Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fear of Flying

On Monday, June 29th, we board Air France #69 for a 6:45 p.m. flight direct from LAX to Paris (CDG.) We've been assigned aisle seats in Row 43. It's an Airbus and that fact has triggered my terror.

I would rate my fears on a scale of from 1 to 8, with 2 being apprehension and 8 being waves of unrelenting terror. There is no 10 because that would mean calling Air France and mindlessly screaming "I can't do it! Don't make me!"

According to a friend (and retired UAL Captain) Airbuses are made up,largely, of com[osite materials, not good, old, honest steel and aluminum. In fact, the tail attachment to the body is one of its weaker points. "How nice..." I cooed on reception of this news.

His reassurances that airlines rarely ever have had successive crashes within the same month wasn't particularly soothing.

What does reassure me (a bit) us the fact that the French are the most enthusiastic in all of the world to go on strike -- for real, imagined or just for the hell of it reasons. So far, the AF pilots are all at work.

Normally, we would (try to) go on MAA (a Major American Airline) but MAA doesn't go direct to Paris, only via Chicago, Boston, New York or Dallas and every one of those flights are full. Some have as many as 10 non-revs (non-revenue passengers) trying to make it to France. Even if MAA set out deck chairs on the wings, not every one is going to make those flights. So it's Air Chance or nothing.

We've only flown Air France once (tourist, round trip from LAX to CDG) and it was a memorable experience. I was in the middle of a row with five other people; my seat mates were a lovely, older couple, farmers, on their first flight ever (to visit a daughter in LA.) Both were dressed in their Sunday best - a blue rayon dress for her; tweedy suit for him. With typical French thrift, they had eschewed sending these outfits to the cleaners and instead hung them out "to air" --and apparently there was no wind that day.

In some ways, it didn't matter because immediately after the meal, there was a rush to the bathrooms where cologne (male and female) was available and free! No French person is going to ignore "free" and consequently a cologne front moved swiftly through the plane. So noxious was the aroma that several babies, who had been quietly sleeping, roused themselves with horrible cries. And then their mothers added to the din by cooing (uselessly) at them. It was an interesting if clamorous 45 minutes.

Our plane is scheduled to land (notice I'm not saying it actually will) at 2:15 p.m. on June 30th. A nice long flight over the French countryside. I hope I can keep my eyes open. It's so tiring to have to will a plane to stay in the air for so long...

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