The Traveler frustrated by Airlines
The Traveler travels a lot.
He has always been traveling worldwide, across the deserts and the oceans, over the mountains and the fields, from big cities to pristine islands.
He travels walking, sailing, riding, flying, but he definitely prefers flying.
This is not because it is faster or safer or fancier, but the Traveler is an airliner fan from his younger age and he loves flying in the comforting noise of the powerful engines.
His airliners knowledge is second to none and when he looks at them through the windows from the airport lounge or on the tarmac, he greets them. He talks to them. They are his friends. He knows them for such a long time.
He likes them all but his favorite is the long and classy Airbus A340 series 500 and 600 in her mighty elegance and her inspired cat nose.
The Traveler never had an issue with flying, despite some incidents here and there, as anyone would have experienced from time to time, but nothing enough to spoil his pleasure.
The Traveler is a happy flyer and he is like a wingless bird when he is not flying.
Of course, he is a frequent flyer registered in a number of famous airlines, such as British Airways, Air France, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines or Qantas and they all consider him as a valuable customer.
The Traveler is a happy traveler.
However, recently he experienced his first true dissatisfaction when flying. A true and deep frustration. And this happened not with one airline only, but with them all.
The Traveler became frustrated by the airlines because of love.
We all know how procedures and rules may be frustrating and we all have experienced some bothering and upsetting silly regulations or guidelines preventing us to behave freely as we would have expected.
Airlines, as any other corporations in any industry have their rules and procedures which sense is sometimes not easy to understand.
It happened the Traveler met a lady and deeply felt in love with her. She was the one he had searched and expected for his entire life. But she was not sharing his love. And after months and years of seduction attempts, she definitely rejected him.
He was alone again but he could not forget her. Night and day, day and night, he was thinking of her. He was missing her at any moment. She was in his head all the time and even eyes wide open he was seeing her smile and her sparkling dark mountain honey eyes.
When he was traveling, she was traveling with him, in his head, and he was thinking of her and talking to her all along the journey.
One day, he decided that such a love would be given the true consideration it deserved. He wanted his love to travel effectively with him and not to be disturbed by anyone during the flight. His love, as she was traveling with him should have a seat for her, her own and dedicated seat just next to his own one.
So, on his next flight, he bought two tickets and assured two bookings.
When he showed at the business class checking desk in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, he requested two boarding passes.
“But sir, you are alone, you are one only… Where is the other passenger, Mrs X ?” asked the attendant.
“Oh, don’t worry” he replied, “she is here, she is with me, in my head, and she always travels with me. And she has no luggage to check-in, all is in my own suitcase”.
“I am sorry, sir, but we need to see the passenger, physically, to deliver a boarding pass. Otherwise we can’t. We are not allowed to”.
“It’s impossible” he said. “She is not physically here, she is in my head… In my heart… In my heart, you understand?”
“I understand, sir, but we can’t deliver a boarding pass for someone in your heart. We can only deliver one for someone traveling in person”.
“But I paid for the ticket for her. I did the booking. You must give a boarding pass to my love”
“I understand what you are saying, sir, but we can’t do that. It is against our rules”.
Very frustrated, but still calm due to his politeness and education, the Traveler had nothing to do but to accept. Even the airline station manager who was called urged him to comply.
He dealt with the boarding crew and then the cabin crew to keep the next seat to his unattended during the flight and fortunately he was successful on this flight.
Before the next flight he tried to negotiate a deal with all the airlines to authorize him to book two seats, supported by two paid tickets, but was relentlessly opposed the same denial: it is against any airlines and air transport procedures.
He went up to Commercial Vice-Presidents, to Operations General Managers, to CEOs. He went to all possible reputable airlines. He went to the General Secretary of IATA. He tried alternative agreements. He argued he was a frequent flyer, holding Gold status. No way, his request was always rejected, always for the same reasons.
The only thing he could do was to hope the seat next to his would be free and was always engaging, as he had been encouraged by all the airlines management teams, the cabin crews to help him achieve at least this, sometimes unsuccessfully, but most of the time had he the relief of flying with his love on the seat next to him.
And when it was working, he was happy. He was placing his mascot, Vera the teddy bear (actually a teddy cat) on the next seat, to show everyone on board that the seat was clearly occupied.
On his last flight, back from Hong Kong to London, he was happy. Though the flight was likely fully booked, his talks with the check-in attendants and the cabin crew had been fruitful and when the door closed, the next seat was miraculously and nicely free. And Vera would travel easy and comfortable and his love too.
He had dinner, just after take-off and watched a nice movie. Then he looked through the window to admire the amazing thunder strikes that were illuminating the clouds below and the brightly emerging peaks, over the Himalaya. Then he looked at the sky.
Skies are always pure and lovely when cruising at 33,000 feet or more, full of stars.
A big star was shining intensely and when staring at her, the Traveler saw the smile and the dark honey eyes.
He laid down his seat to flat bed, laid himself comfortably and immediately felt asleep, rocked by the purring of the engines, his beloved eyes and smile in his head.
He was awaken by the feeling of an unexpected presence.
Looking besides he saw a man sleeping on the next seat. Vera had been stored in the seat pocket in front of him.
His frustration came back, but again, his politeness and education prevented him to make any trouble.
He tried to sleep again but the intruder awoke suddenly.
He was not looking very well. He was an old man, looking tired, upset, in trouble.
He was looking around, rather agitated, as if he had experienced or seen something bad or odd.
He noticed the Traveler was awaken and he told him “I am sorry, sir, I had such a strange dream…” And tears were coming at his eyes corners. He was going to cry.
The Traveler tried to comfort him. He was understanding this man had a problem and was needing some attention, some listening. So he made himself ready to listen.
“Tell me… What happened?”
The man sat more comfortably and seemed to be relieved a bit, probably to be listened to by the Traveler.
“First” he said “I need to apologize for having been invading your next seat. The attendant told me it was yours. But, you understand, it is difficult for me to get asleep in flight and my neighbor, two ranks back, was snoring so heavily that I had no other choice but to find an empty seat and only yours was available”.
“Oh, don’t worry, you are welcome” said the Traveler, forgetting his frustration.
And, turning more agitated and sad again, the man said “you know, I am traveling with my beloved wife… But she is in the cargo…”
“In the cargo!? How comes?” asked the Traveler.
“Oh, she passed away in Hong Kong and I am repatriating her body to the UK. The coffin is in the cargo hold”.
“Oh, I am terribly sorry to hear that”
“But what makes me so much in trouble is the dream I did just sleeping on that seat… I dreamt of my wife telling me I was a stranger, I was not in my place, I had to leave… I know we were not in good relationships with my wife. I was not always nice with her, but yet I was still loving her… What she was telling me was not fair”.
He was likely to weep.
“And as the dream was going on, I realized that the lady’s face was transforming bit by bit, step by step, her eyes were changing… And at the end, and this awoke me, the lady was shouting at me: go away, go back, you are not respecting my space… And her infuriated strange eyes were like throwing thunder strikes at me…”
And, briskly standing up “We are going to land shortly now, so, let me thank you for your hospitality and go back to my seat” he said sadly.
“No, no” said the Traveler “you can seat here, you are welcome”.
“Thank you” he said, “but this is not my place. I am not comfortable and I disturbed you enough”. And “but how strange were her eyes… What an unusual color…”
“Were they dark mountain honey color?” dared the Traveler.
The man did not even seem to be surprised. Thinking for a few seconds, he frowned and remembering, he murmured “yes… exactly… dark mountain honey… I can see them: dark mountain honey…”
The plane had started his descent to London Heathrow.
The Traveler looked through the window.
The great star was still shining in the sky and just a second before she faded away, swallowed by the thick layer of clouds, the Traveler saw her playful wink.
The Traveler’s heart beat paced up and he had a light smile. She was really traveling with him and she cared for their intimacy. He sat comfortably in his seat, watching at the landing approach in the camera screen and holding Vera’s furry paw in his right hand.
The flight attendant who performed the last cabin check before landing was touched to notice this nice couple, the man quietly and confidently asleep, smiling so happily, hand in hand with his love.
And when adjusting his jump seat belt in the galley, he told himself he will never forget the lady’s lovely dark mountain honey eyes.
Hervé Sabattier - October 2016