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Nothing Could Prepare Me For This: The Flight From Hell

Well, it finally happened.  In my years of travelling, I had experienced everything from babies vomiting apple sauce on me and drunk ladies vomiting pink slime all over the place to a plane that once almost stalled in mid-air on take off.  Despite all of the things that I’ve witnessed in my travel life, it was only last month where I experienced my first flight from hell which for purposes of this article, I will call “The Flight From Hell.”

It was a day like any other.  The sun was shining and sadly my last day in Chiang Mai, Thailand was coming to an end and it was time to move on to the next leg of my trip:  Calcutta, India.  (Sorry, I prefer calling it by the old name instead because “Kolkata” is lacking that certain je ne sais quoi for me.  After having been royally screwed over multiple times by China Eastern on my initial voyage from Los Angees to Bali, I had my doubts about whether it was worth saving the money to book another China Eastern flight to go from Chiang Mai to Calcutta.  Of course, given my frugal nature, my wallet won out, and I picked cheap over trustworthy for this next part of my journey.  I chose wrong.

My flight was to take me from Thailand, with a connection through Kunming, China.  While the initial leg of my flight was uneventful, my short stopover in Kunming is where I would start to notice that something was amiss. 

In China, even if you are just connecting on an international flight and staying within the terminal, you are required to basically clear customs and check back in, then clear security all over again.  If you have a tight layover, on a connection, you’re basically fucked.  Anyway, as I was clearing security to re-enter the terminal to catch my outbound flight, a security officer was asking to see everyone’s boarding pass and passport – as is customary in pretty much every airport these days.   When he asked the guy behind me to show him those documents, the young Indian man got fairly aggressive, irately making a scene as though he were really pissed off with the security guard for making him reach into his jacket to fulfill this simple request.  It was one of those situations in which you think the person reacting is just acting as a joke, instead of being serious.  This guy was serious.

 As I got to my gate, there was about an hour to lounge around the relatively empty terminal before boarding.  I noticed the same guy who had earlier made the scene was now at my gate, this time with a larger group of his cronies.  They were all wearing these leather jackets as though they were part of some team, school, or gutter.  You know how sometimes when you see a group of people together, there is something about their small behaviors which makes you want to stay away?  That was these guys.  Unfortunately, as they were on my flight, there was no where to go!  I never in a millions years expected what was about to happen next.

Picture this:  a 737-sized plane with about 200 passengers.  Two Chinese flight attendants for the entire plane.  No first class section, nor any male presence.   No, I’m not sexist, but you’ll see why this may have mattered in a few minutes.  I was sitting around the middle section of the plane and this group of leather-clad goons was sitting in the back.  There was one of them that was carrying a big plastic trash bag and he kept approaching the young guy seated to my right.  Eventually the guy to my right wanted to leave his seat before take off, however instead of letting me get out, he would climb onto me to exit to the aisle (I was in the aisle seat).  I’m not even making this up.

We hadn’t even taken off and yet all of these guys were walking around the plane with one another.  Then other unrelated passengers started simultaneously hitting their call buttons and when the flight attendant would come over, they would be asking for water - we hadn’t even taken off yet!  While they attendant is trying to control the Goon Squad to get them seated so we could take off, other passengers are pestering her for water!  Eventually one of the attendants started screaming at this group of Indian youngsters to sit down but they refused to do so, and refused to even put their belongings into the overhead bins.

Yes, passengers were walking around chatting (yelling) with each other while we took off, basically ignoring the flight attendants.  It got worse.  Now the entire group of about 10 to 15 of them were walking up and down the aisles talking to their friends who had been seated in other areas.  In front of me, one with no regard for anyone, basically had his balls in the face of the guy in the aisle seat, while he stood leaning over to talk to his buddy in the window seat.

Other people were crawling over the tops of the seats to go sit with their friends.  Do you remember that scene from the movie World War Z where the zombies were climbing over each other in the plane?  That was this.  As the flight attendant grew exasperated to the point of tears, I could start feeling my blood pressure go up.  Perfect timing, after having spent a stress-free two weeks in Chiang Mai!

 As my seat companion decided to once again try to leave his seat by climbing on top of me, I quickly put my hand on him, pushed him back in his seat, stared at him and said empathically, “WAIT!”  He shut the hell up and sat down while I took my time getting out of my seat so he could leave.  Not soon had I sat down than I heard one of the Leather Gang Goons behind me yelling at the flight attendant, with her yelling back.  Now what?

Apparently since Leather dude was walking around the plane, he wasn’t there when she was handing out the food and now there was none left.  I heard him cursing at her, “YOU’RE A LIAR!!!  YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO GIVE ME FOOD.  YOU’RE A LIAR.  I WANT TO SPEAK WITH THE MANAGER!!!!.”  It was worse than that.  I couldn’t handle it anymore, seeing this poor flight attendant be so berated.  She and her partner had totally lost control of the plane.  I felt like I was in the middle of a bar fight, 30,000 in the air!!

I turned around and yelled at the top of my lungs to this absolute moron “SHUT THE FUCK UP NOW!!!!”  He was so involved and there was so much noise I don’t even think he noticed!  The passengers around me sure did and for a moment, considered a revolt to arrest this guy and hold him down until the plane landed.  Unfortunately for the rest of the somewhat docile Indian passengers, conflict wasn’t on their menu tonight.   I silently prayed that somewhat would throw this guy out of the plane.

Had this been a flight within the US, there is no doubt it would have been diverted with an emergency landing somewhere.  Most of these people would have been arrested upon touchdown. 

In this scenario, and I don’t know why, there were no repercussions.  I’m not sure if it’s because it was late and the attendants just wanted to wait it out, or because they have more relaxed laws in India and the Chinese didn’t feel like dealing with it.  These young men were very disrespectful and perhaps even more so given that the attendants were female.   The flight attendants were left crying.  The pilot didn’t even address the situation.  In fact, when the plane was landing, most of the Leather Goons ran to the front of the plane while we were still touching down so that they would be first in line to get off the plane.  Incredible.

So that was my flight from hell.  As much as I’ve tried, I’m certain words have no captured all of the hell that went on during that flight.  Fortunately it was not a long haul flight, but three hours of that insanity was more than enough.  While the Leather Goons were the cause of the havoc, I have to pin some of the blame on the airline for accepting this behavior before the flight had even taken off.  While I usually never care about what airline I fly, I will definitely consider dishing out a few extra dollars for a different airline to avoid this one.

Thanks for reading.

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