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An Awkward Encounter As Diplomatic Air Hostess
Sorts Out Difficult Mile High Club Grope Situation

Coastweek -- Sitting in a plane for nearly half a day with people that you have never met and will probably never meet again can be quite an experience, writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.

The same could happen in the high speed hydrofoil passenger ferries where seating is arranged plane style.

I have travelled in many of these over the years and one gets to see many instances where pressure builds up to bursting point.

Some happen very, very unexpectedly.

Kachumbari was travelling to the United States recently and this was before the advent of the direct flights by our national carrier, Kenya Airways.

It therefore meant that she had to take two flights of almost eight hours each. 

This has been the standard for most of us for many years.

The alternative is through the Middle East or Addis and these involve a short four hour leg followed by a fourteen and a half hour journey. 

The journey is long!

On the first leg, flying in a Kenya Airways Dreamliner, the plane was full.

In the economy section, where Kachumbari was, there was the usual scurrying around looking for space to keep hand luggage in the overhead lockers.

Kachumbari was sitting in an aisle seat on the right hand side of the central cluster of four seats.

To her right the three seats were occupied by two men sitting next to each other with a lady sitting in the window seat.

All seemed to be going well for the early part of the day time flight.

When the flight levelled off, the crew came around serving drinks and some snacks.

An hour or so after this the cabin was abuzz as breakfast was served.

This took another hour or so and when stuff was cleared, the cabin settled into an almost set pattern.

There were those that settled into muted conversations with the occasional giggle or cackle to punctuate the engagements.

A large number were engrossed on the screens in front of them either playing games or watching movies.

A sizeable number had their mobile phones in hand either playing games or catching on their communications.

A small number had their lap tops out and were either watching movies or working – like I am often doing when I have these longish flights.

The people seated opposite Kachumbari settled into different routines.

The lady near the window started to read a book.

The gentleman sitting in the middle seat was focused on the screen in front of him and kept fiddling agitatedly with the touch screen and the hand control at intervals.

The man in the aisle seat promptly went to sleep after having his breakfast.

A couple of hours after breakfast was served, the fellow in the middle seat woke up the sleeping person in the aisle seat and asked whether he could be let out.

As he stood up to get out, the lady in the window seat started saying that the fellow getting out should get out and not come back.

The fellow looked at her and said he was going to come back there as that was his lawful seat.

The lady’s speaking volume went several notches higher and she told the man that he was uncouth and asked why he had been touching her frequently as the flight progressed.

The man said that there was little space in the middle seat and that he could not avoid contact due to the close proximity they were in. the lady would have none of that.

She told the man that one of them would have to move and that if the chap came back to his seat she would go to another seat.

The fellow apologised but she would have none of it.

He decided he would go to visit the washroom and then return.

As he was away, one of the stewardesses walked past in her regular inspection of the cabin and the lady called out to her loudly and started complaining that the passenger who was occupying the seat next to her had been touching her inappropriately from time to time since the plane took off.

She also repeated that it was either him or her to move seats.

She listened and asked to sit down whilst she sorted matters out.

The fellow came back whilst she was still settling the lady and the minute she sighted him, she started her tirade against him.

The man kept quiet as his manner suggested he did not speak much.

The stewardess started to question the two and it became quickly apparent the situation could turn explosive.

She asked the gentlemen to accompany her and they disappeared into the business class section of the plane.

A few minutes later, a male steward came and started talking to the lady and took her to the back part of the plane for some minutes.

Eventually the lady was brought back and sat down in her seat.

She was snivelling into a piece of tissue and one could not be sure whether this was for show or for real.

After she had fully settled and belted up, the steward went to the business class area and returned with the other passenger and asked him to collect his stuff.

He was then led into the business class section with his luggage. He did not return to his seat.

When the lady enquired what happened to the person, she was told that he had been given another seat.

She asked where and the stewardess was very diplomatic and simply said that he was in a different part of the plane where they were unlikely to cross paths.

This seemed to be the end of the matter as the lady went back to sit and read her book.

After some time, she struck a conversation with the person who was left next to her in the aisle seat and Kachumbari couldn’t help overhearing the content.

The lady was muttering that she hoped that the fellow had not been put in business class despite the fact that he had been misbehaving and been the aggressor as far as she was concerned.

The reality is that the fellow had been put in a spare business class seat to ensure that they did not cross paths.

The aircraft crew in consultation with each other had realised that one of them had experienced a similar altercation with the lady on a flight some time back and she even remembered the name when they checked the seating plan.

They decided it was better to move the person away rather than pander to the lady who would feel vindicated as having been attacked when in reality she was being unreasonable.

As Kachumbari says, a great skin can hide a rotten interior.

 

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