Travelling Cattle Class on a Budget Airline

The best laid plans often go awry, especially when travelling economy class on a budget airline. Just go with the awful flow is my advice. This was aptly demonstrated recently when Mr Tranquillo studied the seating layout of the plane a day before departure and re- assigned our seats, so that we would be surrounded by fields of empty space, rows to colonise, restful rows on which to loll and spread. Foolish man. He hadn’t factored in those travellers who had left their seat allocation to chance at check in. I am now left wondering how peaceful our original chosen seats might have been.

The Melbourne to Thailand flight, on a good day, takes just over 8 hours, not exactly a short trip.  Behind us we have a mother with two small children who enjoy the healthy pastime of kicking of the seat in front of them – ours. In front we have three women who enjoy a few cans of Bourbon and Coke, their seats fully reclined by 3.30 pm, shortly after take off, and who are partial to random bursts of shrillness. Their partners have taken up the standing room between the toilet and the plane door exit: they are enjoying their own beer festival for four hours. I am so pleased we not sitting in that leg spacious area.

Being prepared, we look forward to our longish flight with one pre-ordered meal. It arrives 40 minutes after take off, at 3.45 pm. I ask politely if it could stay warm somewhere until a more reasonable eating hour, such as, say 6 pm. No, that was not possible. OK, could the meal be kept somewhere until we are ready to eat it, warm or cold. No, he couldn’t do that either. I then suggested curtly that he could stick the meal in the rubbish bin (I promise I did not preface the word ‘bin’ with any expletive beginning with the letter F ). Mr Tranquillo, known for his inner calm and reasonable approach in the most annoying situations, intervened and told the young male attendant that the food would stay warm, and that we would like it in two hours. End of story. How did he do that? Flight attendant whisperer?

The kicking from the rear continues with a persistent rhythm, thumpthumpthumpety thump_thumpthump_THUMP, directed at my lower back. I ask the father could he tell ‘the child’ to stop. Not long after, Mr Tranquillo, who is being kicked constantly by the other little darling, half stands, turns and firmly addresses the mother with the same request, a distinct edge to his voice. I smile inwardly. Not so tranquillo after all! The kids finally stop. They take up singing and loud games with their Mother, which is lovely, really, except that the din drowns out all sound from our earphones.

We finally ask for our meal at 6 pm: the packet is still super hot, and the ice cream melted. I don’t mind melted ice cream, although the exploding affect, when removing the puffed up foil lid, produced a sticky foamy spray over me, my clothes and the back of the seat- but not on the kids behind, who by this stage, had found a way to pull my hair as they climb the back of the seat.

Note. If you don’t pay $24 for a pre-ordered meal, you can eat a $10 meal any time at all: just press the button and along comes a bit of industrial fodder from the Pie Face company, a slab of ham and pineapple thing vaguely resembling a pizza, or a vacuum packed salad that purports to have health properties.

We resort to wine, a saviour in situations like these. There is an attractive picture of a barrique on the back of the food brochure where the words ‘cellar selection’ are mentioned. The choices are- Sauvignon blanc or Shiraz. Hmm great, how much do I dislike Sauvignon blanc, let me count the ways. The cheap red slides down well enough although the desired effect, relaxation, is replaced by headache. No water bottle is delivered at any stage throughout the flight: a purchased meal is accompanied by a miniature foil topped container of water, such fun to open. I notice that the Bourbon women are now drinking water from tiny paper cups from the toilet and I consider doing the same.

I try to meditate, to think more calmly, to recall a few Dalai Lama quotes of the day. “The ultimate source of comfort is within ourselves”, he advises on his Facebook page, but it’s not working and besides, I am sure HH travels business class. I watch ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ or rather, I see it mimed: fortunately Hardy’s story hasn’t changed in all those years of remakes, the cad is deliciously rakish and the good guy, in the end, wins.

Me doing my Munch Scream Face again.
Me doing my Edvard Munch Scream Face again.

My advice for travelling on budget airlines?

  • Don’t plan anything and consider taking calming or sleep-producing substances.
  • Buy noise reducing headphones which won’t work in the Jetstar sockets unless you get a double pronged plug attachment that happens to match.
  • Have your own media loaded onto your own device using your top quality earphones.
  • Take an empty large plastic bottle in your hand luggage. Filtered water bottle filling stations can be found in various spots throughout Melbourne’s international airport.
  • Prior to departure buy your own food for the flight, such as packed sushi, mixed nuts, biscuits and cheese, or home made slices and sandwiches.
  • If travelling as a couple, choose an aisle seat and a window seat. Very rarely is the centre seat filled.
  • If you have paid for Jetstar’s media ($10), note that this prepayment will be loaded into your allocated seat. If you move, you may lose your media.

43 thoughts on “Travelling Cattle Class on a Budget Airline”

  1. Hahahahaha! I never been on that specific flight, but have flown my whole life internationally, and have experienced all that you so eloquently wrote about!!! People who get up and pull your hair are the worst, seconded by the children kicking. But even a 2 hour flight can be miserable, especially in the last 15 years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, thanks Mimi, things are getting worse on the budget carriers. I wrote this to counter balance all those who write about their business class trips, out of the reach of most of us, most of the time.

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  2. You had me smiling but I my teeth were gritting in empathy. We don’t fly much any more, even short domestic trips try our tolerance. But your advice is sound, and I’ve mentally filed it away.
    I’m not short, and the G.O. is tall… when we flew home from Darwin we were kindly offered the emergency exit row when checking in, the only drawback is the doors don’t deal tight, en route to Sydney despite being suitably clothed and given extra blankets we began to freeze and popped out of the plane into wintery Sydney like ice cubes rather than sun-kissed Top End holidayers 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That sounds equally horrible- an unsealed door, not only cold but rather scary.If choosing an exit door for your long legs, make sure it isn’t near a toilet. But then, exit doors are often notorious gathering spots and exercise zones.
      I always take a large shawl thing, and warm things that scrunch up into nothing- stuff by Metalicus is handy to stop that freezing sensation.
      The more I fly, the less I enjoy it, which sees me making new wills before departure and doctors visits to acquire products that might allay attacks of extreme claustrophobia.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are truly dedicated and passionate about the places you love. At the moment much as there are many overseas destinations I’d love to visit, there are none for which I’m prepared to fly… which makes me a little sad but I never say never.

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  3. If you fly enough, budget or otherwise, you will have things go wrong. Your tips are good ones. I always take my own food, even when flying business class, and it really mitigates a number of potential problems. Not saying I don’t eat any business class food, some is very good, but it helps in all kinds of timing issues and other problems. And my husband and I are eminently compatible travellers, he always preferring the window seat and me always preferring the aisle seat, so that helps. There are no business class seats to Darwin from Alice and on our recent flight there were five children in near proximity and it nearly drove us nuts, but even in business class now, there are many ill mannered, hyperactive children running around. I also travel with silicone ear plugs, and sleeping tabs for just such occasions. If you are still in Thailand I hope you are safe. I hope your return trip is uneventful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pass over those sleeping pills Ardys, I still have to endure the return flight.
      Economy class travel on some other carriers ( not budget lines) seems to go more smoothly. Cathay Pacific is quite good as is Garuda. One cannot get around the three seat configuration in economy- which is why we attempt the aisle and window trick, in the hope of enjoying that small gap. I did enjoy a Business class flight on my last trip to Indonesia. The food was good, I am sure a delayed request for food at the right time would have been met gracefully, the wine was to my taste, and there were no ill trained brats. I guess you get what you pay for. Frequent travel is becoming more demanding and my patience is wearing thin.
      Yes, awful news from Bangkok today. We will take care. Many thanks.xx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha! Been there too many times! Thank goodness we no longer do the transatlantic thing, but opt for the shorter ‘quesyjet’ flights to Europe. However, have also been that mom with the kicking child – thank goodness that is now buried in the recesses of my memory of a time long, long ago. And, yes, I did try to curb that youthful twitchiness. Now, we try to stay tranquillico and remind ourselves that parents of small children don’t have it easy in confined spaces. Although, sometimes that doesn’t work, especially when the parents are oblivious to the suffering around them. We either don’t eat on the trip, particularly with the kind of things planes have to offer (yuck!), or we bring our own. I like your list of travel suggestions – very wise! Hope you are recovered from what sounded like the trip from Hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve also travelled with kids over the years. Awareness is the thing, and bringing along some suitable distractions. I was once on a flight where the child was screaming the whole way. Eventually a chap nearby got up and spoke to the parents sternly. Up until that point, the parents had done nothing to modify the child’s behaviour. Bingo, it worked. The parents were finally conscious of others around them. The kid stopped yelling. I like to think that small moment was pivotal in his ongoing upbringing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If only I had some Prosecco, a crisp Pinot Gris from NZ or something equally tasty, I might not be whinging so much.
      Speaking of wine Julie, I tried the Squealing Pig Pinot Gris from Central Otago, NZ, before jumping on that trip from hell. It is a stunning little drop. I’m in search of a case on my return to Oz.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I haven’t been bothered by rotten kids for ages. Maybe they take one look at me and move on. I like a window seat and my husband likes the aisle, and that does work. I can’t justify paying for business class so I just get on the plane, think about the good place I am going to and get on with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad you are all safe, that wasn’t good news from Bangkok. Love your Keeping It Real Budget Travel Tips. Basically, it’s almost like you have to zone out from the budget travel reality, just to get through the horror. I am always hyper conscious of being aware of others when travelling with kids but I am a considerate person anyway, even without kids. Which is why I also find it super annoying when you are next to others (with or without kids) who think they are in some kind of magical bubble where no-one can see or hear anything they do. Have a fab and safe Hollie. Go Pad See Ew!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, Ms Cheery one, terrible news from Bangers. I am glad to hear how hyper conscious you are of others- I think I was the same with kids but can’t remember those days, or have deliberately blocked them out. Travelling with kids can be hard work at times.
      I will attempt to eat as many fat Pad noodles as I can in my short time here.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sandra, we will be going to Bangkok later: I was hoping to re-visit some of my favourite temples but may need to reconsider. We will see what the Smart Traveller site advises in the coming weeks. In the meantime, poor Bangkok and its innocent victims.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. God I feel your pain! We had a departure delay of 2 hours due to precocious kids screaming and whining in Hanoi. Go for the wine every time. Fuel up to acceptable boarding limits, have the noise cancelling earphones (Brilliant) with you, top up with more alcohol on board and just roll with the flow as best you can. As we have mentioned before, I see it is usually from kids (and parents) who have have no concept of acceptable behaviour which is learned by sitting at a table and sharing meals and understanding others needs etc. I’m not so bothered by those who genuinely have distressed kids who recognise the disturbance, but I really struggle when it seems they expect every one else to ‘cope’. Are we grumpy olds? I say I am. Not necessarily only budget airlines anymore either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The grumpy old wine drinking club. Love your advice on the drinks- as no one is driving anywhere, it seems a sensible idea to just go for it.
      Yes, table behaviour may have something to do with it. And true, any kid with genuine distress rather than just bratty behaviour is exempt from the grumpies wrath.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How funny, I also went to India in 2013! I was on a flight between Delhi and Chicago though, so it might not have been the same one. It’s always nice when someone tells off the parents, but I always feel a little bad being the one to do it because I’ve never had to travel with children. From what my mother says though, my siblings and I were much better behaved than many kids I see on these flights. My brothers and I would spend weeks before the trip planning our activities for the flights so that we would be entertained and not annoy our parents. I’m shocked when parents get on the plane with their young kids and have nothing for the kids to do. Even a coloring book and a box of crayons would do wonders.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah, I was returning from Kerala to Melbourne. In the old days, flights would provide activity kits for kids, colouring books, planes to construct and so on. Like your parents,I often took bags full of amusements for mine. Then my husband would always point out things from the window- geographical features and so on. I guess the problem lies with the under three age group. Still the parents seem to let some kids get away with screaming and kicking- without trying to calm them. Taking them about the plane for little walks helps. Playing little games with soft toys, or having a special rug may help too. It’s all about the effort made, or not made, by the parents in the end.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I definitely agree. I get much less annoyed when it’s obvious that parents are doing their best to control their kids. Sometimes circumstances are out of their control, but more often than not, it seems like parents are more interested in watching TV for the whole flight and pretending their kids don’t exist.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Spooky indeed and quite possible if you went to Kerala? We had a conversation with an American bloke we ran into, over and over again, in India. His view was that it wasn’t a coincidence: that people who are on the same path in life, or have similar views of the world, tastes for travel and so on, are likely to meet up.
    I see now that you went in March, we went in September. I went to Kolkata airport once, only passing through to Delhi, in 1979. Terrible. But I am keen to go to India again- it doesn’t take long to get into the layers of the place, the colour, the people, the chaos: it seems to weave a magic spell.

    Like

  9. I finally got Mr Tiffin to read this and it was very timely as we have just booked a week in Bali (decided that for the small amount extra, this time Virgin was a better option). He loved your write up and tips and asked ‘is his name really Mr Tranquillo?’

    Like

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