An unpiloted ISS Progress resupply vehicle approaches the International Space Station, carrying 2.8 tons of food, fuel and supplies for the Expedition 38 crew members. The Progress 54 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:23 a.m. (10:23 p.m. Baikonur time) and completed its four-orbit trek at 5:22 p.m. (EST) when it docked automatically to the station’s Pirs docking compartment. ISS038-E-042675 (5 Feb. 2014)
(Source: Flickr / nasa2explore)∞
Sky drivers accidentally drop a camera from a plane and it lands in a pig pen. 8 months later, a farmer finds it and uploads the footage from its memory card.
Except for the occasional Russian couple and the rock star pimple-faced daughter, I am always the youngest of the ‘nouveau riche’ on the Jumbo Jet’s upper deck, the single digit front row seats or Champagne dripping business lounge.
But it’s not by choice or generous bank account that I fly World Business Class, but maybe some sort of… luck meets being nice meets commercial loyalty.
I’ve flown an exact 54 times last year, out of which 42 on my favorite airline alliance, a little over one hundred thousand miles. Most of these legs are long haul, some shy short of 12 hours. In fact, had I flown NRT to SFO directly instead of returning to OTP I would have circumvented the globe in less than two weeks.
For many these are as nerve wrecking as manual labor.
For me though time in the air is never unlove. And if you’re into airplanes, airports and flight like I am twelve hours on route to Narita is everything awesome. Anything shorter, say a dip from New York to Amsterdam, is peanuts.
And after a while one gets to learn the world’s hubs and develops preferences. Same goes for airlines, aircraft, lounges, carrier websites, food or airplane seats. Joining a frequent flyer program (or more) and installing an army of airline apps on your phone, getting SeatGuru, Passbook boarding passes is next.
Soon your favorite alliance will mail you a shinier frequent flyer card and fancy new luggage tags. You’re now a regular and the board staff may even, with a little help from the manifest, call you by name.
You’ll be able to skip those crazy check in lines and be among the first to board the airplane. The novelty won’t wear off before you jumped the ladder once more. New card, new luggage tags. Double the bags! Lounge access! More miles! More “hello Sir/Madam XYZ, welcome on board!” Broader, better seat selection! Champagne! You rock!
But this takes caring. It pays to give a damn. In fact my travel experience has improved immensely as soon as I figured out the airline cares about their most loyal. Status alone is benefits. Yet to the surprise of no one everyone at the airline, the ground staff, the check in staff, the flight attendants and the pilots are most likely people, people with feelings, preferences and moods. You may use this to your advantage or regret. Be polite.
Fashion designer Richard Chai starts of his Skyteam Incheon airport tips featurette by saying “The first thing you do in any airport is look for the lounge”. To the many people I share airplanes with lounges are not a place they know. Most don’t even select their own seats - if not online, Jesus, at least at the counter - else how does anyone get trapped in the middle of a for seat row?
I sat down, all 54 flights and airports, check ins and security checks, no exception, and contemplated it all. A web of lost people, fast lanes, shortcuts, traps, cattle class buffets and luxury. I’m yet to meet where the 30-something-traveling-for-business-on-an-isle-exit-row-seat hang out for sparkling. It’s not at the Crown lounge in AMS, nor the magic upper deck of the 747. Where are these people?