After almost 24 hours of travel, Michael and I made it to Bangkok in one piece. Flying China Southern proved adventurous. Many firsts were had on this journey. The first First was flying on an Airbus 380, the double-decker beast that holds the record as the world’s largest plane and seats roughly 525 passengers in a 3-class configuration. When during boarding, a crew member ushered us up a staircase, I was sure our seats were mistaken for someone else’s. But lo and behold, we were assigned the bulkhead row right behind business class on the second level, giving us glorious leg room that prompts anyone 5’10” and taller whose legs make up 75% of their body to weep with joy.
The top level also only seats 200 or so fliers, so the cabin felt downright spacious. Given my fear of flying, this non-claustrophobic environment made me relax to the point of acting almost like a normal human being without a crazy amount of phobias. That is until we started pulling away from the gate and the power went out abruptly, bringing the plane to a halt. This was my second First to be had. For the next 15-20 minutes it seemed like someone was trying to jump-start the engine and the lights and sound system would flicker on momentarily before going out again. Over and over. And then on the 19th or so try whatever was being attempted worked, the power came back on, and we resumed taxiing down the jetway. No announcement came from the flight deck. No flight attendants tried to allay fears and explain the situation. There was no reassurance for this skittish flier. As I pictured the plane losing power at 38,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean and me plummeting to my doom, I decided there was no better moment than this to self-medicate into oblivion. And 15 hours later, it was time to land.
Having been trained by the steely, haggard-looking, and at times downright-mean flights attendants on certain U.S. carriers (especially one starting with the letter D) to get my ass in my seat and stay there as soon as the pilot begins to even so much as contemplate a descent into our destination, I was absolutely stupefied to see a complete disregard for these rules on the China Southern flight. As we started our approach, then descent, all around me, passengers were still walking around, using their electronics, and continuing to watch the in-flight entertainment. Then literally six to seven minutes before our wheels touched the runway, my seatmate one seat away from me stood up and climbed on his seat and started to take down his suitcase from the overhead compartment. As my eyes bugged out at this total disregard for proper in-flight behavior, he unzipped his suitcase and started rearranging the four jumbo containers of Costco cherries he brought with him in his carry-on. Never mind that fresh fruit is not allowed to be brought into China, this man spread the boxes of cherries on the empty seat next to him with five minutes to actual touchdown. At the same time a mother leisurely strolled into one of the restrooms with her young daughter. With four minutes until landing, a flight attendant finally realized what was going on and started clucking and waving her arms at the Cherry Man. She then ran to the occupied restroom, pried it open and literally dragged the mother and daughter out. Shooing them to their seats, she stuffed the cherries back into Cherry Man’s suitcase and crammed the suitcase into the overhead with seconds to spare until landing. We touched down as she was buckling herself into her jump seat. This was my third First.