Agony And The Ecstasy Of Flying
Today I was ending the
first half of my tour (Asia, Africa and Europe) and beginning the
second and final half. Unfortunately, due to restrictions on my Round-The-World
ticket, I couldn’t get a direct flight to Toronto, so I had
to get there on 3 separate planes.
The longest flight (over
6 hours) was from London to Chicago and I was lucky enough to be upgraded
to a Business Class seat. This was the first time I’d flown
Business Class, and there were many obvious differences from the cheaper
Economy Class ticket.
First of all, I was able
to go through the Fast Track entry at the airport, which meant there
wasn’t any waiting in the long queues ahead of me. Secondly,
and this was a BIG PLUS, I was able to take my trolley with me through
the security check area. It gets so frustrating when you have to abandon
your trolley at the security check area and can’t find another
one on the other side. I carry about 50 kgs of baggage with me, so
finding a trolley is always a top priority.
Ever since the World Trade
Centre attack, flying to America has attracted a more severe security
check system. Apart from the usual scanning of luggage as you enter
the International Departures Gate, another security check is done
at the Boarding Gate for your flight. All passengers are frisked and
shoes have to be removed and checked using a hand-held scanner. Then
all hand luggage is opened and checked visually.
Yes, it does make the whole
boarding procedure much longer. And, yes, it does cause some frustration
and is maybe very annoying for some people (the inspectors never repack
your bags neatly for you). But hey, these have got to be the safest
flights in all the world, so I’m all for it.
We were travelling on a
Jumbo Jet, so my next Business Class surprise was being able to travel
on the top floor of the plane (isn’t the view much better from
up there?). And the space! Wow! Once I sat down, I had to really stretch
my legs out before I could touch the seat in front of me. In fact,
there was so much space between the rows of seats that other passengers
were walking across my row as a short cut to reach their own seats.
The seats were wider. And
the arm rests were so wide that you even had space to place several
drinks on them. And neatly tucked away under these arm rests were
individual and retractable movie screens. I watched 3 movies; Terminator
3 (being destined to save all mankind has got to be the biggest responsibility
anyone could ever place on you), Pirates Of The Carribean (it’s
rather ironic how you can become immortal once you’re already
dead), Matchstick Men (lesson learned: always confirm the existence
of a child [with your ex] BEFOREHAND and not after you’ve had
your entire lifesavings conned from you).
My first drink was a champagne,
which tasted much better once I poured my orange juice into it. My
next 2 drinks were gin and tonics, then I finished off with 2 white
wines, and a port, which I had with my meals.
And in Business Class,
meals are ordered from a menu. For my entrée I had smoked salmon
and sautéed shrimp with Louis sauce and Balsanic cherry tomato.
For my main meal I had filet mignon with white wine pepper sauce,
served with potato wedges and sautéed zucchini slices. And
dessert was a selection of international cheeses (Stilton apricot
and Taurus cheese) served with seedless black grapes (mmmmmm!)
As you can imagine, after
all that eating and drinking, I was feeling very full and a bit giddy.
I guess the only annoying
part of this trip were the forms. As well as the Customs Declaration
form I had to fill in a USA Visa Waiver form. And it’s the Visa
Waiver form which was so annoying. My transit stop to Chicago was
considered an entry into the USA and so my 90 day Visa Waiver entitlement
would start from that day. Any re-entries from Canada would not entitle
me to a new Visa Waiver allowance, so my USA entry was immediately
reduced by 39 days (the duration of my stay in Canada) therefore only
giving me a maximum of only 51 days in the USA afterwards. And the
really annoying part is that this would not have been the case if
I’d managed to get a direct flight from London to Toronto. That’s
the part which really stinks!
And the stopover to Chicago
was a bit of a nightmare. Everywhere else in the world, I would’ve
just got off one plane and straight onto another because I was in
transit. But in Chicago, as in all other cities of the USA, once I
got off the plane, I had to collect my baggage, pass through customs,
re-deposit my luggage for transit and re-enter through International
Departures with the same strict security checks. This all took so
much time that I almost missed my connecting flight to Toronto. In
fact, I was so worried about it that I didn’t dare waste any
time by stopping to tie my shoelaces after my security check.
But I did eventually catch
my flight. I was the last passenger on board and couldn’t find
any overhead space for my luggage. So after squeezing my coat, scarf
and jumper into the locker above, I slipped the laptop under the seat
in front of me, placed my carry bag in front of my seat, and sat down
with my right foot on the laptop and my left foot in the space in
front of the passenger next to me. Space-wise, this was the opposite
extreme of the Business Class seat I had on my previous flight. And
to add insult to injury, I had a window seat when I specifically asked
for an aisle seat!
And this story
ends with some good news and some bad news. First the good news. Lorne
White, my Canada Tour organiser had told me that due to another commitment
(he had choir practise) I should expect him at the airport at about
midnight. My flight was due to arrive at 6.45pm, so I’d have
to wait in the airport for about 5 hours before being picked up. But
my hosts, John and Mary Beth Sheffield, made a special trip to pick
me up, so I saved several hours of waiting. And it was such a welcomed
sight when we finally got to their home in Welland and I saw the snow
covered houses and streets. And the bad news? The airlines lost my
claimed that 95% of lost baggage is returned to the passenger
within 24 hours. So I fall into the 5% category, because mine took
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
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