My move this year from Bangkok to Beijing may have cut my flight time to New York, but it’s also forced a reluctant reacquaintance with U.S. airlines after more than a decade spent flying with Asia’s premier carriers.
On a recent trip to New York to see family and friends, I was at first pleased to discover that a U.S. carrier had a direct flight from Beijing to Newark International Airport. The fare was reasonable and the schedule suited me perfectly. Thirteen hours on a plane? Perfect time to catch up on Ben Stiller’s oeuvre.
Less than an hour into the flight, I was regretting my choice. Flying coach, I expected uncomfortable seats, lackluster food and surly service, but what I hadn’t counted on was being turned away from the toilet. As I reached out to open the door, a flight attendant preparing a drinks cart two feet away barked, “You can’t go in there. I’m busy. Go to the one in the front.” When the other toilets turned out to be occupied, I turned back to discover the occupied sign was on. “I’m not letting you in,” the flight attendant insisted.