Fistfight in Economy Class

It’s a warm summer morning in late July. I’m in a cab on my way to Kowloon station to catch the Airport Express out of Hong Kong and we’re driving through a maze of streets lined with shops, people, concrete, steel and all these odd scaffolding structures made entirely of bamboo sticks. A big seatback monitor runs airline commercials inside the cab and my mind drifts away for a few seconds, thoughts racing through skies and clouds and blue and oh, it seems we’re just about to arrive at Kowloon, better get the money out, pay, thanks, and I’m in the queue to get a train ticket. In a few hours I’ll be on LH739. Should be a nice flight, first time ever on the 747's upper deck. And when I get to Frankfurt I'll have three hours between my inbound and outbound flights. Lots of time.

I blip my way through the ticket gate, the train arrives, I grab a seat, get my earbuds out and tell my iPhone to dig up 내가 너무 아파 by T-ara. Great k-pop right there. Before I know it doors open, I head left to departures and walk up to the Lufthansa first class check-in desk, red carpet and all. I get a boarding pass, they get my bags and make sure I know my way to the United first class lounge. Turns out not to be too bad. Decent buffet with lots of hors d’oeuvres, dumplings, sushi, fruit, desserts and a freezer filled with Häagen-Dazs ice cream. A woman approaches me with a menu and explains the a la carte options available, I ask for a crab sandwhich and a glass of champagne. Seems like an appropriately classy breakfast.

Time flies and rain falls outside as I walk down to the gate, passing by a ton of economy class passengers lined up for boarding. I make a left when the jet bridge splits in two, leave the poor business class people behind on the main deck and make my way up the stairs and settle down in 82A.

Now, this is where things start derailing. First, they let us know we’re not going anywhere for an hour and 45 minutes due to bad weather over mainland China. No worries, I still got plenty of time to make my connection and the first class cabin is a pretty decent place to be stuck when waiting for the skies to clear up. They get some appetizers out and keep my diet coke topped up. Time passes by fairly quickly, the weather gets better and we do pushback, get 20 meters or so. And stop. Hm. That’s strange. I watch them scramble to reconnect the jet bridge, the captain gets on the PA and says there’s been a fight in economy class and they need to get two passengers off the plane, authorities waiting. Me and the guy across the aisle share a funny look.

Once their bags have been dug out from underneath we make a third attempt. But no. A distinct smell of fuel fills the cabin. Not good. Captain gets on the PA again and says “attention! all crew to stations”. That means they’re on immediate standby to evacuate the aircraft through all available emergency exits. Whoa. Firetrucks line up. They eventually get back on and make a “cancel alert, cancel alert” announcement. Seems the leak wasn’t us.

Fourth attempt to get going. This time, one of the engines won’t work. They have no clue how long it will be until that stuff gets fixed. Ugh. By now we’re 3.5 hours late and there’s no way I’m going to make my connection in Frankfurt. I ask a flight attendant if I can get off the plane and be rebooked onto tomorrow’s flight instead. I’d much rather have an extra night in Hong Kong than having to do the whole airport hotel thing in Frankfurt. And sure enough, a few minutes later I’m being escorted back through immigration and my bags pop up on a tiny luggage carousel. So… bonus time in Hong Kong. Not too bad.

I call Lufthansa to make sure I’m rebooked, grab some food and then call Hyatt to make a reservation at the very same hotel I left this morning. Turns out they only have semi-expensive rooms available but hey, who cares, let’s do it. I catch a train back, get to the hotel, a lovely lady checks me in and says they got me upgraded. A suite. Oh, awesome, thanks, I get my stuff and head up to my room. Whoa. Amazing. Great view of the harbor. Basically an apartment with a few rooms and a large jacuzzi. I settle in, fire up my computer and chat with my dear friend X, she suggests I catch a ferry cruise around Victoria Harbor. Sounds great. Last one leaves pretty soon so I get my stuff and head down to the pier, jump on the ferry and grab a seat. Summer night mist and all the skyscraper neon lights mix into a beautiful cityscape. Stunningly awesome.

The next day I get myself a proper breakfast with a view, the club floor at the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui is really pretty decent... and then I do it all over again. Cab ride, Kowloon station, train, check-in, bubbly in the lounge, buckle up in 82A. This time though, we do take off. And I get to Frankfurt in time. Good stuff.

Oh, and the fight. Before I deplaned my delayed flight I asked the purser what that was all about. Turns out one guy reclined his seat. The guy behind him wasn’t too happy with that and… boom. Fistfight.