I think it's safe to say we're all sick of the airlines nickel-and-diming passengers for every last semblance of comfort and convenience on flights. Blankets, pillows, food, water...you name it, it comes with a ridiculously large fee attached. And don't get me started on the absurd checked bag fees. As if the added expense weren't bad enough, the fees turn already uncomfortable flights into claustrophobic nightmares, jam-packed with passengers' oversize, stuffed carry-on bags that they simply would have checked back in the old days. That's why it's so refreshing when you hear about people trying to stick it to the airlines.
I actually heard about this story on a late night talk show recently, even though the event took place in the summer of 2010. Two women--a 66 year-old and a 41 year-old--were traveling with their wheelchair-bound, 91 year-old husband/step-father and were preparing to board an EasyJet plane headed for Berlin from the John Lennon Airport Liverpool, England.
But airport officials wouldn't let the wheel-chair bound man, Curt Jurant, board the aircraft. The women claimed their sunglass-wearing relative was sleeping, but a closer investigation quickly revealed that his nap was a bit more...permanent--he was dead. (Insert your own Weekend at Bernie's joke here). Further questioning revealed that the women were well aware that Curt was dead, and they were trying to sneak the body onto the flight to avoid the repatriation fees and the added cost and hassle of having the body transported in the hold of the plane in a sealed coffin.
The women's effort to pull a fast one on EasyJet didn't end well. The pair was arrested for failure to provide notification of death, and I can only imagine they ended up shelling out plenty of Euros for those pesky repatriation fees. Maybe the pair was inspired by George Costanza's airline/funeral hijinks from a classic 1993 episode of Seinfeld. More than fifteen years before the EasyJet incident, George flew to Detroit to join his girlfriend at her aunt's wake, where he spent most of his time trying to get his hands on a copy of the death certificate so he could take advantage of a 50% "Death in the Family" airfare discount.
Jason Alexander couldn't stop laughing at the situation in this blooper.
Upon reading the EasyJet story, I initially had mixed feelings. Anytime I hear about people coming up with creative ways to avoid shelling out cash to an industry that consistently screws over its customers, I'm ready to stand up and applaud. But as an occasional airline passenger, I was simultaneously pleased to hear that officials foiled the women's carcass-on-a-plane scheme. But with a little more time to reflect, I came to the conclusion that the strategy was actually a win-win for everyone.
You see, boarding a plane is a rather nerve-wracking experience for me. I'm not afraid of a plane crash; I'm afraid of who's going to end up sitting in the seat (or seats) next to me. There are three types of people who can destroy an otherwise tolerable flight: (1) children/babies, (2) fat people, and (3) the overly talkative. I guess I should also include the dreaded group represented by the much-feared overlap of the Venn diagram of misery: the fat and overly talkative crowd.
Bearing this in mind, a dead body in the neighboring seat doesn't sound so bad, though there are a few notable caveats to this line of thinking. The carcass has to be recently deceased and relatively fresh, since the smell of decaying flesh can make for an unpleasant flight (and is extremely difficult to wash out of clothing). And if it's the dead body of a fat person, you're not much better off than having a living, breathing Pop 'N Fresh seated next door.
Aside from those exceptions, I'll take a dead 91 year-old any day. No awkward conversation, no crying, no yelling, no getting up to go to the bathroom, no jockeying for elbow position on the shared armrest. A dead passenger is far better than having the person next to you sleep for the entire length of the flight, since there's no risk of snoring, drooling, or those uncomfortable situations when a napping neighbor starts to lean on your shoulder.
Obviously, EasyJet officials and the British cops screwed this one up. Much like fellow hero-in-flight Le Van Thuan, these ladies didn't deserve to be punished for coming up with a harmless, innovative solution to their predicament. They should be receiving a cash prize in the form of one of those giant novelty checks for their thought-provoking actions; instead, they got handcuffed and had to post bail. All I know is this: if I ever suspect that the airline passenger next to me is dead, I'm going to count my blessings, keep my mouth shut, and enjoy the quiet-as-a-morgue silence on the flight.
If you haven't had enough, here are some links to the story: