenities, which are so much better now than they were in FC or BC in the '80s. But I'll need to really be swimming in the dough before I indulge.