Fly Monarch? I Don’t Think So!

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On Saturday the 10th of April, at 20:30 our journey home from Sharm El Sheikh began on a Monarch Airlines Airbus A300. We were sitting in row 15, seats A and B – if it makes a difference. 15A being the window seat and 15B being the middle of three.

For someone over about 5’6″ legroom is a problem and as Alison is 5’8″ and I’m 6′ we both were in trouble before we left! I had to request that the people in front of me didn’t attempt to put their seats back as they would crush my knees if they did – thankfully, they obliged even though that had to have their 2 year old on their knees. Not an ideal way to start a long (approx 6 hours) flight back to the UK.

The window seat has a big metal bracket screwed to the floor restricting the available space for feet under the chair in front. The aisle seat has a big “box” of some sort that also performs the same task. Only the middle seat – where Alison was – has any decent amount of space for your feet – although the middle seat is always seemingly narrower than the others.

So, an auspicious start to the nightmare ahead – no leg room and nowhere to put your feet either.

Did I mention also that the flight was short staffed as two Cabin Crew had failed to arrive for work? Well, all compliments to the girls who had arrived – they did a great job. Credit where it is due.

On the ground, the interior of the plane was far too hot. We were told by the team of plumbing and HVAC contactors that, after take off the air conditioning would come on and reduce the temperature. Take off couldn’t come too soon!

Anyway, we soon set off, on time (ok, 5 minutes late!) and immediately we hit a problem. The temperature inside the cabin soared into the heights. People all around us were fanning themselves with the in-flight magazine, sick bags or anything else they could find. The captain was asked to turn it down. It made no difference.

Did I mention that we had been given details in the safety briefing on where to find the exercises we really should do to keep ourselves from the scourge of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)? Well, reading about the exercises was about all we could manage – there’s no room for your feet under the chair when sitting still so you have absolutely no chance of “extending your leg and waggling your foot around and around” – once sat down in a Monarch Plane, you simply cannot move.

Once safely at height, the cabin crew sold us drinks. We again asked to have the heating turned off and they asked the Captain to do so. He did. It made no difference. Maybe third time lucky?

If I remember correctly, two tiny bottles of Brandy, two tiny tins of Ginger, and two tiny bottles of white wine (unchilled for crying out loud!) and a tiny box of Pringles cost us about £17.00. Ouch! Still anything to take the mind away from the uncomfortable situation we find ourselves in has to be worth that, doesn’t it?

Shortly afterwards, and it’s still far too hot, it’s dinner time. Sausage, mash and two vegetables. Sounds good doesn’t it? Unfortunately, airline food all smells the same – it must be the altitude and reduced cabin pressure – and it smells (to me) like vomit. I cannot eat airline food. Dinner for me was a brandy & ginger and a bottle of wine. I tried to chill it in a cup with two ice cubes in it – I failed. The heat in the cabin rendered the ice cubes into water in about 5 minutes. Sigh.

We ask the crew to turn the heating down, or perchance, off completely. They promise to do so. It doesn’t work. Aaargh!

The entertainment is a rerun of some old crappy TV programs, which if memory serves me, started with something dire, was followed by a program about the Beatles, that then Progressed into a Tribute To Heath Leger followed by some other ancient drivel from the TV and got worse after that. It’s still too bloody hot!

It makes no difference anyway, the headphones supplied (excuse me, sold to us for £2.50 each) don’t work. Well, they do work, but the holes in the seat to plug them in are so close to your thighs that you can either have the headphones on or you can sit in the seat – but not both!

I suspect that after a few passenger plus headphones plugged in interactions, the sockets are trashed. No sound. It was the same on the way out as well. Thankfully, the TVs are small and so far away from where I’m sitting that watching is almost impossible anyway.

Later that same day …. it’s almost midnight. Guess what, it’s cooled down a lot now. The Captain finally managed to turn the heating off/down and we are almost comfortable – temperature wise I mean. The cabin comfort levels are non-existent I’m afraid. Everyone (it seems) is stiff and unable to move. I didn’t remember anyone putting their seats back to try and get a bit more comfortable – maybe the sound of cracking knee caps from behind put them off?

The cabin is full of people wanting desperately to go to sleep. The staff will sell you “comfort kits” consisting of a blanket, a blow up neck pillow and a mask. Hmm.

You will need the mask because even though it’s midnight (Egyptian Time) the Cabin staff are now selling Duty Free crap goods from the trolley at prices that appear way too high to be anything but Duty Free. (Other opinions are available!) The Cabin lights are turned up to full and other than take-off, they haven’t been anything but.

Now, the blow up pillow are a great idea. In principle that is. The idea is that you blow them up and place around your neck so that you can lean back in your chair (yeah right!) and have a nice comfortable place to rest your weary head as you drift off into a deep and comfortable sleep.

Reality has a nasty habit of changing things! The seats that we are supplied with are way too low in the head rest department, and any attempt to sleep with your head back results in your head falling over the back of the seat and irritating the people behind you! There is nothing at all to rest your head on! The seats in my car have more height to them than the ones in this plane! Monarch are the only airline I know that have such low seats.

Trying to rest your nice comfy pillow on the seat simply won’t work – you’ve been sold a pup – as the people in front of me discovered when they tried! At least the mask comes in handy as the Duty Free trolley is still slowly doing the rounds and the cabin is lit up at full brightness.

Trying to get to sleep I rest my head on the back of the chair in front of me. It doesn’t work. Any time anyone in any of the three seats in front of me moves – or breathes heavily – the vibrations transfer straight into my head.

I’m in the window seat (15A) and I think I could be able to lean my head against the window or the wall. How sadly mistaken was I? I start to nod off and my head falls backwards into the window recess, twisting my neck at an unnatural angle and wakes me up. I try again. Same result. I swear! Twice.

I suppose I forgot to mention the fact that the seats and the windows don’t line up? Well, they don’t. Some people can see out of two windows (ok, one and a bit) while some people can’t see out at all – even though they have a “window” seat. Hmm.

Ok, sleep is going to be difficult I can tell. But I try again, this time I must have drifted off for a while as I wake up to find the lights in the cabin have been dimmed. I look at my watch – why am I awake? Oh yes, I fell into the window again – we still have hours and hours to go yet.

I give up on sleep. I look out the window – there’s nothing on TV and anyway, my earphones don’t bloody work! (See above!) The view down to ground is quite pleasant – it’s a clear night and you can see for miles. Looking up, I can see even further as I can see stars! Oh well, that’s the good bits done then, back to the flight!

I attempt another attack on my complete exhaustion by leaning my head on the seat in front again. Alison – herself knackered – tries to sleep by leaning on my back. I think I drop off but the liquid lunch seems to be causing weird dreams (or it could just be the surreal reality of this flight!) and I’m not sure if I’m awake or asleep or what. Anyway, it doesn’t work and Alison gets off of me pretty soon. I’m awake again.

Alison has given up on sleeping now and has been trying to do Sudoku on my Nintendo DS but she soon gives up on that and starts chatting to the man in 15C. He turns out to be on permanent holiday since being laid off from his job as a civil engineering something or other! He was responsible for there Leeds City Tram project that the government canned. They chat for ages while I doze – my head still jammed onto the seat in front. I’ll have a textured forehead when we eventually get back to Manchester!

There’s a famous person on this flight as well. David someone or other. He plays the caretaker in the Harry Potter movies. I didn’t recognise him when he was chatting to us on our bus on the way out – or on the way back. Nice man. He’s knackered as well and seems to have given up on sleep and sitting down. He stood up for the best part of the flight.

Many people, when I look around, are doing the same. Standing. It’s the only thing to do. I suspect the number of numb bums on this flight is approaching 100% – mine certainly is.

I try to sleep. I doze mostly and I seem to remember when I could actually feel my feet. Thanks to that metal bracket (and the sloping curved sides of the plane) I’m sitting with my legs and feet at what can only be called “an unnatural angle” and I’m really uncomfortable. The man in front is in a similar situation and is complaining about his back giving him grief. I suspect others have a similar mindset.

Suddenly I awake from my doze. The plane has throttled back and dumped it’s nose into a downward direction. We must be descending into Manchester. I look at my watch and I can’t figure it out, we are early!

Half an hour later we are down and off the plan. What a relief. That flight was a nightmare and I’m surprised that Monarch are allowed to put passengers in a situation where they have no leg room and no foot room while sitting on a seat with no ability to lean back and rest their head. I’m not surprised people get DVT when flying.

Sometimes the only thing that spoils the joy of flight is being on a plane.

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