As Dr. McCoy Once Said….

We all know of the horrific disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 out of Kuala Lumpur. (The plane still has not been found.) None of us want to talk about it – or, I suspect, really even to think about it. All we can do is pray for those who were aboard, and especially for their surviving families and loved ones.

But that disaster has prompted me also to reflect on flying on 777s. Yes, the aircraft’s safety record had been superb. Still, as a frequent flyer, personally I’ve never liked that plane.

The first time I flew on one was into Seattle, in Business class, on British Airways (I usually fly BA) about 15 years ago. The plane seemed brand new. As we boarded in London, I looked forward to the journey.


Near a washroom, mid-flight, I found myself standing next to a male passenger who was chatting with (perhaps “chatting up” is a better description) an attractive British flight attendant. He was a Boeing engineer. I overheard him saying to her in his American drawl that we were on the plane’s first commercial flight.

The woman chuckled (no one does sarcasm like the British), but I didn’t hear her follow-up verbal response. I do remember, by then, though, that I was already miffed at the plane’s lacking overhead fresh air controls at the individual seats. The flight was stuffy, too warm, and unpleasant. By the time we landed, I couldn’t wait to get off the plane for some fresh air.

As we were disembarking, a different flight attendant was sitting in a row near the main door, with another flight attendant standing over her holding tissues. It seemed odd. As we got nearer, I realized the seated woman had her head tilted back because she was desperately trying to stop a nose bleed.

Even now, many years later, I still find flying on that plane “airless” compared to, say, the 747.

Another pet peeve: the overhead bins.

Storage is always an issue on planes, but on this one it is a bigger pain than usual given the aircraft is for long haul flights. Not only are the Economy cabin (“World Traveler,” as BA terms it) bins ridiculously small (almost laughably so), but I discovered this additional passenger comfort brilliance (note: that’s sarcasm too) on a subsequent flight. For some reason (well, we can probably guess the reason: space), the designers laid out the bins in Economy in such a way that near the front of the cabin there is only a “half-bin” over (I think at, or about) “row 25”.

Sheer genius. (More sarcasm.) Nine seats have a glaring shortage of bin space, which naturally means passengers sitting in that row end up having to jam their overflow carry ons (that they are perfectly entitled to bring aboard) into overheads behind them. Of course that leads to a knock-on storage problem continuing to impact others for several additional rows back.

In the immortal moaning words of Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy: “Engineers, they love to change things.” What a headache the storage must be for flight attendants seating passengers every flight. The space shortage is probably made even worse at times by the fact that as I recall “row 25” is also a “wide” row that regularly seats parents with infants, who often have tons of stuff.

We’re told 787s are replacing 777s on British Airways’s Heathrow to Newark, N.J. route. Good riddance. I sure hope the 787 proves to be a better passenger experience.

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Author: “Conventions: The Garden At Paris,” “Passports,” “Frontiers,” and “Distances.” British Airways frequent flier. Lover of the Catskill Mountains...and the 1700s. New novel of 1797-1805, "Tomorrow The Grace," due out in 2019.