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The long flight in coach

August 25, 2006

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I knew I did not like long flights, but I had forgotten how much I hate them. Despite being packed in like sardines and threat level at an orange, it was not really that bad. Not something I want to do every day, but certainly endurable and we made the most of it. Ms. Mozart actually really enjoyed the whole process and had a ball. It was her first flight as we have avoided planes due to the 9/11 hassles as well as her being a very active toddler. There is so much beauty in California that we just did lots of  road trips for adventures.

We left at 10 in the morning for a 3:15 flight, but enjoyed ourselves at the airport and had a leisurely lunch and had no trouble with all of our check in or extensive carryon. We had measured and weighed everything before we left. The KLM website says there is a 70 pound weight limit for each bag of check on and each passenger is allowed two, but apparently it was changed to 50 some time ago, so we were a little over on a few bags. But they only charged us 25 dollars extra for one bag. All arrived safely. And from start to finish it was all quite easy and mostly smooth sailing.

We had three of Rick Steve’s favorite carryon bags and three rather large back packs. We had 2 separate wheel trollies that we put two RS bags on, the other had a RS bag and backpack and Ms. Mozart rolled her own convertible LL Bean bag full of toys and books. We were definitely under the legal limits, (just pushing them to the limit) but it was easy to move thru the airport.

We have never been thru the new security process so that was somewhat of a shock. It felt pretty violating even tho we knew it was coming. Some guy was shouting something in heavy accented English at the start of the area that we never did understand. It was a fast moving frenzy. Rough, hurried and accented barks of  “Take off your jackets” ,”take off your shoes” ,”put your things in here” with police  every where (including one riding a bike in the airport)....what a world we live in today! Ms. Mozart looked stunned by it all. “Why do they want me to take off my boots mommy?”

How do you answer a five year old with such a question? I have worked hard to protect her from the news of all the senseless violence in our world, so I just said that it was part of the silly rules today and they did not use to do this when I use to fly so it was new to me too. I was saddened  by the change and did not feel a bit safer. I am all for keeping people safe, but I think much of it is all political and it felt like being in some bizarre movie about living in a  police state. Oh, well, such is our life today and it certainly could be worse, but the process was just new to us.

We did get flagged over as Ms. Mozart’s toy backpack had some kind of problem so they wanted to see all of ours. I had forgotten and left in a couple small bottles of chicken hot dogs and they are packed in a very tiny amount of water. They left them in and that was the end of that.

The flight itself was perfectly fine and typical. The service was endless. I do wonder what the thinking is for waking people up in the middle of the night with 3 hours yet to go for a grand choice of ice cream or potato chips. Bizarre. But the kids meal and low fat meals ordered were fine and the flight attendants pleasant enough. I did really miss my bottled water and it’s impossible to get up much of the flight due to the endless service, so of course one does not get the same amount of water or hydration without ones own water.

Ms. Mozart was a perfect passenger which made things easier. She loved watching take off and landing and enjoyed slipping into her PJ’s (under a blanket), watching some movies and reading. The biggest hit was a little book I just happened across when I bought some posters for her birthday sleep over. It is an old fashion paper doll book called Dolly Dingle takes a trip around the world. It was great with lots of cute kids in costumes from around the world and lots of wonderful details.

We had no problem bringing her scissors in and she cut away to her hearts content and used them also for pretend play. She also really enjoyed a world map with magnetic stick ons. I liked them both because they were fun and educational and gave us good things to discuss. I highly recommend both for kids who travel.

She went to sleep easy and slept well until they woke us up for ice cream. She is a very active child, yet did not seem to have any problem being so confined for so long. She only got up twice the whole flight and was fine with that. Meanwhile I got up lots of times and needed to move more than she seemed to. Of course she had the most room because the space is really most appropriate for someone who weighs 34 pounds. Her father, I and most of the other passengers were thoroughly squished and imprisoned. Her enthusiasm and the excitement of the adventure made it a decent trip and was a good model to follow.

That is until the end when we met the purser from hell who was in a hurry to get home to bed. We landed early in pea stew, no visibility fog and there was a long delay at the gate waiting for someone to open the gates with a plane full of people standing for a good 15 minutes. Since we had to collect our carryon luggage we just remained seated and waited until everyone got off.

I had taken off my shoes and socks so that my legs would not swell. It was quite a trick getting them off with the severely limited leg room and space available, but definitely impossible to put them back on without moving to a different seat. So that was the first thing we did quickly.

We barely stood up when the harassing started. We were moving as fast as we could, but apparently
that was not good enough for the purser from hell. It does take a few moments for two bleary eyed 50 somethings with an active five year old to gather 6 different pieces of legal carryon in miniscule space, put them on 2 roller caddies and wheel them all out. While the harpy purser snarled, the pilot was the only person to help. In all my years of flying I have never experienced anything like the rudeness this lady dished out. Needless to say, it was an upsetting way to arrive and made me very disappointed with KLM who I will send a copy of part of this blog to as well as formal complaint.

As a former international flight attendant with TWA, I was appalled by the conduct of that purser. She actually loudly screeched and physically attacked at one point,shoving our luggage and charged ahead with menacing body language. I could not believe my eyes. Had she remained calm and helpful we could have all gotten out faster and much happier. She ruined the flight for us and I am sorry my child had to observe such hideous behavior. What was she thinking??? She either had an exceptionally bad flight, was hung over or she was on drugs. Mercifully, this was the first we had seen her.

Most people had little or no carryon (due to the orange alert most likely), so we and one other older woman with substantial carryon were the only ones subject to this harassment. Note that not one passenger complained while they had to wait 15 minutes in a roasting crowded plane standing while they waited for them to hook the gate to the plane.

It was a horrible way to arrive, but thankfully we had to concentrate on our next steps, so that helped us refocus and dissipate that horrendous scene. We were pleased that all of our bags had arrived, we zipped thru customs and the masses at the airport all stared at our huge supply of luggage. We had two big carts filled to the brim with our big carryon double bags on wheel carts on top, so were quite a sight drudging thru the airport.

We were very pleased that the rest of the people at the airport and Amsterdam were very friendly and helpful, so we began to quickly shed the bad taste in our mouths from that purser from hell. We met a nice family as we waited for a taxi together who were just returning home form a holiday in Mallorca with almost as much baggage as ours as we waited together for van taxis. Two porters there were very friendly and helpful.

We got a great van taxi and had no trouble getting all of our luggage in and the driver was great and helpful. Ms. Mozart really got a kick out of it because it was one with two TV’s in the back seat. It was a rainy, dreary day, but we were back to happy again!

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