Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Travel 25/3/09 (5) – to Dallas Fort Worth, Texas

During our wait for our plane at Minneapolis / St. Paul airport, we met up with Cath's sister and brother-in-law. This was by design: We were catching the same flight.

Our plane for the 2-hour hop down to Dallas was a CRJ-700 which is a tiny little tube with torture-chamber seats. I kid you not: they were as uncomfortable as you can make a seat without adding spikes and electrodes. I stuck a jumper behind my back to stop the metal bar digging in it quite so much. I was not the only one who complained, and a quick search on the web-wide internet will show that these planes have a reputation of being as hospitable as any mediaeval dungeon. One thing that was noted was that the manufacturer of the plane was never mentioned. Normally it's a Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 or Tupolev Tu-144. But this was only ever referred to as a CRJ-700. A quick check on the wwwinternet shows you that the plane's full designation is a Guantanamo CRJ-700. The CRJ-700 is the luxury edition. The CRJ-640 has seats that are upside-down over a bucket of water.

Actually, the truth is not much better. The reason the name of the company that makes the plane is never mentioned is because it is actually called Bombardier and nobody likes to advertise the "b" word in relation to planes.

To add the razor-filled cherry to the top of the whole CRJ-700 experience, because I could not check in at Amsterdam for this flight, the seats near Cath and family were all gone, and I was up near the back where the plane gets narrower and people wider. I had to share my seat with bits of a Texan teenager. I bit my tongue from saying, "these two chairs ain't big enough for the two of us." It would have been rude and offensive, no matter how amusing it was.

Being a newer plane, the CJD-700 didn't have a "no smoking" sign. Smoking on planes ain't ever coming back, baby. It was replaced by a "switch off electrical equipment" sign. As yet there is no symbol devised for this act and so it had those exact words. My plan is to design a logo, copyright it and become rich. Rich, I tell you!

As well as taking in-flight discomfort to new levels, the airline also took in-flight shopping to new and dizzy heights. The "sky mall" magazine was a thick tome listing anything from the usual perfume and model planes to furniture. That's right: If you wanted, you could buy a whole bed unit complete with shelving and underside drawers! Obviously, said bed was not folded up in the trolley, but would be delivered to your house some days later. I predict this will start a whole new phenomenon of "unwanted air-travel purchase deliveries." Huge cabinets or whole kitchens turning up on your doorstep after a long-haul flight spent tired and/or drunk.

We were all met at the other end by Cath's parents who could not possibly make you feel more welcome. Due to the lateness of the hour, it was decided to find an eatery that would be open late. Denny's was the first choice because it known for being open late. However it's also known for "cookie-cutter" meals. There was one in Singapore that made fast-food versions of local dishes. My curiosity only took me there once and only because it was very late.

But before food, we had to pick up a rental car. Half the party took the shuttle bus to the car rental depot, and the other half tried to drive there. Except there didn't seem to be a car entrance for the car-rental pick-up place. Seems reasonable, I guess. Who drives to the airport car rental depot to pick up a car? Not many people. But it doesn't explain how the bus got there.

In the end, we ate at Chili's, which also happened to be open. Chili's is a chain of "Grill and Bars." Given the length of the day, you won't be surprised to hear we slept like transatlantic logs.

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