I recently flew from Sweden to South Africa. When booking flight tickets, I usually check what it would cost to get out of the sardine tin and save my knees from fourteen hours of economy. You know, in case the managing director of Lufthansa wasn’t a reptile and suddenly took pity on just me. “Hey, here’s a seat that isn’t designed by a Nazi matchbox company and you won’t have to sell your organs in exchange for personal space.” It could happen.
This time, much to my surprise, the MD didn’t call and I had to accept my working-class fate. The engineers at Boeing obviously have a twisted sense of humour and designed the planes accordingly. As common cattle, we were herded to the front of the aircraft and marched through business class, showing us what we’re not entitled to. And as entertainment for upper-class citizens to gawk at while they sip champagne and pretend to check their counterfeit Breitlings.
But the engineers didn’t stop there. They were having far too much fun to stop there. In their brilliance, they invented premium economy. Why pay less and fly economy, when you can pay more and fly economy! Genius! I located my seat amongst the other livestock, took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself for the coming night. My arse slotted into its seat like a Tetris brick. No space wasted.
When the air hostess asked “Chicken or pasta?” I’m not sure she was prepared to hear me request if I could get off the plane.
“Sir, we are at 39 000 feet.” Confusion in her no-nonsense, no-sense-of-humour German accent.
“That’s ok, I’ll take the pasta to go.” A long fall to a sudden death sounded rather appealing. With any luck, I would pass out or freeze before even seeing the ground. The thought was bliss.
The cunning engineers have designed the seats to recline to the exact angle which allows your body to lean back while your head falls forward. These guys must have been wetting themselves with laughter while drawing this up. During the night I managed to doze off for 23 seconds and was woken by a warm, damp sensation on my nose. I had slid down my seat and planted my face into my neighbour’s sweaty side.
With approximately two hours remaining, the cabin lights came on and I was gently awoken by the plastic thud of a tray across my forehead. “Breakfast!”
Not that I was sleeping, but I closed my eyes and pretended that slumber was possible. Breakfast consisted of urine-coloured bits of goo, known to Lufthansa as scrambled eggs. The bread rolls were freshly baked, in 1984. Now they could be used to build another Berlin wall, or break one down.
The best thing about flying economy is getting off the plane and being grateful for not being on a plane anymore. I can sit on a pavement and it feels like the Radison. I can stir manure into luke warm water, call it coffee, and it’s delicious. The shower cleanses my body with unicorn tears and a clean towel is the soft embrace of exotic, illegally imported, near-extinct bunny fur.