Lets go back in time for a second. Not back to the time of my flight(s) home from Brasil. Lets go all the way back to the mid 70’s (ok, its not that far – but in the scheme of this story, it is) when the whole experience I suffered through in June/July 2014 on an Aerolineas Argentinas flight (take note of the airline) would have better fitted in.
I don’t like flying at the best of times. Anyone who says they do, is either insane or simply, lying, probably confused with the end result of flying (i.e. arriving somewhere far away from home, and the associated thrills).
You arrive at a sterile building, with people in official uniforms everywhere, telling you to do this and that and this and that, then coercing you into slowly relinquishing your identity to them, until you’re officially really just a combination of a number and a letter (23D or some such thing), at which time you’ve also entrusted someone with probably your life’s belongings, as you watched it all disappear onto a mysterious conveyor belt, under the care of someone who, probably doesn’t ‘care’.
Once you’re naked, you’re at liberty to not buy all the things that are being forced down your throat in shiny posters under stark-white light. If you’re hungry, you can purchase incredibly overpriced food or drinks, the vast majority of which has little to no nutritional value or sustenance at all.
This is all before you are stuffed into a giant, pressurised flying tube of metal (apparently they ‘recycle’ the air in the cabin for up to 300 flights….), with a bunch of mostly inconsiderate people invading your personal space, a tiny window to look out of, and the same nutritionless, sustenance-free food and drink to comfort you for the next however many hours. You fucking love flying.
Aerolineas Argentinas didn’t make it easier for me to try and love flying, or even enjoy it.
Firstly, our flight left almost 2 hours late. We began boarding at a time when you might have expected we’d leave on time – or maybe arrive at our destination only 10 minutes behind schedule – but then we proceeded to sit on the tarmac (for no apparent reason – and none given by the captain or stewards) and just hang. With a connecting flight to make, and only a 3 hour gap between our scheduled arrival and its departure, leaving/being on time would have been preferable.
I wrote this off early, in order to try and make the rest of the experience tolerable.
After hanging out on the tarmac for an insane amount of time (especially without any reason given whatsoever – maybe it was in aid of allowing the passengers to acclimatise? It seemed perhaps, that 2 hours was just the amount of time it took to leave, which would explain their lack of explanation – we’ll leave when the captain feels like it – that sort of thing), I was already thinking boycott.
The captain spoke with us before leaving, but made no mention of their tardy departure, adopting a tone that suggested we should be grateful for leaving at all. Gracias seῆor!
Cue stewardesses that look like old trannies attempting to make comebacks via the airline stewardess avenue, as recommended by their near-senile grandparents: Bright pink makeup, bright blue. This is real. Not endearing. Drag queens. This is not a joke.
Some of them even looked embarrassed to be on board. I don’t think they knew I was clocking glances of them screwing their faces up at their own efforts, and the situation it brought them to…
The pre-recorded safety briefing (in English and Spanish) was so crackly, muffled and disjointed, that anyone actually needing it would have their ignorance excused, and in an emergency, face death instead. It was actually completely inconceivable and surely, illegal. – Pointless at least. – So 70’s though.
Compounding the stewardess’s self-loathing, was the fact that they were essentially serving sugar as food. The fact that this stuff masqueraded as ‘food’ was laughable. It was more like an insult.
You could see the staff’s embarrassment – sandwiches that look like they’d been peeled from between the pages of a cold book where they were found (perhaps out on the wings), and revived with buckets of iced water. Weird sugary cakes and cereals and yoghurts and juices for ‘breakfast’, forgettable at best. And fucking strange – unless it was 1972.
In-flight entertainment on this particular voyage was pretty much just a projection on the front of the cabin (there was one other screen half way down the cabin that swung down from the roof for that authentic 70’s feel), playing the same film over and over again, interspersed with a short film on how well things are going for Aerolineas Argentinas and their new fleet(s), along with the business itself.
I think this was moreso to comfort the passengers, so that the the shonkyness of the experience we were having didnt fool us into thinking we wouldn’t make it to Miami (and we would only just do so). Squiggling blurred lines running up and down and across the ‘movie’ screen might have been from the VCR they were using. The plane though, was legit.
Meals for our 8ish hour flight were also timed so perfectly, that they’d arrive just as the film was climaxing (which meant that the screens were turned off), lest you might actually see, or want to enjoy the end.
The fact that it was just playing on repeat, still didn’t mean they could work out when to bring meals, when to turn the screens off, or not. But hey, this is the 70’s, and everyone is doing LSD. Or smoking joints. Or fucking.
No doubt inspired by their experience, passengers left litter and travel accoutrements strewn everywhere throughout the cabin, aisles, bathrooms – detritus obviously left by the cabin crew as a normal part of the AA experience – and the accompanying cacophony of noise and wailing babies helped to perfectly create the feeling that we were in a giant, cold, flying refugee camp, made up of peoples displaced by a war in which they’d played no part. A unique touch.
As unpleasant as this all was, I remained calm. It was easier – and clearly, there was no way they were going to care.
When we neared Miami, the captain told us that bad weather would prevent us from landing, and we were diverted to another Floridian airport. Har har. Perhaps it was just to run to theme.
… Id already missed my connection by a mile, and this wonderful experience would herald an immediate future of more missed planes, airplane/airport only food, forfeited hotel bookings, and other fun flying stuff, on my 4-and-a-half day journey home: Belo Horzonte-Sao Paolo-Buenos Aires-Miami (via somewhere else)-(to Fort Lauderdale), then-Los Angeles-Sydney.
I will never fly with AA again.
Another airline, also lost my bags, so I arrived in Australia without any belongings.
The turmoil of my giant, testing commute, lingered on my 5-day-old clothes for a couple days more…..
This post prefaces the work ‘A cynic’s guide to the worldcup’. Read more here