Actually, champagne gives me a headache more often than not, but as it turns out that's exactly what I got on yesterday's flight back from London. Somewhere along the line of the checking in process, my window seat got moved ten rows back and a few seats over to an aisle seat in the center section where the plane tapers toward the back. That wouldn't have been such a big deal if it hadn't also been in the center of a high school class trip. Teenagers to the right of me, teenagers to the left of me. Teenagers in front of me, and most horribly, teenagers behind me. Many of them seemed to be on their first flight.
It seems odd that I would end up stranded inside a tour group, but I guess these things happen. The flight was completely full and the flight attendant was sympathetic to my plea for relocation but also powerless. So I can't really blame the airline for the situation. And I generally support the right for teenagers to go out in public. But then they did something that really set my teath on edge.
Before takeoff, the flight attendants brought a glass of champagne to each of the teachers or chaperons, much as they do in business or first class. I agree, teachers are heroes; they take low pay to do some of the most important work in the world. And these teachers were going on 24 hour duty for probably at least a week. So I get that the flight crew wanted to give them a little something extra. Would it have killed them to offer me a glass too? Was I not just as much an adult stuck in the thick of the teenagers for seven hours?
It was quite a long seven hours. The kids did not use their inside voices. They did not sleep. They did not keep their discoveries to themselves. They did not stay in their seats. They did not fill in their immigration forms quickly or easily. They did not wear their sleep masks in the orthodox way. Their minders made a token effort but mostly checked out. One admonished my neighbor, "don't shout in that gentleman's ear"
In the end, I did get a free drink, but it was the regular free drink from the cart, not at all the same for not coming with any recognition that my flight experience was maybe a little less than ideal. And that's what matters most in delivering service, the recognition.