Flight Virgins. Part 2

There I was, entering a KLM plane, through the new jet bridges at the airport in Costa Rica. That flight made a stop in Curacao, then in Schiphol, and from there we connected to a smaller aircraft that would take us to Tel Aviv. It was the only option to go to Israel without having to connect in the US, and I didn’t have a visa at the time. We were supposed to leave early afternoon, and arrive to Israel at night the following day, with a long stop at the Netherlands.

When you board a plane for the first time, it’s not really a big surprise. It’s pretty much a larger bus, with a couple more amenities. As I said before, you really couldn’t choose your seat unless you talked to the person at the counter, but us being a group of kids, got assigned seats close to each other. Some kids were lucky and got Business Class seats. I remember they got the classic hand-painted blue and white tiles so popular in Holland as a souvenir. I got nothing, so I stole the blanket, which I still keep almost 30 years later. It’s one of my oldest possessions. Sorry Flying Dutchmen.

Some kids got windows, some got aisle, I got middle. It really didn’t matter.

The first thing you inspect is your space. In this case things really haven’t changed that much, especially in coach. Sure, there are new planes with personal screens, power outlets in some seats, but that’s it. Just like now, you still have two buttons, one to turn on the light, one to call the flight attendant (who was called “stewardess” back then). There was a hole where air came out from, another button that reclined the seat, a knob that released a table, and another hole to plug your earphones, which were provided for free by the airline. Volume up, channel down. That was it, and is still pretty much it today.

One would think that after 30 years commercial aviation would have evolved. Now that I think about it, it really got worst for the traveler. Not only there’s the same amount of holes and knobs or less (many planes don’t even have screens these days), but that tiny table doesn’t even have food anymore.

In that first flight we had a solid meal -that really wasn’t that bad-, wine or beer, a hot towel, warm nuts, you know, everything you get in first class today. We also got many magazines to choose from, options for local newspapers, a blanket, earphones…another meal, more wine, etc. Now you get a Coke and pretzels if you are lucky. That flight was about $1000 then, it’s about $1,000 now.

But that is not what matters, and that first time isn’t about going to point B either, at least at the start. It’s about flight itself. The moment when that humongous aircraft starts accelerating in the runway, how everything shakes (and you do too), it’s seconds that no flight virgin ever forgets. The peaceful feeling you get when that thing hangs there at thousands of feet above the ground, over the clouds that you’ve never seen from above. Every time I got to see out the window was outstanding. The first landing in Curacao, the first sunset from above, the changing colors, the night lights below you.

I fly every month, two or three times sometimes, and I take it for granted. You are up there, in a 400 tons metal thing, that actually flies at 30,000 feet…really fast!

The next time you are up there complaining about the seat that doesn’t recline as much, think about it. Don’t close the window, look out and marvel at the ocean or the desert, count stars, follow the flight map… you are flying man! It’s quite the thing.

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