This post will go online when I am safely home in California, but it is being composed on the Asus in flight. For once I have plenty of room to work, which of course means that I have been very lucky.
Being a regular transatlantic passenger has a few perks. One of them is that I get to fly in Economy Plus, the heavily promoted extra legroom seats on United, despite the fact that I can only afford bargain basement tickets and ought to be confined to cattle class in the hold. I always book my seats well in advance to ensure that I get an aisle placement, preferably on one of the 2-seat-wide outer banks of seats on the 777s that are the usual equipment on the London – San Francisco route. But sometimes things go wrong. I could see from the crowds in the gate area that this was going to be a full flight, which usually means problems. Sure enough, I had barely been in my seat a few minutes when a stewardess asked to see my boarding pass and I noticed an angry-looking man hovering over her. My seat had been double-booked.
Slowly the story began to unfold. Lufthansa are apparently on strike, and lots of their flights have been canceled. As they are a part of the Star Alliance group, that meant that United was first choice for rescuing stranded passengers. The woman sat next to me had been re-routed from Frankfurt, where apparently some of the ground staff were on strike as well. But the guy who had my seat had come from Dubai. He’d had a first class ticket, and Lufthansa had refused to pay United to get him a similar seat with them. Not only was he dumped back in Economy Plus, but I was in his seat. No wonder he was steaming.
The stewardess took our boarding cards away to sort things out and soon came back with the news that I had to move. I had visions of being stuck in the middle seat of the five-wide central bank back in Economy. But no, it was my lucky day: I was being upgraded to Business class.
It is a while since I have been in the luxury seating. I used to fly Business quite a bit when I was in Australia because my employers wanted me to arrive fresh and able to work after every trip, but things have changed a bit since then. Economy class service has got steadily worse as the airlines cut corners to save money, but Business has got better. The food is actually edible, and you get a choice of main course. The wine is free and United were pushing Californian produce – I had a rather nice Monterey chardonnay with my meal. The seat is adjustable in all sorts of ways I haven’t quite managed to work out, and there’s a nice little reading light that peers flexibly over your shoulder like a Puppeteer’s head.
What I don’t have is a power supply, which is why I’m composing blog posts on the Asus rather than doing serious work on the Dell. Yes, I know, I’m probably the only person on this flight who has two laptops with her. I’m an incorrigible geek. So sue me.
All in all, however, it has been a very comfortable trip. Hopefully it means that I will arrive in California feeling fairly refreshed and able to cope with my 32-hour day. That’s kind of important, because Kevin and I have stuff to do in advance for Worldcon and he’s leaving around lunch time on Friday (he’s driving there, I’m flying).
By the law of averages, this doubtless means that I have a horror flight somewhere in my near future, but for now I’m going to enjoy the rest of the trip. I should also say that, while the service here is very nice, no way is it worth the several thousand dollars more that I would have to pay to travel this way by right.