The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul

2005-02-28

Places to Avoid Going if You Can....A Series of Opinionated Reviews

My latest place to avoid going isn't stationary, but still a little slice of travel hell. It's called Lufthansa economy class.

What brought up Lufthansa? Well, it seems like during President Bush's latest visit they were none too happy about having to wait to take off and land, and were thinking of suing El Presidente. I'll leave the politics for someone else. But after reading the article, it made me think of reasons that other people might have to sue Lufthansa, especially the poor bastards in the cheap seats.

What makes Lufthansa's economy class that much worse than, say, any other carrier? Several things on my (hopefully) only round-trip on that airline stood out, and believe me, they weren't good.

They have the absolute worst airline seats in the world. Sure, they offer them for sale on their website. But before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars, pounds or euros, here's a quick way to find out exactly what you are going to get for your money. Take a hard wooden or plastic chair, drape a fluffy towel over it, and sit in it for twelve hours. If that seems like fun, well....you have issues best resolved by a therapist or dominatrix.

Then, add in the fact that my seatmates, both of whom were shorter than me, had no leg room whatsoever. When a woman who is 5'2" finds it difficult to get enough room in an airline seat, you know you're tightly packed in there. The only way I could get any leg room was to either a) stick my legs out in the aisle, or b) sit in a way that could not be described as ladylike during meal service, since the crew would love to ram that cart right into your knees and feet given half the chance. Fortunately I was sitting both times in a window seat row. I don't want to imagine what the poor suckers in the center row had to deal with. They didn't look happy, either.

They had the most disgusting bathrooms I've ever seen on a plane. Yeah, it's bad enough when a bathroom smells strongly of urine at the end of a trip. But at the beginning? And what are the odds that it would happen on both legs of a round-trip, unless slacking off in the custodial service is standard operating procedure?

Look, lavatories on a plane aren't like bathrooms on the ground. You almost always have the option of avoiding that stall. That's not possible on a plane, especially when the Palace Guard in first class won't let you use the lavatories in their section. When you have men wondering aloud if they can perform "the seat hover maneuver", and there's a glimpse of fear in their eyes, you know it's bad.

Germany ain't a customer service paradise, but this was ridiculous! I didn't speak any polite German before I went to visit my little brother beyond "Danke", "bitte", "guten Tag", "Oktoberfest". But I sure didn't expect the involuntary immersion lessons on board the flight.

Unless Lufthansa is different from every other airline that I have ever flown on internationally, it's pretty much standard procedure for the flight crew to speak the languages of the originating and ending countries. Common courtesy also dictates that if they are addressed in one of the (usually) two languages, that they will respond in that language. Not on Lufthansa, apparently.

I'll call her Ilsa. She was tall, blonde and looked like she stepped off of one of Hitler's recruiting posters. For some reason, Ilsa absolutely refused to believe that anyone vaguely Germanic looking could possibly not speak the language (in the interests of full disclosure, I'm tall, blonde and blue eyed. Not a drop of German blood, though, it was just one of those weird genetic things that happened when you mixed my parents....two Germanic-looking kids. Go figure.) The fact that it was a plane loaded with Americans, who are notorious for only speaking one language even though many of them have Germanic descent didn't or wouldn't register with her.

I know she spoke some English, because when the black gentleman sitting in front of me addressed her in English, she replied in English. But for some reason when I and the older Swedish gentleman sitting next to me addressed her in English, she insisted on speaking German. Our attempts to get her to speak English (the older gentleman kept saying "Sprechen Sie Englisch?", since for reasons dealing with World War 2 he had a personal problem with being forced to speak German) were ignored. I gave up after a while and answered her in the very limited German I picked up over the past week when she asked what wine I wanted with "dinner". I guess that made Ilsa's day, based on the smug look she got once I answered "Rote."

Thank God I didn't run into her on the way over....I'd have been forced to use the only other German words I knew at the time. The mildest one was Scheissehunde.

To their credit, they did not give us an insincere "Thank You, please fly Lufthansa again!" as we got off the plane. But I think that was only because a group of Mexican passengers were calling the airline "Luftwaffe" and making cracks about this flight being Germany's revenge for getting their asses kicked. Nicht gut!

Better alternative: Any domestic airline with international flights makes an effort to provide a higher class of service on the transoceanic runs, and they definitely make an effort to keep the restrooms clean. Of the other foreign flag carriers I have flown, the service has been flawless (Finnair and Aer Lingus).

Only travel on Lufthansa if there is absolutely no alternative. If you can grab a seat on, say, Air Sudan instead, take it. Spend the extra $50 to take another airline. You'll be thankful when you use the lavatory.

1 Comments:

  • At 3:26 AM, Blogger Slap-Happy said…

    Lufthansa... for when you absolutely, positively have to walk funny when you get there.

     

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