Friday, October 22, 2010

Cranky Traveler in Seat 22D

I freely confess that I have been spoiled by business class travel, which I usually get for my TDY trips because they usually involve more than 14 hours of travel time. But today I'm slumming - I mean, today I'm doing domestic travel - and that means coach class. Bummer.

And that brings me to the guy in seat 22E. You may have heard that the newspaper business is dying, but I can tell you it was alive and well in the seat next to mine on the flight from Dulles to Orlando this morning. I was seated on the aisle and the guy in the middle seat to my right was spreading out a copy of USA Today, and then folding it, and then re-folding it, rattling it around, and then folding and re-folding some more, really working that newspaper, non-stop for the whole two-hour flight.

Now, who reads newspapers in an economy class seat anyway? You can't actually read one without opening the thing all the way out, which takes roughly as much space as airlines provide for an entire three-seat row. With two other people elbow-to-elbow on either side of you, that just isn't feasible. Economy class gives you enough space to read a paperback, or a magazine, or an e-reader. But not a whole newspaper.

And in the second place, who has ever taken two entire hours to read USA Today? It isn't exactly a journal of scholarship and literary criticism.

Oh, the indignities one must suffer in coach.


Anonymous said...

I thought the 14hr. rule went out the door years ago?

The Snake's Mommy said...

More things I won't blog... I've had some success in coach by waiting until every neighbor ahead, beside, and behind is seated and then I get up and say hello to them one by one and offer them a Wet Wipe. I'm a bland looking middle aged woman so I'm not usually presumed to be a creep. In response, MOST neighbors have been delighted I broke down the bubble everyone seems to travel in and they've been considerate through the flight, even so far as everybody agreeing on what time we'd all try to sleep. For the 8+ hour flights, it's really helped.

However, the jittery guy in front of me on my last flight began rocking violently one minute into his seat and didn't stop till we landed. He and his wife treated my offer with suspicion and hostility, even in the face of those around them thanking me kindly and making small talk. So, I feel your pain.

I've fantasized about the effect of saying "If this plane goes down, you're gonna be dependent on your neighbors to get out of here safe so maybe you might wanna be trying not to piss us off." Hostile listeners would probably just escalate their behavior though.

TSB said...

Anonymous: the 14-hour rule is alive in my bureau. The only other requirement is that we have to arrive ready for work the same day. On my most recent overseas trip, I arrived around 7AM and started work around 9AM. I prefer that to taking a rest stop en route.

Snake's Mommy: I see the value in your approach, but I'm too much of a natural hermit to break that bubble. I rather like that bubble. However, if I were on one of your flights, I would find that a sweet gesture.

Liz said...

Ditto to the comment about the 14-hr rule. We can no longer upgrade our Y class tix to fly business class to/from Kabul. We can't even use our miles to upgrade, although people do and then just keep that info to themselves. And now we're not even getting Y class, so any costs incurred by changing dates/flights have to be paid out of pocket by the traveler

TSB said...


That amazes me. We had a situation at one time (back in Colin Powell's tenure) when no one in our Bureau was authorized business class regardless of what the travel regulations said. When Powell found out, he issued a very strongly worded message that Bureaus will manage their travel strictly in accordance with government travel regulations and will request funding accordingly. We have since creep back from that a bit but, by and large, we will get business class under the right circumstances.