SeSam.hu

SeSam is Péter Szilágyi, Engineering Manager at Ustream, residing in Budapest, Hungary. This is his playground.

Flight of the Phoenix

The question I’ve been asked most is how my flight was. Well, I made it interesting for myself.

The bus to the airport leaves from Sannomiya, which is 3 stops from my apartment by train. When I arrived there on the morning of the flight I noticed that something wasn’t quite right. I was missing something important. And then it finally dawned on me that I left the laptop bag at home. Now I would have taken it as a loss and continued, had it been anything else but the MacBook. I don’t do well without mobile communications devices so I left the rest of my luggage with the bus loading and unloading crew and went back again.

This resulted in me being borderline late. But at the end this was also the reason why I got my fortunate upgrade as well, so as my father very kindly put it I have way more luck than brains.

The girl at the check-in looked a bit unskilled. There was a guy behind her watching over her every move, and sometimes when the girl seemed stuck he helped her out with some instructions. She didn’t challenge me for the little overweight I had, and finally told me that they have to upgrade me to Business Class because the Cattle Economy Class was full. I asked if I had to pay, because I wasn’t going to believe first that they’d just do it. But apparently they did.

So I watched smugly as a huge line of people formed at the gate, and then strolled lazily through the fast lane for Business Class. The best thing about the upgrade was that I didn’t have to spend ten plus hours confined in a space fit for a child. In Business Class it seems as if every other row of seats was taken out. The seats are also bigger, and everyone has their own armrests. The seats can also be folded into an almost horizontal position to serve as a bed. All this of course done through a control panel.

The other thing that’s different is – naturally – the service. The sheer numbers were in our favour, we had 3-4 flight attendants working for our 5 rows of 7 seats, half of which weren’t occupied. So there was nothing like the seemingly endless wait for food in Economy Class when the air’s already full with the smell of others’ already served lunches. Also one doesn’t simply get a plastic tray of food. At the same time when we received our sanitary napkins bright white tablecloths were also laid on the foldable tables. And the napkin ring holding the cutlery revealed a serviette, which – as I noticed later on – had a buttonhole to fasten it to the top button of one’s shirt. The trays were also covered by napkins, so it looked a lot more like a real meal in a restaurant than McDonald’s.

The food was nothing like I’ve ever eaten on a plane. It reminded me of those scenes in movies when the characters eat in some fancy restaurant. Everything was neatly ordered and tastefully arranged. We had a wide choice of wines, not just white or red. When there was a choice of different meals an attendant went around beforehand and asked everyone about their preferences, rather than doing it on the fly. 

This all might sound a bit over-enthusiastic, but I believe everybody likes being treated well. Also when you spend that much time in the air, even the small things that’d irritate you start to matter.

Of course when we were about to land I couldn’t wait to finally get out of the plane nevertheless.

In Amsterdam there’s now another checkpoint between Schengen and non-Schengen gates for passport check, and – to much of my annoyance – a metal detector gate and scanner. I hate emptying my pockets and taking off my belt, etc n+1 times.

I also learned from the information monitors that my connecting flight to Budapest was delayed by one and a half hours. That and my mounting headache did not help raising my spirits. There’re also no free wireless hotspots in Schipol, only paid internet access. I ended up buying 90 minutes anyway to inform my family that I’ll probably be very late. (I thought I forgot to pack my Hungarian mobile phone, which I later found on the bottom of my rucksack, after much self-chastising.)

The delay finally became more like a good two hours caused by the fact that just before we arrived there was a heavy storm at Schipol and almost all planes were delayed causing a domino effect affecting subsequent flights.

Eventually we boarded, took off and landed. I also got some painkillers on board, which I should have known better not to pack by now. After briefly pondering on the complete lack of customs and other personnel at Ferihegy I walked out to conclude this summer’s return trip.