More Leg Room Please!

April 10, 2007 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment


I’m back. Did you miss me? We had a wonderful time. I am even a little brown. And, I know that you don’t want to hear another word about my holiday, do you?

But, how do the airlines get away with it!?! This was my first experience of economy-class long-haul. I know, I know. I’ve been spoilt and I should count myself lucky. But, seriously, how do they get away with it? I have seen sheep transporters on British motorways that have offered more wiggle-room than we had. Air France, shame on you!

We flew out from Paris Charles de Gaulle/Roissy . The French give the airport two names just to confuse you and to make it quite, quite clear that they are different. The airport is known everywhere in the world as Charles de Gaulle. Everywhere except France that is. CDG is even used as the international shorthand for the airport. You will get CDG on your baggage tickets. But, as soon as you land it is “Bienvenue a Roissy!” This is just some sick Frenchman’s pitiful attempt to disorientate you; to make some weary traveller panic that he is in the wrong place. Shame on you Charles de Gaulle. Shame on you France. Shame on you Air France.

We flew out on a 747 Jumbo. C and I were in row 25, in the window and middle seat. C likes the window seat. I am not sure why. You can hardly see very much in the dark and they make you shutter it for most of the time on long-haul flights. Except for take-off and landing of course. 

Apparently, according to my mate Smithy the pilot, they dim the cabin lights and insist on having all windows open (well the little blind thing up – I haven’t actually been on a plane with windows that open) so that your eyes are adjusted to the ambient light. So that you can see better in the event of something happening. Something like crashing, catching fire, or being hit by a terrorist’s shoulder held surface-to-air missile. To be quite frank, that is the kind of thing I would rather not see coming!

As readers of my previous blogs will know (see the Planes, Trains and Automobile entries), I prefer an aisle seat. My motives for this are, well, many and varied but on long-haul the main ones would be a) you can get out of your seat whenever you want to for toilet or booze without disturbing those weird folk that tend to be placed in the seat next to you, and b) the extra leg room. You cannot imagine the relief of brief opportunities to stretch a leg down the aisle in between trolleys.

But, on this occasion, C got her window seat and I got stuck in the middle. A petite Vietnamese lady sat in the aisle. She was about five foot nothing and her legs dangled off the end of the seat without reaching the floor. So, the aisle seat with its leg stretching opportunities was clearly wasted on her! My legs, however, were parted either side of magazine pocket and my knees wedged firmly against the back of the seat in front of me. Now at six feet and an important half inch tall I am hardly a midget, but nor am I a giant. This leg room was frankly pitiful.

I was wedged in and there I stayed for the better, no, the worse part of eleven hours. The twee Vietnamese lady to my left popped a couple of sleeping pills during the safety demonstration, which for some strange reason does not include any reference to the fact that being completely comatose in the event of an “ on-board incident” can clearly damage your health and the health of the poor sod wedged into the seat next to you. Me. She was out of it. In the event that this plane went down, C and I were going down with her!

Those little bottles of water that they give you on long-haul flights aren’t to prevent dehydration you know. No, they are designed to be emptied and then used as a personal relieving vessel (piss pot) by people wedged in the middle seat and who cannot get out to go to the loo.

It is impossible to sleep well when your knees are stuck firmly against the seat in front of you. It is impossible to sleep when the dainty Asian lady next to you keeps wriggling in her sleep and banging her arse against your armrest. Sleep would not come, despite the best endeavours of the Air France trolley dollies who plied me with alcohol and tried to induce slumber via the in-flight “entertainment”. I use the word incorrectly. It was not entertaining.  Normally, the movie “A Night at the Museum” followed by back-to-back National Geographic documentaries, in French, would be enough to bring a coma on. But not when you are wedged in the middle seat of an Air France 747. Not when you have lost all feeling from the knees down. Not when your knees are bleeding because they have chafed against the seat in front. Not when your next-door neighbour keeps rubbing her bum against your elbow. Not when your thoughts are filled with the prospect of deep vein thrombosis and the growing awareness that your bladder is full!

Please Air France. Can we have more leg room?


Entry filed under: flying, poor service, travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

A Bientot! My Family and Other Animals (Part 4)

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