Dirty Laundry: Weird News and Your Nasty Comments


I’m resting in Bali today and it’s laundry day at The Tarmac. The weird aviation news is piling up, my favorite reads are unread and the usual FT commenters are circling in a holding pattern, like vultures.

The thing about the weird news is it just gets weirder. You got Shanghai-based Spring Airlines wanting to dress flight attendants as maids and butlers similar to those sexist-themed French-maid cafes in the Akihabara area of Tokyo.

And then there’s my old nemesis Michael O’Leary, the foul-mouthed CEO of Ryanair who says he can rescue the economy of Greece with tourism if only Athens Airport would let his low-cost flights land. (The really weird thing about O’Leary is he’s often right. No shareholders meeting will ever give him the boot. At least not yet.)

There’s even weird weird. A passenger landing at San Francisco International was hauled away by the FBI for not flushing the toilet while in the air. Of course there’s more to the story. I don’t want to go there but it’s worth reading if you’re not on your lunch break.

And now this has just come in, The Sun tabloid in the U.K. has another UFO story to report. But this time the cockpit crew of a commercial Airbus over Glasgow also are reporting the flying object. JT up at corporate FlyerTalk (a boss I both like and respect) wants to know why I’m not all over that one.

Listen up, JT. You know I just flew down to Bali and you know I fly coach. (More on “I fly coach” later.) I agree with good old Joe Sharkey in his New York Times column (one of my unread reads) when he writes nobody can work in coach.

I had the best of intentions on my five-hours with Thai Airlines from Chiang Mai to Bangkok down to Bali yesterday. (More on that later, too.) I agree with everything Joe wrote.

The closeness, the flimsy tray, the lack of leg and elbowroom, the weighty laptop–forget it. JT, I was trying to work but then the guy in front of me snapped his seat back and my notes were on the floor. The laptop and can of Diet Coke were on my lap.

I sat in a puddle of Coca-Cola for three of the five hours. And I did it for you, JT.

Bright clothes in laundry basket. Blue, indigo, purple.

Now that I’m all riled up about it again let’s get to the “I fly coach.” It’s shocking how many FT members hate me for this. Here’s an example from a private message in My FlyerTalk inbox yesterday:

It is obvious that you has (sic) a limited knowledge of airlines as you are the one that designated AC’s tatty business class as First Class. I suggest you try long haul first or business on a wide range of airlines before offering up empty platitudes about AC. Book a flight on Emirates or Qatar or EVA or Singapore or Cathay or Hainan or ANA or JAL and then come back and provide your insight. (“Tatty” – they work so hard to out-wright me.)

Note to this regular who won’t give his real name: The flight attendant clearly called it “first class,” rightly or wrongly. She said “business class” was coming in June on the new 777s. I was trying to be funny. Most of my humor, or lack of it, is self-deprecating. What in the world do you think I get paid for this dribble? You book that first-class ticket for me.

Bright clothes in laundry basket. Blue, indigo, purple.

For the record, seriously readers, I spent a lot of years writing travel for newspapers and a travel agents’ magazine and have gone on more press junkets around the world than I can recall. Some of them I didn’t even write about. They were the kind of fake journalism kowtowed to by PR firms: Cathay Pacific first-class YVR to HKG and then a helicopter to the roof of the Peninsula Hotel for three days of fine dining and even finer wine. (More on wine later.) That trip sponsored by The Peninsula Group. A few weeks later The Peninsula Manila was the destination.

We so-called press would play rock-paper-scissors for the Presidential Suite. Really.

Inaugural flights on Qantas, Air New Zealand, you name it. Always first-class! The one time the Concord came to Vancouver, I was on it when it departed. The travel media gets it all. I get heartburn just thinking about it.

I spent 20 years engaged in travel (as Samuel Butler once put it) too easy to deserve the name. I live in the mountains. I’m not a first-class traveler. Read somebody else. PLEASE!

Read the glossy travel mags, because that’s the dirty little secret of how most all travel writing gets done. But not by me. Not anymore.

Now the wine. Dare The Tarmac mention wine and I get plenty of emails in MyFlyerTalk again telling me I know squat, “not even red from white in a clear glass.”

Please allow me to undress a little more for you.

Truth is, I was dined and wined so much as a travel journalist I was afraid it was becoming a drinking problem. So several years ago I stopped. Call me a wimp. But I love getting up in the morning and going for a run, especially in a strange and new city. And if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m an Alpine ski coach where the national training center is located, a paraglider pilot and all-round fool for the mountains where I live and grew up.

That Thai Airlines flight I mentioned above, I would be remiss not to write that the service was fine. They even hit the Bali tarmac that that Lion Air flight missed a few weeks ago. They redeemed themselves somewhat after I tore into them last week. But most of all I really liked how FT members added their insights on Thai Airways. It’s called FlyerTalk for a reason.

Bright clothes in laundry basket. Blue, indigo, purple.

Anyone who has come this far with me is a glutton for agony so I’ll give you more.

You might have noticed I didn’t say much up above where I mention the maid costumes on Spring Airlines. Usually that’s the sort of news The Tarmac dines out on with humor.

I get the press releases. You can too. I figure if somebody has already written it one way, why write it the same way again.

I did it with the South Korean flight attendants can wear pants item and got called a pervert in such a nasty manner that corporate FT had to remove the comments. Read it again. I think it is the strongest anti-sexist statement I’ve made. And you might know that’s a theme at The Tarmac.

One guy (no one has ever given me his real name) sent me three long paragraphs telling me he knew I was a pervert because he knew what I was really thinking, “even if you don’t know.” Then in three paragraphs he erotically described a flight attendant in Fifty Shades of Gray (grey if you’re in the UK) right down to “the soft brown nipples” telling me that was exactly what I meant. Can you believe it?

Another guy paid the 99 cents it takes to search a private cell number and left a message I might report to the Summit County, Utah, sheriff’s office when I get home. If he’d threatened a politician like that the Secret Service would have been at his door in three minutes.

How could anybody take this little writing gig so seriously? I don’t. Truth is you get what you pay for in life. (Well, maybe not a full-fare first-class ticket?)

I’m expecting the if-you-can’t-stand-the-heat comments are already being typed. Well, this ain’t no kitchen. But let’s agree on the adage. And please know this is not the only writing I do. It’s representative of what professional writers call ‘busy work’–get it over, pocket some change and go to the important stuff.

Writing about travel interests me because places are about people. A notepad is a great conversation opener. I’m always amazed what people will say when you’re writing it down. (Or what people will write without putting a name to it.)

Aviation is so amazing. I love keeping my ear to the tarmac and attempting to follow what goes on.

To all you first-class folks out there, especially the ones who know which wines are somewhat Presbyterian in the nose, please know that I really, really like places where prices are still quoted in chickens.

How did my laundry get so dirty?


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