Friday, 29 February 2008

Upgradeski – the art of business class travel in Russia

Written in the business lounge at Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal 1c (no wifi provided!) but posted from Kyiv

As either reader might recall I don’t much like flying. Terrified wouldn’t be a wholly inappropriate word; which makes one wonder why I have chosen the job I have. Anyway

This morning I flew to Kyiv (the overnight train wasn’t an option this time, as I had a date at the Bolshoi last night). Being driven out to the airport, the weather deteriorated and I began to get that shuddering yawning that only comes, oddly, when I am very nervous.

The airline I am flying, while using Boeings, uses old ones. Old. Using my handy databank on my PDA, I will verify that the actual plane is between 25 and 30 years old (which is typical for the airline I am flying, for this route): they even still fly one which is now 33 years old.

Since this flight is only 100 minutes airborne we always buy economy class. But I decide to upgrade, at personal expense, to business. There are two reasons of logic for this:

- being personally convinced I will one day die in a plane crash, I would prefer to do it in business class (at least you’ll have more comfort for the last moments before the cleansing, ending bath of fire and the eviscerating shards of metal…)
- And the survival rates in business class are poor. In the event of a serious incident you will die, but it will at least be quick. Behind the curtain is the possibility of agonizing survival; or not quite.

So I arrive at the airport and go to the ticket desk to upgrade.

Sad smile and shrug; says he: “it is impossible. Komputers all no work today. You pay cash?”

Gentle frown before helpful smile, says I: “Gosh. How unfortunate. Yes I pay cash

Eager school-boy frown, I continue: “Perhaps if I pay cash you can sort out all the paperwork when your computers work again?”

Light-bulb moment: “yes, that might work. You come with me

We set off and find an official who may be Airline or maybe State but, as is often the case in Russia, is probably a bit of both. I am a друг (friend) apparently. That’s nice.

A sum is ventured (“the official fee of course”) and a small cash transaction occurs discreetly, elegantly: it is what passports are for.

Holding my passport and new ticket (“sorry, mister, no receipt possible; Komputers all no work”), 10 minutes later, this official (partly Airline, partly State) walks me through customs; with much shaking of hands. I am asked no troubling questions.

I am led to check-in and am checked in immediately, ahead of everyone else (mercifully, at this moment all the Komputers seem to have begun to operate again!). I say goodbye to my friend and settle into this lounge, after being assisted through Immigration. I look at my ticket and boarding pass. I am now, it seems, a government official with a VIP pass.

This being me, a thought crosses my mind. If something does occur, and they’re identifying my body, they’ll wonder why, with my British passport and my un-Russian name, I was on seemingly on Russian state business.

That is how conspiracy theories start.

Postscript: Plane registration UR-BVY is, in fact, just 6 weeks short of its 26th birthday.


David said...

I love the lounge in that airport . . . liver criplling quantities of free vodka in a nice plastic cup and odd looking baked cheesey things

Red Exile / Красная Ссылка said...

It being breakfast I foreswore the vodka but I did sample the baked goods. Yesterday they were sort-of-mince; and a fritter that may once have been introduced to an apple.

Jeff said...

LOL... And then there were three (readers, that is)! Just kidding. I just recently found your blog and am enjoying it a good deal. I'll def be back.

Red Exile / Красная Ссылка said...

Jeff, welcome!

Now 'either reader' was such a good phrase... shall I use "my troika of readers"? LOL