I am no snob. There was a reason that I would always spend the extra money to travel in business class. I made a promise to myself after being employed by Qantas Airways that I would never fly economy again. I understand if you are reading this and think that you are perfectly happy travelling in economy, but quickly check in with yourself, are you 1.83cm, 100kg with long legs, carrying an extra passenger that needs room to move.  To travel I just needed to work harder to make sure I could always travel comfortably.

Travelling to Japan recently, I purchased economy seats and applied for an upgrade using a portion of the 450000 points that I had accrued over the years. If you have them, you may as well use them. It was a risk, but it had always worked in my favour previously. The trip over to Japan was smooth sailing, easy and enjoyable. I received the upgrade, all good.

Sometimes things are just so beyond our efforts and we have no choice but to accept the outcome. With a typhoon looming that was predicted to be the worst in Japanese history, an abnormal number of people in Japan that were watching the rugby world cup things were about to take a turn for the worst. Japan literally shut down on the Saturday. Trains stopped, shops and restaurants closed, and the usually well stocked convenience shops were stripped clean of all produce. Saturday night we snacked on rice crackers, rice and tuna in seaweed and beer.

The shutdown continued into Sunday, eventually returning to almost normal by Sunday evening. But the damage was done. Several of the international airlines cancelled their flights, leaving hundreds stranded. My flight went from a possible upgrade to having any available seats snatched up. I remained cheerfully optimistic, still believing that I would pull off the impossible and be upgraded to at least premium economy.

I was waiting for my upgrade, even as I entered the old bus; Qantas 747 300 EUD. No fancy computers flying this old bird, it is flown the old way with levers and pulleys. The pilots that I know often say that flying these aircraft is real flying.  As I boarded the aircraft, I soon realised that I was heading straight to economy. I dragged my wheelie bag down the aisle, past business class, past premium economy, sinking into the depths of the aircraft where the lonely 50F was waiting.

Now the fun began. The thing is, with a ankle fusion just 15 months ago, I do not have the movement in my left ankle and leg to manoeuvre with dexterity the small space under the seat, so taking my shoes off and expecting them to be there when we land was a wishful thinking. My body took up all available space in the seat and allocated area. My knees jammed in hard against the seat in front. With the added little extra limitation of Parkinson’s lol, my body flexibility and mobility lacked the small subtle movements that enabled a sense of freedom to adapt to the cramped space.

Upon reaching cruising altitude the person in front reclined her seat, and that completely boxed me in. I am sure that over the years, the airline has trimmed off centimetres between the seats, thereby increasing the number of seats. I do not ever remember it being this cramped. And there I was, stuck, unable to move, my legs desperately vying for an angle where I could settle. Not much luck. My shoulder and left leg just nudged past the seat and into the aisle only to be reminded that this was not such a good idea by the hit from the flight attendant rushing to finish the service so they could have MTO (maximum time off).

In another life when I was also a flight attendant, I used to laugh at the American crew’s as they assisted each other up the steps onto their bus to the hotel. They were all well over 60.

Now, on this flight, the crew were old and craggy. But that does not matter if they still did a great job, but no, not on this flight. They did the absolute minimum.

So, I sat, serving my penance, in my seat, feeling like I was in a strait jacket, while my jailers, the crew, threw the scraps down and disappeared for the flight. I just kept reminding myself of one of my favourite sayings; in order to slay the tiger, you need to feed with the pigs.


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