Expat Travel: Plane Talk

by Miss Footloose

Flying in and out of airports and sitting on planes offer great opportunities for people watching and eaves dropping.  You see and hear wonderful stuff.  Here a few of my collected gems of people’s words and statements.

The Plane Truth

Ever flown over the Sahara Desert?  It’s a big place, a real big place, full of sand.  I used to fly across it regularly, from Ghana, West Africa to the Netherlands and back.  At times I’d take Ghana Airways, which was always a risky choice.  Flights were sometimes cancelled without notice.  So, naturally, it came to pass that it was my turn.   I schlepped  my luggage and my sorry self back to the house and flew out the next day. But never mind, we all have such stories.  Let me just tell you about what happened once we were well on our way the next day:

Please don’t tell me this!

A few hours into the flight, after night has fallen and we’re flying high above the Sahara, I get out of my seat to stretch my legs and get another drink in the galley. The flight attendant is a young Ghanaian man, happy to help me and ready to chat.  Ghanaians in general are a friendly sort. So we chat, and I’m saying it must be rather a problem for passengers with connections to find out the flight has been cancelled when they get to the airport and that canceling flights without notice is not good for the airline’s reputation.

The friendly Ghanaian flight attendant hands me my water.  “Madame,” he says sorrowfully, “yesterday, it was a problem, because the plane from Ethiopia didn’t come to Accra because it had technical problems.  So we had no plane yesterday to fly to Amsterdam.  We need more money so we can buy more planes.”

Ghana Airways is (at the time of this writing) a modest outfit with a small fleet of aircraft.  They fly to Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, London, and a few other locations, making one flight a week to each of these places.  If all goes well.

I have a suggestion

Perhaps, I tell the friendly Ghanaian flight attendant, better management might help improve the scheduling problems. Management skills generally do not rank high among Ghanaian talents. The training of flight attendants leaves something to be desired as well (read on).

He shakes his head and looks doubtful about my management suggestion.  “Madame, we need more money.  All our planes are so old, they break down all the time.”

Just what you want to hear, high in the sky above a cold, dark, empty Sahara Desert.


Here a story with a different sort of flight attendant:

Vive Air France!

I’m on an Air France flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Paris, France.  We’re getting ready to take off and are instructed to turn off our electronic gadgetry and phones, you know, the regular routine.

Photo by Sergiouk | CC

Across the aisle from me sits a large Armenian man all in black, looking important.  He keeps talking on his cell phone and ignores the order. After all, he is important. An elegant French flight attendant sashays past and tells him in clear English that he must turn off his phone.  He ignores her with stunning arrogance and keeps talking after she walks on. I know his type.  He is a self-important big shot as there are a number of them strutting around in Armenia and they do not like to take orders from mere flight attendants and other lowly people in the service industry.

The pretty flight attendant comes back and tells him again, in a raised voice, “Sir!  Turn off your phone!” Pretending to be deaf and blind, he ignores her completely, because, after all, he is important.

Miss Air France reaches over and simply plucks the phone right out of his hand and hip-swings away with it.

La coolitude! Vive la France!


Wanted: A Hug and a Plane

I’m at the airport in Denver, Colorado, USA.  It’s chaos.  Flights cancelled and delayed. People milling around everywhere, endless lines at ticket counters and feeding stations. People are hungry, angry, tired and fed up. My flight to Washington is now four hours delayed and I have long given up any pretense of being ladylike. I’ve sagged down on the floor, my back against the wall and try to be Zen about it all.  It just is. It just is. I watch the people going by, listen to screaming children and howling babies and thank the gods my kids are grown.

A granny in big white sports shoes comes slogging past me, her purse slung diagonally across her chest, a cane in one hand, a dripping ice cream cone in the other. Can you see her? She’s alone and looks exhausted, her eyes staring wildly into the far yonder.

“I can’t do this no more,” she says, speaking to no one. “I can’t do this no more.”

* * *

Okay, your turn.  What memorable bits and pieces did you overhear in planes or airports?  Or what little dramas did you witness?

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I laughed my way through this post, but especially enjoyed how candid the host was on Ghana airlines, not what you want to hear when you’re actually on the plane.

maria altobelli

Ooooh, yes, living in Mexico, I can believe GutsyWriter was telling the solid truth. My story involves one of those almost wordless conversations. From past experience I had loved Air France flights until the flight overseas when our two adjoining aise seats become two in the middle of four. That wouldn’t have been so bad until the HUGE man sat next to me and overflowed into my seat. He had snacks and started chomping away. Then a meal was served. He inhaled his and then peered at my tray. I’m a notoriously slow eater—even slower on a plane—after all, there’s… Read more »

I thought you were going to tell us the story about the Mexicana Airlines plane that had technical problems and the passenger who asked the flight attendant, “So you fixed the problem?” and her response, “Oh no. We found a different pilot.”

My husband travelled on a lot of business trips at one time. On one occasion he woke from pleasant slumber in business class to see two flight attendants holding back a passenger who was attempting to open the door to the outside.
On another occasion, on a Quantas flight, the attendant asked my husband and his colleagues what they were planning to do that night when they reached their destination. As it was a Quantas flight I leave it to your imagination what the attendant had in mind!

Yes, vive la France! What an arrogant man.


Ha! You’re 100% right about those CIS ‘biznesmen’ – it seems like there’s always a dozen of them on any domestic flight I take in Russia, and I agree, they always have selective deafness when it comes to any commands from the cabin crew. No matter how many times I see it, I’m always in awe of this ludicrous self-importance. Of course, ironically, it forces the cabin crew to treat them like they’re children: “sit down,” “stay still,” “fasten your seatbelt,” etc….

I love the Ghanaian story, even if I’d worry about flying with them….

I think the most remarkable thing I ever witnessed during a flight from Madrid to Buenos Aires, was a huge fight between an Argentinean version of Britney S. and Kevin F. (that’s how I chose to call them during the flight) with them arguing loudly, with her rattling all her jewelry in anger and contempt and him trying to fend himself form her quick fists… It was quite the show!

Oh gosh.. too many scary plane journeys to mention… There was that time on China Airlines when the cabin was filled with what we thought was smoke.. turned out to be cold air pumping in through those air vents.

Aeroflot – served same food for two days as we were stranded in various places in Russia on the way to China.

Just to mention a few!

Nancy Atkinson

I can’t think of one off-hand but I certainly enjoyed yours. I love hearing about your travels as I sit in my easy chair. 🙂

I was once on a long flight from New York City to San Diego, California. I thought I had hit the jackpot when I arrived to my seat and discovered that I had the whole row to myself. I was exhausted and so excited about the prospect of lying out across the seats and sleeping the whole way across the US. 5 minutes before the plane was to take off, a hysterical woman in her 40s boarded the plane. It was her first time on the plane and she was absolutely terrified. My heart went out to her, but still… Read more »

In 1997 I was on an Impotex (local charter) flight from Baku, Azerbaijan to Dubai with my husband and son. We were nervous about the safety record of the airline but had no other reasonable choice, so to make ourselves feel better about it we’d booked Business Class (no, there is no logic to this). The seatbelts were broken and so were the inflight TVs, but at least we were sat at proper tables with white tablecloths and were served caviar. Part way through the flight, the pilot came back for a break and drank vodka with the flight attendants.… Read more »

Flying between the UK and our local airport in Turkey isn’t really all that memorable as most of the flights are charter flights. You’re lucky to get two words out of the flight attendants apart from when they’re demanding an extortionate price for you for a bottle of water. 🙂

I haven’t flown that much, but I guess bustalk isn’t that much different. Or traintalk for that matter. The funniest I ever heard was a lady who came barreling down the tunnel connecting the train platforms in Zwolle (NL) and asked me whether her train had already left. I answered no, it hadn’t. So she continued barreling! Mind you, she never said what train she needed… I love the conversations children have, they have such a great grasp of the world! Last week I overheard a couple of boys talking of some other guy and one of the boys said… Read more »

Your posts are like cold beer on a hot day. (There is simply no greater compliment a Canadian can give!) Thank you for giving this bleary-eyed insomniac something riveting to read at 4 a.m.

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