Flying? Take my advice and avoid the cuppa

A flight to Nice brought home the difference from a flight to Tel Aviv — and taught me a lesson


Cropped photo of stewardess holding teapot and paper cup stock photo

August 04, 2022 12:45

Living in Manchester, the only way to take a direct flight to Israel these days is to secure the services of a certain budget airline. And, as those familiar with this particular route will testify, the journey is often a noisy melee of those who won’t stay in their seats, those who want to change seats, those who know people in different seats and, frankly, those who wont sit down in their seats even if they don’t have a compelling reason not to.

So, travelling on the same carrier but to a different destination the other week required something of a change in mindset.

It all looked familiar: same faded seat coverings, same uniformed cabin crew, same livery. Yet there was one critical difference. Everyone stayed where they were. The gangway didn’t, post take off, transmute into an impromptu school reunion or a catch up with the people you only see three times a year in shul. Little wonder, after being a frequent flyer on the, ahem, lively Manchester/Tel Aviv flight, it was a joy to settle down for a tranquil journey ahead.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Shortly after being served a green tea from the inflight trolley, most of it landed all over me.

Setting aside what caused it — one moment it was in my hand, the next it was scalding my upper thighs.

The events that unfolded after this cataclysmic event were as baffling as they were terrifying. Having given an almighty shriek, I raced to the washrooms (thankfully only five rows back), with a stewardess sprinting behind me as she grabbed paper towels and tried to agitate a dribble of water from the tap. “No, I need bottles of water,” I screamed, clearly alarming the poor woman (who, thankfully, set aside her impeccable training to wonder if I needed still or sparkling).

After this it’s all a blur. I poured around three litres of bottled water over me — there go the in-flight profits from the Birmingham/Malaga route - before passing out. Next thing I knew I was propped up in the back of the galley listening to voices swirling around my head. Frankly it was all rather Hollywood (“Is she with us?” “Heart rate has dropped”). Opening my eyes, I managed to croak out my husbands seat number, around 25 rows ahead – due to the vagaries of booking at different times we had been placed separately – so that someone could fetch him.

Classic Jewish male, he had his noise cancelling headphones clamped to his ears and was chortling away to Curb Your Enthusiasm, unaware the crew were radioing ahead for medical help for his wife. Seeing his alarmed face through the fog of the pain, I gave a silent thank you he didn’t go into default Larry David mode as a coping mechanism.

What I also became aware of was a delightful young woman — a nurse at a Manchester hospital – who was also attending to my needs. Solicitously she took my blood pressure, offered me water and urged the staff to bring oxygen and burn gel. She was joined shortly by a paramedic and the two women stayed with me, constantly checking my pulse and murmuring soothing voices whilst applying gel to my frazzled legs.

Unlike a classic Tel Aviv flight, this didn’t turn into a medical symposium.

Landing at Manchester airport the women discharged their care to a couple of ground staff paramedics. (“My name’s Ian. Now what've you gone and done?” Nothing like Northern understatement to calm a situation.) After checking me over further and declining a four hour wait at A&E, I was allowed home.

Although I felt ill for a good few days, I'm glad to report that I’m now healing. Which has allowed time for more nuanced reflection.

First, I'm relieved this didn’t happen on the Tel Aviv flight. The idea of playing to a gallery – or rather a galley – of people I know, or half-know, is mortifying. Believe me, there’s no dignity when your sundress is wrapped around your ears as burn gel is delicately administered.

Second, I realised that we are entirely reliant on the goodwill of medically qualified passengers to attend to us if something goes wrong. Why, for example, were the crew so unsure what to do that they tried to attend to my burns with a damp paper towel?

But above all, why do airlines take a chance serving hot – in this case, scalding – drinks? Not least in a packed budget airline cabin, with no room to manoeuvre in the aisles and little margin for error.

At least it’s taught me one thing. When I’m next on that packed Tel Aviv route, I’m staying in my seat and sticking to cold beverages. Please take my advice and do so too.

August 04, 2022 12:45

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive