A Little Boy Named Tom

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
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30
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Trip End Oct 17, 2008


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Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Sunday, September 14, 2008

Emily was the little girl with the wet, loud cough sitting in seat 16F on JetStar Airlines.  Tom was an unrelated little boy sitting in 15E of the same plane.  I was wedged into 15F in a cramped Airbus A320 that makes a Kia Rio look spacious.  Are you starting to get the setup here?  Sprinkle in maybe the 8 or 9 other little angels in the general area and you have the perfect advertisement for why birth control is an absolute necessity.

How do I know these childrens' names you ask?   Quite simple.  Their doting and attentive mothers cooed and pampered them the entire 75 minutes it took to fly from the Gold Coast to Sydney.  75 long, long, long minutes.  One hour plus 15.  I counted over and over in my head the minutes I'd be subjected to this Romper Room and hoped there were tailwinds in Australia.  I think the second hand on my watch stopped a few times the flight dragged on so long.  Evidently in Australia no amount of noise that comes out of a cherubic little child is too much for the parents to bear.   I even got a chairback massage courtesy of Emily's kicking most of the flight and whenever I turned around the mother would just shrug her shoulders.

To go with my massage I even got a warm shower treatment of apple juice three times courtesy of Tom, and all his mom would do is offer me a cloth each time (down under it's a cloth, not a napkin.  I learned my lesson in Asia, remember?).  To add to the spa treatment, Tom serenaded me over and over at the top of his lungs with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  It was a night flight after all so of course we weary travelers needed to be reminded that yes, if you look out the window, there are twinkling stars.   If I happened to doze off for a few seconds never fear, the ever attentive Tom was quick to awaken me with a poke of his fingers in my side.  After all I had paid $39 including taxes for 75 minutes of flight time and he and the other 10 kids were determined to make sure I was awake to watch each of my paid for minutes drag by.  "Oh, Tom, you are just such a dear" his mother said over and over. 

Emily's mom even told her to not let that man in front of her bother her and to just carry right on.  It seems that down under kids are to be heard and not just seen.    These two little delights were my immediate neighbors, but other travelers had their own inflight chair massage experts and serenaders as well.   Indeed, it was like a flying circus there at 28,000 feet over the Pacific Coast of Australia. 

What can you do but just roll your eyes and go with it.  At least it was a short flight and the engines spooling down for the descent into Sydney was like music to my blasted out ear drums and sticky arms.  I don't think Tom had been introduced yet to the concept of inside and outside voices.  Ah yes, what a wonderful little child he was.

What amazed me most about these kids was that they finally crapped out right about the time the landing gear went down.  That gave the rest of us about, oh, maybe two minutes of peace and quiet.  But never fear...the yelling, singing and carrying on commenced once again once the wheels hit the runway.   I think the only person with some peace and quiet was my friend all the way back in the last row.  He was blissfully unaware that JetStar provides free inflight entertainment.  They must feel guilty that water costs $3 and a sandwich is $7 so they let the free show go on.

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This is for my airline friends.  The rest of you might find this part boring.

JetStar is the low fare arm of Qantas that competes with Virgin Australia and they fly A320s, A330s and 717s.  The planes are extremely tight on legroom and it's all coach seating. The interiors are orange, white and black.  The concept is that you pay only for what you need which I agree with to a certain extent.  My ticket was only $39 since I chose JetStar Lite which means you can't check a bag (carry on only).  Checking in a bag on a JetStar Lite ticket would run the tab up quickly.  Even something as simple as a small bottle of water costs $3 AUD so that $39 ticket can start adding up when you tack on stuff like prereserving a seat, bags, food, etc.  I am proud that my fare stayed at $39 without any of the tempting add ons. 

I took Air Asia X to the Gold Coast from Malaysia and that's another airline where you get what you pay for. It's a division of Air Asia which I flew cheaply from Laos to Kuala Lumpur.  The plane was an older A330 that must have come from Air Europa since that's what was all over the beverage carts.  For now it's the only one in the fleet so I was worried that if it broke, I'd be stuck in Kuala Lumpur.   I sat in business class because buying a seat there was actually cheaper than a standby ZED fare on Qantas or Malaysian by over $150.  Go figure. 

But all business class on Air Asia gets you is the seat and nothing more.  There's no priority check in or anything but I only spent an extra $25 for the bigger seat.  I stood in line with the masses to check in and boarded in a giant herd of pushing people.  We walked about a half mile to the plane since Air Asia doesn't provide buses.  Again, low fares equal zero frills.  

And even in business class you pay for extras like food, water, blankets, etc.  On a nine hour flight you are kinda held hostage since there is nowhere to buy anything to bring on board behind security at the Air Asia terminal in Kuala Lumpur.  The plane is kept extra cold and I do think it's so people buy the blankets for $7.  I sucked it up and just dealt with not having the pillow or blanket.  I had to buy water and food though since it had been hours tsince I had eaten and I didn't want to arrive dehydrated.  Water was only about $1US and candy bars were the same.  A sandwich was about $3 and a hot meal $4. All in all not too terribly bad and cheap by our standards at home.   The food is awesome believe it or not and I am picky with my food.

The seats in business class look like they were taken from an American Airlines DC-10 from the late 80s or something similar.  They are totally old school light brown worn out leather and even have the ashtrays still in them.  I peeked back in coach and the people had no room at all.  It was about half as much legroom as on a Delta MD88 and the people looked miserable. 

The service on Air Asia X is nonexistent as well.  You get what you pay for...cheap transport throughout Asia that is ontime but cheap.  I will take reliable and cheap any day.  I got a picture of the business class cabin and the plane that I will get on here soon.

P.S.  I hope to get the pics of Australia on here as soon as I can, too so please be patient.  They are coming and you will be amazed how pretty the Gold Coast and mountains are.  I've got an early flight to either LAX or SFO and will try somewhere there.
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