“It is (not) better to have had a business class upgrade and have lost it, than to have never had a business class upgrade at all” -Alfred Lord Tenneyson
Last month I was headed to Warsaw, Poland by way of Paris, France on AirFrance. My itinerary took me from Dulles to Paris, Charles de Gaulle and then on to Warsaw. When I arrived at Dulles I inquired about upgrades. I had been traveling a lot for work, and thought that splurging on an upgrade so that I could catch a nap on my way over the ocean was a well-deserved reward. AirFrance offered me an upgrade to business class at a reasonable price. Life was good.
I made my way through security into the AirFrance lounge across from my gate. The chairs inside the AirFrance lounge could double as torture devices, so I boarded the flight as quickly as possible, knowing that I had a very comfortable seat waiting for me on the plane. Sam and I settled into our seats and made ourselves very comfortable. I have flown business class a number of times, however it is still an infrequent luxury for me rather than the norm. I’m used to crossing the ocean in pain in the back of the airplane with the rest of you. So when I do get to upgrade, it’s an exciting thing for me.
I had all of my belongings settled into the various cubbies and cabinets, my movies were picked, and I was reviewing the menu, zeroing in on my dinner choice for the evening. Right about the time I decided on chicken instead of pasta, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. We were told to deplane because of a fuel leak. We made our way back outside the gate and tried to figure out what was to do next. We sat for a while waiting. As I watched fuel trickle out of the plane onto the tarmac, it became apparent to me that this plane was not taking off tonight. Furthermore, I had no interest in being on the plane even if AirFrance decided that it would take off. (They ultimately did the right thing and canceled the flight)
After several hours waiting in line and on the phone with AirFrance we had a new itinerary. We would leave from Dulles the following morning and fly to JFK where we would have a four hour layover. From JFK we would fly to Paris where we would have a seven hour layover (more about that in another post). Finally we would arrive in Warsaw two days after our journey began. Needless to say our upgrade was off the table. I know, I know, cry me a river. Had I not had an upgrade in the first place, flying coach over the ocean would not have bothered me a bit. But you know how it is when you gain something, and then you lose what you gained. It hurts much worse than not having made that gain in the first place (there is all kinds of psychological research on this topic). Tack on the longer layovers in our new itinerary paired with a very haphazard job of managing the flight cancellation process by AirFrance and I was not a happy camper.
The following morning we made our way to Poland via this cruel new itinerary. We landed at JFK terminal two and had to make our way to terminal five which was where our AirFrance flight was departing. After speaking with several airport employees, I learned that we would have to take the shuttle bus to terminal four and then walk from terminal four to terminal five. I’m happy to walk from place to place and recognize this is part of the process when traveling. However walking from terminal four to terminal five at JFK is a ridiculous and borderline hazardous experience. For a decent portion of the walk there are no sidewalks, there is no overhead covering, and you find yourself walking over broken glass and other debris. For two relatively young people this was no significant challenge. However, for individuals in wheelchairs, parents pushing strollers, or elderly people, this walk could have been a very dangerous experience. JFK needs to do something about this ASAP.
We eventually made it to Poland and I had a good time there. Although I will admit to indulging a petty side of my personality. I spent most of the flight from JFK to Paris staring angrily at the guy in business class right in front of me. Putting me in a seat right behind business class felt a little cruel at the time.
I chalk up the frustration I experienced in getting to Poland as an interesting anecdote I can share with people at parties. I guess it’s good to be reminded that as long as you get there safely, there isn’t really much to complain about. But that chicken cacciatore did sound so delicious…