16 February 2008

"The quality of travellers is better at the back end of the plane"

In The Weekend Australian former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie writes whimsically about his journey across the Pacific and the US in economy class.


I really didn't think it was that funny to be honest but I smiled politely as I desperately tried to force my carry-on luggage into the overhead bin above seat 50H in the bowels of economy class on the Brisbane to LA flight QF175.

"What no more first or business class?" chuckled a friendly Australian of Indian descent, who seemed far too pleased with himself. The woman next to him across the aisle was even more direct: "Why are you down here?" I thought that was self-evident so I just kept smiling like some deranged idiot until the last of my luggage was finally safely in place.

But as I sat down she wouldn't let it go, "Don't ex-premiers get first and business class travel for life?" she inquired. She was about my age and pleasant enough so I ever so politely explained that ex-premiers did not get free air travel for life, secretly wishing for the first time ever that we did. But since I was the fool who had banned such travel I was in no position to complain.

"The quality of travellers is better at the back end of the plane," I stated bravely. They seemed particularly pleased with that idea and I was equally pleased they didn't ask when was the last time I travelled economy. The truth was it has been a little while since I travelled either out of the government jet or the pointy end of the plane and since their taxes had been paying for both the least I could do was to take their gentle Australian ribbing on the chin. So I did.

The pointy end of QF175 may have been full but there were plenty of spare seats where the "quality passengers" were. So my new travelling mates told me that as soon as we took off we should divide up the empty seats for maximum comfort. "We will end up with more room that those buggers in business class at a fraction of the cost," my new best mate said in his clear Australian-Indian accent. And he was right...

I must try to emulate Mr B and be more stoic about long distance flights; but it would be good to acquire the secret of how he managed to get a whole row of seats to himself on a Qantas trans-Pacific flight.

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