I have luck with just one thing in life, but it’s a big thing: planes. As in, I’m always, somehow, against all odds, managing to get on them.
Let me explain. My Mom is a flight attendant and one of the perks of the gig is that her family members can fly for free, so long as they fly in space available seats — those never purchased or that belong to people who, for one reason or another, never show up. Since most flights are oversold versus ever having empty seats, I’m usually in the morally compromising position of betting on other people’s bad luck; hoping, but trying not to hope, that somebody will miss their connection or get stuck in security, so I can take their spot.
JOMO KENYATTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NAIROBI, KENYA But then: another one of those airports, like Newark, where you can’t let your guard down or trust anything that anyone tells you. A place where you have to snap out of it. Nothing will be easy here. East African Safari? Right over there in the waiting tent, sir; a representative will come and collect you and the other passengers. A representative? No, you have to go through immigration. Transit? Twenty dollars please. East African Safari is in the Cargo Terminal, reachable via shuttle bus—that shuttle bus. No, it’s in the domestic terminal, which is now the international terminal because the airport burned down on Wednesday. Or possibly it’s the cargo terminal that’s now the domestic terminal, which means the international terminal would be—
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that it took several hours to disentangle all of this, although this is to be expected, since the airport—the third busiest in Africa by passenger volume. Like, imagine JFK burning down and you’ll get an idea of how major this is—had in fact been reduced to a charred hunk of ’60s brutalist concrete the previous Wednesday. And what a field day the conspiracy theorists are having! “I DIDN’T BURN AIRPORT, SAYS PARETTI,” trumpeted possibly the greatest newspaper headline I’ve ever seen; “BLAZE CATASTROPHE,” read another, elegantly.
Blogger Armin Rosen has a fascinating post about visiting nine airports in the Middle East and Africa, describing his experiences at each one of them. I mostly fly out of JFK and in my experience, it takes forever to get through JetBlue’s security screening at Terminal 5, and is less of a pain if say, you are flying on Virgin America and going through Terminal 4. I’ve also haven’t had many problems flying out of LAX. Haven’t yet flown out of charred airport yet.
Photo: Shankar S.
The Wall Street Journal's Middle Seat column discussed how airlines have increasingly taken available seats on flights and blocking them out for regular customers, but keeping them available for "elite" frequent flyers. Scott McCartney reports that 30 to 40 percent of airline seats are reserved for these "elite" flyers or come with a reservation fee.