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A brief joke

Q: What's the cheapest way to get an upgrade to First Class on British Airways?

A: Drop dead.

(You may take this as a whimsical and somewhat irritated comment on the pleasures of long-distance travel in general rather than a specific attack on British Airways.)

27 Comments

1:

With the added bonus that any family members travelling with you get upgraded too!

2:

Obviously he forgot to check the "no corpses" box when he ordered the tickets... :-D

3:

Given that "our crew were working in difficult circumstances and chose the option they thought would cause least disruption", I wonder if BA wasn't working under the assumption that the traditional British upperclass stiff upper lip would hold any objections from the first-class passengers. Sounds like it was a bad assumption.

It's just too bad the deceased didn't turn zombie. Then they'd know what "difficult circumstances" really are.

4:

I got upgraded to first class flying Sydney to LA once, and I felt pretty lucky at the time. I had no idea how lucky I really was...

5:

With the added bonus that any family members travelling with you get upgraded too!

Please don't send this story to any of my relatives. They'd be eying me and fingering their plastic sporks speculatively within minutes of embarkation.

6:

Zombies On A Plane. (Sorry, I had to -- Apparently I suffer from "posturbation", which is, inter alia, the inability to leave a slightly-used comment thread unmolested, in order to achieve some form of - presumably - sexual gratification)

Is it dark in here or is just me?

7:

I found myself wondering what is normally done when people die on aircraft. It can't be all that uncommon with the number of people in the air at any one time. The cargo hold is inaccessible, so are they propped up at the back, or what?

(Also, fading memories tell me that when someone dies, all the, ah, sphincters let go. Wouldn't that have rather ponged out business class? If not for that I think I'd be quite happy to have a recently dead person next to me, as long as I could get past if I needed to go to the loo. They can't fall asleep and drool on you or make excruciatingly boring conversation, and are unlikely to listen to infernokrusher tracks[1] on their MP3 player at astonishing volume.)

[1] sort of like heavy metal, only with more monster truck crashes, explosions, cymbals, electric drills, and other *penetrating* sounds

8:

Nix: it varies. Some modern long-haul planes (the Airbus A340-500 and A380 spring to mind) come with a corpse locker (a long floor-level compartment for storage of stiffs); these are typically planes that can be expected to spend over 15 hours in the air and carry a lot of passengers.

Sphincters do let go, but there won't be a problem unless there's something to be let out; sick, elderly folks (as in this case) are often undernourished and short on hydration.

My understanding is that normal practice when a passenger dies is to leave the corpse in situ and put a blanket over it, either moving other passengers in the row to new seats (or moving the corpse). In this case, the plane was apparently stowed out in economy -- but on a 747-400 there're never more than five seats abreast (middle row), so there'd be no more than three economy class passengers to bump to leave the deceased and her daughter alone. Instead the cabin crew seem to have chosen to bump the stiff and her mourner instead ... which I suspect will be viewed by BA management as an Error of Judgement. (Bump an economy passenger, and they'll (a) be grateful, (b) tell all their friends, and (c) fly with you again, in hope. Bump the stiff instead, and you risk annoying the platinum flyer cash cows.)

9:

First Class, Business Class, or Corpsicle Class?

Chicken, Fish, or Soylent Green?

10:

Fly BA First Class and you share space with a corpse. Fly Qantas First Class and you get a quickie in the loo with one of the cabin crew. Hmm, which airline should I choose?

11:

But if you fly Qantas you have to go to Australia. Hmm, which airline should I choose?

12:

SpeakerToManagers@3 the traditional British upperclass stiff upper lip...
But whose upper lip was stiffer...?

13:

I'm really really glad (x100) that I don't read this blog at work.

14:

Dave,

At least the corpse was fresh, so the upper lip was still stiff.

15:

SpeakerToManagers,

LOL.

If you think about it, though, this kind of thing must have been going on ever since the early days of passenger aviation, but it's only in the past couple of years that I can recall seeing stories about it.

16:

Dave Hutchinson: there is at least one Agatha Christie novel that uses a passenger aeroplane as the Isolated Country House Equivalent.
Though it was probably much less common in early days, when air travel was less widespread and more physically demanding; an elderly or infirm person wanting to cross the Atlantic in 1950, for example, would have gone by sea rather than face the rigours of flight.

17:

Allow me to add -- the exponential increase in long-haul travel that has occurred since the introduction of the 747 made really cheap trans-Atlantic travel possible (by linking two continents full of overall fairy rich people) is probably to blame. Before then, you had relatively little long-haul travel -- most passenger aviation was short-haul, and what you do with a corpse doesn't matter too much if it's only a one-hour flight. But the 747, with hundreds of passengers crowded into a tin can for 6-12 hours at a time, made a big difference. If mortality figures are measured in deaths per hour, we can expect an average of, say, one death per 77 passenger-years (i.e. an average life span). Which a 747 will rack up every two to four months of service.

And sitting next to a corpse for 6-15 hours is indeed a different matter from putting up with it for a few minutes.

18:

I'm as guilty of typos as anybody, but: Fairy rich? Is this some sort of commentary on paper money/credit cards? You don't srike me as a goldbug or Free Silver type of guy.

19:

Sometimes a typo is just a tyop, Steven.

20:

Ajay@16 - forgive me, you're right, I should have said mass passenger aviation.

Charlie@17 - and the increase in low-budget flights must have pushed up the average over the past few years. And to think all I usually worry about is whether the damn aircraft is going to crash...

21:

Jay Leno joked about this tonight. Said people in Coach were killing themselves to get better leg room.

22:

Charlie,

Utterly off topic, but I hope it's appreciated. I just finished reading Misslegap, and was mightily impressed and entertained. Except for one thing: I'm going to have nightmares now, thanks mate.

Spoiler, rot13: Vg'f abg gur rhfbpvny vafrpgf, be gur snpg gurl'er jvaavat va gur enpr gb jrnx tbqyvarff, ribyhgvba vf fbzrguvat lbh unir yrnea gb gnxr sbe tenagrq. Ab, vg'f gur gubhtug bs zvyyvbaf bs vafgnaprf bs uhznavgl tbvat guebhtu gur Pbyq Jne ntnva naq ntnva. *Fuhqqre* Bapr jnf dhvgr rabhtu sbe zr, gunax lbh irel zhpu!.

Anyhow, this has been a great year for Stross books, I know the quantity has been the result of the vagaries of scheduling, but I cherish it anyway. Keep up the great work.

23:

Dead body sitting next to you on a long flight?

Some of the trips I've taken, that would be a big improvement.

(And as a side note: no matter how good the ticket price is, never fly on Oceanic Airlines.)

24:

Charlie,

Utterly off topic, but I hope it's appreciated. I just finished reading Misslegap, and was mightily impressed and entertained. Except for one thing: I'm going to have nightmares now, thanks mate.

Spoiler, rot13: Vg'f abg gur rhfbpvny vafrpgf, be gur snpg gurl'er jvaavat va gur enpr gb jrnx tbqyvarff, ribyhgvba vf fbzrguvat lbh unir yrnea gb gnxr sbe tenagrq. Ab, vg'f gur gubhtug bs zvyyvbaf bs vafgnaprf bs uhznavgl tbvat guebhtu gur Pbyq Jne ntnva naq ntnva. *Fuhqqre* Bapr jnf dhvgr rabhtu sbe zr, gunax lbh irel zhpu!.

Anyhow, this has been a great year for Stross books, I know the quantity has been the result of the vagaries of scheduling, but I cherish it anyway. Keep up the great work.

25:

Sorry for the double post. Got a second preview page for some strange reason, and when I came back a few hours later I thought I hadn't clicked Post the first time.

26:

Given it was only one of the cattle that popped their clogs, I'm frankly surprised the head attendant didn't just lay down a rubber sheet and butcher it on the spot.

Has to be more entertaining than the inflight movie...

27:

Every two to four months? Good grief ... (calculator break) yes, more or less. Maybe not quite that often (I make it every 200 round trips); also, don't forget that air passengers are still not a perfect representation of the population, as they don't include the two most at-risk groups - the newborn, and the bedridden and moribund. You actually have to be able to walk down the aisle, or at any rate get in a wheelchair, to fly.

And seven hours is a short flight. The 777-200LR will do twenty-two hours in the air, which is basically anywhere on earth. Yes, it does have a corpse locker.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 19, 2007 5:50 PM.

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