Sheila and I were born just over a month apart and, as we both faced our 75th birthdays, we wondered how we should celebrate our diamond jubilees together. Then, in November, we thought about taking advantage of all the air miles we’d accumulated and fly somewhere first class. Our destination would have to be worthwhile, some place far away and not just a few hundred mile distant. Eventually we decided on Rome.
Our miles, we discovered, would easily cover such a trip, but there was a catch: each time we found a first class (or business, for that matter) round trip to Rome, there was a leg that had only cabin or economy class available. However, Hawkeye Sheila spied a round trip to Rome over Easter that was less than three thousand apiece. We jumped on it.
Even after our trip was confirmed, we wondered why it was called “Premium.” After all, the fare was comparable to a coach flight without a discount. However, after Sheila tracked it down, we found that it will really be first class premium.
I’m looking forward to the decadence of the flight to and from Rome as much as the Eternal City itself. I can hardly wait to have the privilege of first to board and then to sneer at the coach crowd while sipping on my champagne.
I’ve only had the experience of flying first class once. The flight was late, and my friend Dennis and I were placed in first class so that we might be able to get off the plane first to catch another. The first class flight went from Anchorage to Fairbanks and lasted about twenty minutes, just long enough to drink a glass of orange juice. And, we missed our connection.
The airline compensated us by booking a room for us in a motel close to the airport in Fairbanks. They also paid for a cab to take us to our room and back to the airport the next day.
At the time, Fairbanks was not a city that was a big tourist destination, maybe it still isn’t, but I was still a bit dismayed when the taxi that showed up was a Detroit rust bucket with a broken spring and spewing black smoke. The interior had the ambiance of a pool hall where the patrons were all chain smokers. Our driver wheezed and coughed as he loaded our packs into the trunk. The lid was held down by a bungee cord. Nevertheless, we were ferried successfully to our lodging.
Our room was spartan with two cots with metal frames. The odor of ancient cigarette smoke lingered, but at least everything appeared clean. The bathroom faucet dripped slightly and had left a deep rust stain in the sink, but the water appeared crystal clear and tasted wonderful.
The same cab picked us up the next day and carried us to a more run-down and much smaller terminal than where we’d disembarked in Fairbanks. We boarded a propeller driven aircraft that had room for about twenty people. The pilot stood in front and read off all the required safety regulations and features of the plane.
Our fellow passengers were a diverse mixture of folks that all had different reasons for flying to Fort Yukon. Many of them were natives who’d been to Fairbanks for medical reasons or appointments with government officials. There were also geologists and workers for the petroleum industry. Others were bringing supplies for hunters and trappers who used Fort Yukon as a base. Then there were travelers like us, fools who wanted to experience the wilderness of Alaska.
And there was no one to stop us, no experience required.
To be continued.