Growing up, many of us were excited moving up to the next grade level in school. For whatever reason, I assumed high school would be a totally new experience. In some respects, it is. However, when you walk through the doors, you see many of the same kids you already knew. The halls are still lined with lockers that have combination locks to give a false sense of security but you really know that with some repeated jiggling they’ll open without you having to actually dial the combination.
You still spend the day in classrooms with teachers who drone on and on about this or that, and at the end of their lecture they still assign a ton of homework. In the end, its really not much of a different experience than where you were previously. Yes, the halls were bigger, our bodies were undergoing changes that just make things awkward, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t that special. For me as an AvGeek, it was a similar experience I had when finally flying on a wide-body jet for the first time.
After flying hundreds of thousands of miles in regional jets (all varieties of C and E), Southwest’s Boeing 737s, and Delta’s mainline narrow-bodies, I was finally boarding a wide-body aircraft; a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600 named Bubbles taking me from Atlanta to London. I was excited to try the larger aircraft out. For years, I had looked at the A340s, Boeing 747s, even the 767 workhorse wishing to fly on them one day. I am not exactly sure what I was expecting, but after I arrived in London, it dawned on me that it wasn’t really different than all the other flights I had taken (trying to remove the airline’s hard and soft product).
Although, there were some positives. It may have been psychosomatic, but four engines felt far more powerful than just two (“Four Engines For Long-Haul”). The cabin itself was bigger, which at 6’2″ I appreciated not having to duck to get into my seat. The fact that the cabins were larger also made it not feel as claustrophobic as some narrow bodies. The bathrooms were large enough that two people could join the mile high club pretty easily (save for any awkward embarrassment after walking out – no comment on if I’m a member). The big plus is that most wide-bodies have a true business (and/or first) class product. My aircraft even had a bar area, although no one really hung out there.
However, just like every other flight, the seat backs and tray tables still had to be in their upright and locked position for takeoff and landing, there was still a safety demonstration, and the plane still jostled about – though maybe not as much as a narrow body – when we hit a patch of rough air.
This is not to say that I was disappointed in the experience. Indeed, flying Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class far exceeded my expectations even though I knew I was flying one of the best airlines in the world. However, the actual flight itself, the act of getting on a plane and going somewhere, was not much different than any other flight I had taken.
All that said, I very much want to try a flight on the upper deck of a Boeing 747 before they all retire. I hope I am not setting my expectations too high!