Monday, August 15, 2011

The Flight Part Two: FRO

Not a whole lot to say about it, really. Compared to my last air adventure, this was a walk in the park.
We were sad to be leaving, but happy to be going back to our own space with our own things once again.

Major difference this time around: I had my husband with me. Four hands. Three seats.  So I had a husband and a stroller in London this time - not sure which I was more thankful for.
E still refused sleep for the most part, but we did manage to stretch her out between us a few times for some power naps. Much better situation over all. It's amazing how much better flying is with two parents and one child. E was out numbered (and happy to have both of us with her, I suspect). My sincere applause to all those reading this that have travelled with more than one child for long distances. It is a tall order with just one. A very tall order.

The only really interesting occurance on the return trip: The Qatari Seat Stealer.

We board our LHR-to-DOH flight in London. Once again a full plane... busting at its seams. We have three seats in the middle. Not too terrible.
A young family with four little boys boards and we see them searching for their seats just in front of us to the right. They were headed to Kenya via Doha. It looks like the mom was supposed to have two boys with her in a row of three, and the dad would have the other two in a row of three with him. Good way to sit for a family of six.
But it seems that someone (actually, two someone's) have sat in two of the dad's three seats. We watch him politely tell the lady that he believes she is sitting in his seat.
We watch her completely ignore him. He looks around nervously and tries again. The woman waves a dismissive hand at him. We see him look at his wife and verify out loud the seat numbers on his tickets. He says a third time "I believe you are sitting in two of our seats".
She says "no" and waves her hand at him again.
So the seatless man signals to a flight attendant, who then strides over and inspects his tickets, looks for his three seats, and yup, two Qatari ladies are sitting in 2/3rd's of them.
She politely explains to the lady in the aisle seat that she and her friend have sat in the wrong seats and asks to see their boarding passes. It looks like their seats should be across the aisle in the the middle area.  She asks the ladies to move to their correct seats and is met with a simple "no" once more. Their faces are covered by their burqas, but their eyes are not meeting the flight attendants. They talk back and forth to each other, but aren't acknowledging the flight attendant. Basically ignoring her.
Now, this puts the flight attendant in an awkward spot. What to do?
She goes and gets her boss - the head hancho flight attendant. This lady looks like she means business. She asks to see everybodys boarding passes. She confirms they are in the wrong seats. She politely asks them to move so the father with two young boys can sit. She is met with a simple "no".
By now, they are drawing attention. Everyone in the plane has been seated and safety announcements have been completed. We are ready to leave.
The person behind me, an Arab man, voluteers to translate for them, thinking possibly that the ladies aren't understanding what is being asked of them. So he gets up and translates everything in Arabic. The two ladies sitting in the wrong seats relpy in Arabic. He translates back to the flight staff.
"She says she likes these seats better and they will not be moving. She says he can have their two seats if he wants them".
The flight attendants clutch onto this possibility - it would be much easier to ask the man and kids to move rather than stand there and fight with these stubborn ladies. But, immediate problem. The man's two sons are maybe two and three years old. One of them would have to sit alone next to the Qatari ladies (a window seat). That isn't going over well with the Kenyan man.
He is starting to get agitated (I would be in a blind rage by this point. Just watching this go down is getting me all boiled up).
More flight attendants seem to gather around, and the Qatari lady has begun snapping Arabic phrases in a high pitched voice at the Kenyan man's wife through the seat opening (the wife and other two kids are seated directly behind them). Who knows what she's saying, but it sounds angry.
The wife starts repeating "Please don't speak to me" to the seat stealer.
By now, the entire economy class section is watching. The head flight attendant speaks with the captain, who was paused on the runway, and she comes back and asks the Arab guy behind me to translate a message: "If they do not move, we will turn the aircraft around and have the police escort them off the plane".
Seat Stealer #1 listens (her side kick is saying nothing), and replies in Arabic. He translates.
"She says she is not moving and that is that. He can have their seats. She asks that you not bother her anymore".
She is calling their bluff. And they do appear to be bluffing. The plane has stopped but you could see by the faces of the airline staff the last thing any of them want to do is to be the one to have this Qatari national escorted from the aircraft. This would surely mean a loss of someone's job in the end.
Meanwhile, I am getting pretty hot around the collar. Ella has started to grumble, and its been half an hour of this sh*t.
The Arab family behind us are talking to each other, saying how ridiculous it all is. You got that right. It's people like these two that give the whole place a bad name.
We stand still on the runway for a few more minutes, then the plane starts to slowly turn around. The Kenyan man is adamant that he only wants the seats he's paid for. I agree.
Then something magical happens. People start to speak up.
Everyone around us starts to shout at these two.
The guy across from us yells "Tell her in Arabic that I am sueing her and her family for missing my next flight".
The British lady up front says "Move your silly ass*s to your own seats".
Somebody with a crying baby shouts "Get on with it, have her arrested then."
A few Arabic phrases were offered up as well. Everyone was ticked.

The whole plane had to get involved to finally get a reaction out of these two. They get up and move to their own (and in my opinion, equally crappy) seats.
The entire place starts to applaud. The Kenyan man just looks disgusted. Fourty five minutes later, the two women move the few across the aisle to correct seats.
Who knows why she wanted those two seats. Better view of the toilets? their legs got tired a few steps short of their own seats? A few inches more space in the overhead bins? First dibs on the snank mix? One can only guess.

I tell Colin (who has been threatening me not to get involved this whole time) that I am going to write a letter to the airline. Oh, if he had a nickle for every time I wanted to write a complaint letter.
I begin composing it in my mind. These two fools have added an hour to my flight. It's already been a long day.
Of course, I haven't written my letter. But I am venting to you, well, because it makes for a good read if nothing else.
I believe that any other airline would probably have acted with less patience and more determination. Qatar is a funny place that way. Bending to the 'wants' of its people is commonplace here, and very unlike what we are accustomed to in North America.
There was something strangely refreshing about the whole plane rallying together to get those two ladies iin their own seats. Certainly gives new meaning to the term 'in-flight entertainment'.


  1. I have witnessed some very odd things while flying to and from the Middle East over the years. Its' a place like no other, for sure.
    I always feel sorry for the flight staff when passengers are royal pains in the a**. Great read, Jim

  2. Great inflight entertainment, thanks for sharing. I would have got extremely wound up if I had been there. :)

  3. As I was reading this I was reminded of witnessing similar acts of total arrogance in the region. I was also hoping that you were going to report that eventually passengers chimed in, and they did which reflexively caused me to exclaim "YES" out loud here in the hospitality room of the inappropriate of me don't you know. Reading it also reminded me of how when we used to land at JFK in NYC from KSA the whole plane would erupt in applause happy to be back in the West. Thanks for sharing, Tim. (PS: great new photo on your title banner)

  4. Finally getting to comment. I am happy that Colin was with you for the return trip. That poor man and his family. I will say the blog about the flight home I absolutely loved it. I laught and cried at the same time. Start writing your book, you are fantastic. Keep them coming.

  5. I love your new display page.

  6. I think I was on the same flight, but different. We had a partial family that hadn't arrived. And of course we waited, and waited and waited for the rest of the family to appear. We left 40 minutes later. And then there was the time when a man Qatari wanted the window seat and arrived before the actual passenger of the seat. A female ]European] with determination. As the saying goes, "Let the games begin". They did and we left 30 minutes later. And then there was the time one husband 3 wives, several children and a nanny. Not seated all together, but insisted to be. Big surprise! I think you know the rest

    1. This all sounds sadly familiar to me... ahh, the frustrations of long haul flights home!