Last night, I had both the pain and pleasure of witnessing perhaps the largest sense of superiority and entitlement I’ve ever seen spread its wings, during my Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight from New York to London.
Shortly after boarding, the first words I heard were disgusting, appalling and that someone should be fired. I assumed a seat hadn’t been cleaned from an incident, or that two customers were quarreling.
It turned out, the person was just referring to their business class seat.
My main travel routes are London-New York, and London-Los Angeles, and this has allowed me to witness a disproportionate amount of special behavior on planes, from celebrities to titans of industry and the unique characters who venture back and forth across the pond, but this was a behavior I’ve never really seen, even from the biggest names in the world.
A Lunatic And A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787
Fleet consistency is a really important thing for airlines. Customers get used to certain features and expectations with cabins and when something isn’t quite up to scratch, it can take an adjustment.
How you adjust, however, is up to you.
For a certain wannabe princess, that process did not go well last night.
I’d argue that Virgin Atlantic has the best business class flying product between New York and London with their A330-900neo, but their Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliner” fleet with the old style “coffin” version of ‘Upper Class’ really is sub-par in 2023.
It was “ok” for a long time, but in this ultra-competitive time when many airlines have leveled up their seat privacy, space, tech and comfort, this experience leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it’s a bed in the sky and I’ve ended up on it twice in three weeks, slept in the seat perfectly well and set my expectations accordingly.
Apparently, 8G did not.
How to describe 8G… mid 20’s, female, many designer logos across both clothes and hand bags and someone who I noticed in the lounge long before boarding the plane, from how they constantly flagged down staff with seemingly endless neediness.
This is someone who for their sake, I sincerely hope comes from multi-generational wealth, because it’s the only way I foresee them surviving in this world with the way they act. For the sake of the world, well I hope… other things.
If I were an employer I’d be mortified. But… I also sincerely doubt anyone would ever hire this person in the first place, given their complete inability to communicate and get anyone on side while flexing a grandiose sense of self. I can’t even imagine what an interview would be like!
“I Want This Person Fired”
It’s well known Virgin’s 787 business class cabin has a “best” row. The “A” row of seats has a greater level of privacy than those in G and K. None are that private, but it feels better. If you know, you know. Any seat guru or other review spells that out.
The G and K rows face each other at an angle across the aisle and you’re kinda toe-to-toe with strangers and are generally closer for the stares. It’s hard to figure out where to train your eyes in this cabin.
Anyway, as I made my way onboard and down the aisle toward 7G, the only seat available by the time I booked, someone was taking up the aisle and headed for the crew member nearest me.
I’m not a court stenographer, but the conversation went something like this….
8G: This is disgusting, you just can’t do this, I’m appalled. You should be ashamed about this!
Cabin Crew: About what, m’am?
8G: I cannot and will not look across the aisle at someone. I refuse. It’s revolting, it’s grotesque, it’s awful and I won’t sit here. Whoever designed this “new” seat needs to be fired.
Cabin Crew: I’m sorry to hear that, m’am.
8G: Why are you laughing? This isn’t funny, someone needs to get fired and I’m not sitting in this seat.
Cabin Crew: No one is laughing m’am, would you like to offload yourself? I’m afraid all seats are already accounted for on the flight tonight and all are onboard.
Sometimes text can look innocent enough, but tone really tells the tale of an intense interaction. The tone and concentration of the anger was just immense from the word go. There was bite, chop and almost growl to these initial comments of disgust and wrongdoing.
My immediate thought was that 8G would be offloaded without choice based on how rude and antagonizing they were to the crew member, and how accusatory they were while being insistent that they address this problem with the utmost focus.
Quite frankly, from my encounters on domestic airlines like American, she would’ve been offloaded immediately for speaking to a crew member like that, or handed off to the pilot for a very stern bit of guidance about the behavior expected if she’d like to join on the trip.
This Virgin Atlantic team (which ran a really great service btw) tried to take a higher road and make lemonade. A couple of additional members of staff tried to calm and diffuse the situation and the flight service manager asked 8G to sit down for a bit while they worked on a solution.
Impressively, they did so while listening to the following tirade and not bursting out laughing, which anyone who has flown Virgin Atlantic a bit may find funny.
8G: these new seats are atrocious, I’ve been flying you guys for many years and I just can’t believe you have these as your new seats. This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Cabin Crew: we have a variety of seats m’am, and these are actually a much older generation of seat. Seat maps are available online.
8G: I’m not sure that’s right. I would know and this is just so bad.
Immediately, 8G turns to anyone in earshot who makes the mistake of making faint eye contact, who is then insistently asked to agree about how “awful” things are. To my eye, many of these people looked like first time in business folks, and they were loving it. They alluded as much after 8G moved.
The Crew Accommodated 8G…
I’ve heard from quite a few flight service managers this morning who said they would’ve left 8G behind, but this crew really did their best and seemed willing to sacrifice their own sanity to make sure we pushed back on time without issue.
I hate seeing bad behavior rewarded, but it seems like the crew were eventually able to convince someone in the A row to accept some Virgin Points to swap seats and off we went.
Even after despicably whining their way to a new seat and view, the over-the-top diva didn’t stop there.
8G started bothering just about everyone in the A row complaining about how they booked with Delta and couldn’t select seats and how the designer should be fired and they can’t believe someone could be so dumb.
That seat selection thing is not accurate by the way, you can select seats on Virgin with a Delta booking, you just need to switch websites.
In my mind, I really couldn’t help but laugh about the idea of someone getting fired in 2023 for these “new seats” — when in fact this design initially launched in 2003. These are the last iteration of a 20 year old flying product which are gradually being phased out of service.
I can’t wait for that to happen either, but I’m not snapping at crew, fellow passengers and outright refusing to sit in my seat. I knew what to expect, I prepared accordingly and I immediately turned over for a nights rest, only enduring about 10 minutes of eye contact across the aisle as we climbed out of JFK. First world problems.
Kudos to the cabin crew for going above and beyond, particularly when even after moving 8G, she wanted to ensure that the record was documented to reflect that this is not acceptable and someone should be fired. Know when to quit, kid!
I certainly wouldn’t have been as accommodating and would actually love to remix this with a Phoenix based American Airlines crew to see the final product. Spoiler alert: i don’t think it looks pretty.