Christmas is always such a special time – families together, gifts, and a last-minute rush through airports worldwide for flights that’d cost a fraction any other time of year except perhaps in the summer peak. So I thought for this festive edition, I’d relive a few of my slightly less joyous journeys home over the festive period.
Turkish Airlines, Christmas of 2014
This was a journey that just can’t ever be forgotten, no matter how many times I shut my eyes and try hard.
It had everything wrong going for it – starting with an inability to select seats on online check-in until the map was pretty much full, then a very late inbound plane that severely threatened my connection. Or at least, so I thought, until I came to witness the sheer lunacy of the old Istanbul airport where nothing departed on time. There was also my insistence on wearing a nice t-shirt and light pants, completely overlooking the fact that Istanbul in the depths of December can actually be very cold – snowing, in fact.
But probably the zenith of this entirely unpleasant voyage was the combination of the absolutely ghastly breakfast the following morning that I’m quite certain was processed and then processed several more times for good measure, followed closely (and so unfortunately, given the breakfast situation) by two of the four economy toilets having their locking mechanism broken – cue standing on one leg, with the other leg pushed against the door to keep it from being opened. While of the two at the rear, one was out of service while the other had recently been used for bathing by some kind of aquatic animal and was drenched from ceiling down. Merry Christmas!
British Airways, New Year – 2017
OK, so Christmas was over and it was time to head back to Malaysia, at the time. Admittedly New Year is a really odd time to pick (as in, literally New Years’ Eve), but I’d little else to be doing and needed to be back at work by the 2nd.
This is very much less a reflection of British Airways, who offered a solid service during the flight, including in World Traveller Plus, their fancy name for Premium Economy. In fact, the only criticism I could level was the entire lack of any New Years’ jubilations.
My fellow seatmate however was the worst of the worst when it came to a 13-hour marathon journey. After sitting down, he immediately, unprompted, shared with me how he would usually travel business class. During the meal service, he proceeded – while I tried to enjoy my deliciously salty beef steak – how he was a nutritionist and had done studies on the sheer overage of salt in airline, including BA, meals. He let me know he’d cautioned them in the past but that they had only changed crew meals, not general passenger meals. Imagine trying to eat a meal while being lectured from a 6-inch distance about the general unhealthiness of the same meal. He also asked for a glass of champagne (I repeat, in premium economy) before sending it back because it was allegedly ‘not a good vintage’.
The pretentiousness and sheer arrogance, and apparent need to wilfully share it with myself, was stunning – but not surpassed by the rudeness late at night, when he repeatedly needed to use the bathroom and kept flinging the seatbelt buckle over the armrest in his hurry, to generally land right on my crotch or knee bone. To say it was an uninterrupted restful nights’ sleep would be the worst lie of them all and through no fault of British Airways, I arrived hideously exhausted the next afternoon in KL – as if I’d literally been up all night celebrating New Year.
Oman Air, Christmas of 2019
This journey on the whole was a bit of a disaster – Oman Air had major punctuality issues on the return journey culminating in their intention to fly me home from London on the 2nd January (no thanks), before being moved to Malaysia Airlines instead.
The outbound journey however started well, from their – tight, but luxurious – 6-across business class on a reasonably new 787 for Muscat. Other than the fact that I’d managed to pack my deodorant in my checked luggage – which I only realised after freshly showering in the Muscat lounge, everything was going well until the second onward flight to Munich.
The boarding process in Muscat was entirely chaotic, and priority boarding was on offer only assuming you were dressed sufficiently for the remainder of the plane to believe you could be in business and thus let you past, despite economy passengers also boarding more or less simultaneously. A bunch of frustrated German holidaymakers immediately begin commanding a mutiny at the boarding gate at this perceived lack of orderliness.
On-board meanwhile, the drinks were flowing and the same holidaymakers encountered incredible difficulty staying peaceful on-board, instead trading football insults and very vocal disagreements across the very un-bordered cabin. Thankfully, both the mixture of intense drinking and the meals seemed to eventually send everyone off to peaceful slumber for a few hours, until things started up all over again closer to Munich, but on the whole I’ve never seen or had to hear such a loud, vocal business class cabin at war with each other.
I could go on, but I’ll spare you and me – and thankfully, there’s no travels on the cards this year! So go on, what holiday travel tales have you experienced? And – of course – for those celebrating, Merry Christmas and I hope any travels you have to make over the next month don't at all resemble any of the above!