A memory triggered by the words of a song on the radio this morning, “.. and yet again a DC-9.” in a song called Zondagmiddag Buitenveldert (Sunday Afternoon Buitenveldert) by Dutch singer Frans Halsema.
They used these old planes with numerous airlines apparently, Wikipedia states an impressive list of companies, well, not the actual DC-9 but it’s successor the MD-80.
Basically an improved version of the DC-9 it was nick named Flying Bowling Alley back in the days when it was still somewhat romantic to fly to distant destinations.
Narrow and long with as much passengers cramped into the hull as was physically possible these planes were popular for holidays and very rarely you could see a business person on these flights as they were too uncomfortable to fly to a business meeting without your suit being crinkled and having sore muscles.
I booked a flight on several occasions on these planes, two of them being absolute disastrous. The first one we tail scraped the runway on our way up in the sky and we were forced to burn up all fuel ‘circling the block’ at the destination airport because of safety regulations just in case we would plummet from the sky and end up in an explosion with a billow of smoke. But, luckily, we landed safely on the last bit of fume left from the engines and we gave a well meant applause for the pilot.
Never again I will book a cheap ticket on an overbooked plane full of heavy suitcases in the hull I promised myself then but nevertheless it happened again two years later, this time an even worse experience than the first one. This time there were so many seats stuffed into the plane that you couldn’t get to your seat without moving your body into a limbo dancing position whilst holding your possessions just above your head. Meanwhile the pilot explained that as the plane was overbooked and nobody was willing to give up their seat they added two extra rows of chairs and he apologised for the delay that caused.
In my case, being 6ft4″ there wasn’t even enough leg space to properly sit down and I got stuck in a halfway upright pose without my bottom touching the seat. Being in that position, with my knees pressed firmly in the back of the seat in front of me, a stewardess came along and asked me to sit down to which I replied that would be impossible as she could see.
But SAS had a solution for that, two seat cushions and a seat belt extension. So I sat/stood there, feeling very awkward and being the ridicule of some other passengers who laughed at me throughout the entire flight. And oh did my body hurt. Bloodless knees, severe strain on the lower back muscles and my hands on the head support of the chair in front of me.
With high pitched howling engines, like in that Dutch song which set off this horrid memory, we took off to København and off course to no surprise there was this loud bang again where the tail of this even more severely overloaded plane hit the tarmac. Would we be able to land safely this time? Only God knew.
But, here I am, typing this anekdote up and God did know so obviously I survived and so did the plane. However I wrote a formal complaint this time, got an apology and my money back but there and then I decided not to fly with them again, or in an DC-9 (or MD-80) of any air line company for that matter.
Nowadays environmental issues are far more important than the lighthearted decision to fly to a friend in Sweden just for fun, luckily common sense took over, thank God. When we are going to visit friends in England this Summer we will go by train even though this will take us longer to get there. But we keep our feet on solid ground and survive the travel for sure.