A Love Song to Matt at Virgin Atlantic
I am a nervous flyer. Let’s just get that out there first and foremost. When I say “nervous flyer,” what I really mean is that I am bat shit insane when it comes to placing myself on an airplane. I am the person you don’t want to sit next to, the one who will involuntarily grab your shirt sleeve for dear life at the slightest motion of turbulence and is drooling continuously as my head rolls about due to the massive amount of drugs in my system to calm my anxiety. I am physically tiny, so people think they want to sit next to me when they choose their seat on a Southwest flight, but they shouldn’t. Choosing the seat next to me simply because it appears as if I won’t invade your space is a bad idea.
My fear of flying runs so deep that I get dizzy watching that commercial for Denzel Washington’s new movie, Flight.
My fear of flying runs counter to my love of traveling, and I remain just a shade on this side of the I’ll-do-it-if-I-have-to line, flying in order to get somewhere cool. But I must — and this is an important part of the story — MUST must sit on the wing. I cannot sit in front of the wing (I once rejected a free upgrade to first class because it was in front of the wing) and I CANNOT sit behind the wing. Believe me, I once tried. I walked onto the plane and tried to sit down in my seat assignment at the back of the plane, promptly had a panic attack where I felt (and behaved) like a rabid animal, foaming at the mouth and moaning that I had to be removed from the plane. Please remoooooooooooooooooooove me.
Why is it that they kick people off of flights for silently wearing saggy pants and then won’t kick me off a flight when I am screaming and thrashing and shrieking, “let me off the plane!”
So we’ve set the scene.
Josh purchased four tickets for the Ford family to go to London. He did this from his office, without me hovering next to him, reminding him like Rasputin about the wing, wing, wing. (I also like to whisper it and knead my hands together like a villainous hypnotist when we make flight arrangements.) He picked some seats that were close-enough (in his opinion) to the wing and hit buy on these non-refundable tickets. And then he told me about them.
It took a day or two until we could access the reservation, and when we did, I told him that these seats were not okay. So he made the first of what would be many calls to try to get us on the wing.
At first we were told that they didn’t release those seats on the wing until 24 hours before the flight, and that made me cry like Dumbo’s mother, one of those head-tilted-back-insane-with-fear cries. I literally didn’t know how I was going to get through the four weeks until I knew where I was sitting. Another call or two where Josh told them that I was a “nervous flyer” got us seats right behind the wing. I wasn’t happy, but I could breathe again. He asked for a confirmation email to be sent with our seat assignment, but the email never showed.
He called back several times to ask for the email to be sent, each time receiving a promise it would arrive in 24-hours (it didn’t), and on one of those calls, he was cheerfully informed that (1) no seat is guaranteed and we could be bumped from our seat at any point and (2) the only way to guarantee a seat on the wing was to purchase extra leg room seats for an additional $300. Which is a considerable sum of money. But Josh decided that we would spend nearly that much in therapy before and after said flight if he didn’t do something about this, so he put his foot down and paid the extra cost and asked — for the love — to have an email confirmation sent to quell my fears.
It didn’t come.
At this point, I decided to call myself because I was literally crawling out of my skin with anxiety. I called Virgin Atlantic and got Matt.
Matt cheerfully informed me that it was already noted in my file that I was a “nervous flyer” but I still painted a much more accurate description of my neuroses for him until he agreed that nervous really didn’t do justice to my insanity. For the next 41 minutes, he talked me through my fears, checked my flights and our seats, and then moved heaven and earth for me.
Our extra leg room seats on our outbound flight were indeed on the wing. They had to be — that is where all extra leg room seats were on that plane’s formation. All was well in the outbound world, though Matt did warn me that we would likely experience turbulence due to the time of day we were flying. He rocked for giving me a heads up. All was NOT well on the inbound flight home. Very much NOT well. The extra leg room seats were in the back of the plane, starting many rows behind the wing. In fact, our old seats, the ones we had before we upgraded were on the wing — you know, that non-refundable upgrade that we were told by another person would guarantee us seats on the wing. I immediately felt like a rabid animal again now holding that information in hand.
And Matt, sensing that I was ten seconds away from a nervous breakdown, put me on hold to talk to a manager who agreed to refund me on two of the extra leg room seats and move me and the ChickieNob back to our original seats on the wing. Josh and the Wolvog would remain in the extra leg room seats which gave us a backup plan because on the insanely-bad–luck chance that someone had defecated moments earlier in our assigned seats rendering them unusable for the flight (I believe he used the term “broken” in his example), the farthest back we could be would be the extra leg room seats behind the wing. He also refunded the non-refundable leg room seats for the two of us since it wasn’t really fair that we had been given wrong information.
I also asked him to note in the file just how insane I am about flying, and please move anyone’s seats but mine so I don’t have a nervous breakdown. And he promised that I’d get an email confirmation within a few days and if I didn’t, he gave me his full name and extension so I could reach him again. 41 minutes later, after talking me through the best places to sit on a plane and how not to pass along my flying anxiety to the kids, we hung up.
And the email confirmation came. And our flights there and back were perfectly situated on the wing. And he saved our trip by removing most of the stress from the travel portion of it.
So this is a love song to Matt at Virgin Atlantic. I sent a separate, more sane letter to the company thanking you profusely for saving my sanity with this trip. But I also wanted to address what you did for me publicly. Because you could have laughed hysterically in my face (and perhaps you did after we got off the phone, and that’s okay. I would laugh at me too, to be fair), but you didn’t. You used up a considerable amount of time making sure that all would be okay, and when I hung up the phone, I finally felt a modicum of calm. I mean, yes, I still had to actually fly, but I would cross that bridge when the time came. But before that point, I could finally stop crying like Dumbo’s mother.
Thank you, Virgin Atlantic. You are currently my favourite airline in the world.
And to the rest of you, I have one last post of Alice photos and information I’m putting together. Stay tuned.