I Survived and Thrived in Coach!

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Well, after 18 hours of flight time and a 3-hour layover, I finally made it from New York to Cape Town on Wednesday, and I had an overall solid experience flying in KLM Economy Comfort. For those of you expecting a whiny, complaining post, you may want to skip this one ;-)

When I originally posted about my trip, I think there were a few misconceptions about it and what I expected. This was not a dirt-cheap ticket or a mileage run (though the miles I’ll earn will be great and help me re-qualify for Delta Platinum Medallion). I flew there because I had the opportunity to visit some good friends in Cape Town, which I loved when I first traveled here last January, so I jumped at the chance to revisit the country and spend some time hanging out with locals this time around. When it comes to travel, although I appreciate the finer things and being able to fly first or business class, the most important thing to me is the destination.

The view of Table Mountain from my friend's apartment.. this is what travel is about!
The view of Table Mountain from my friend’s apartment.. this is what travel is about!

Some people seemed to think my post was whiny and that I was complaining about having to travel so far in economy, but that’s not what this was about at all. After all, this was not a comped trip- I paid $1,538.10 out of my own pocket to take these flights. While not cheap, the routing was ideal and the only way to redeem miles would have extended the journey and cut into my limited time on the ground. Believe me, I realize how truly lucky I am to get to travel the world for a living. I think a lot of us who live in the miles and points world get a little jaded about traveling 21 hours at the drop of a hat, but the truth is, what we get to do is wonderful, amazing and ultimately the best thing I can imagine.

My first window seat was a little tight, but decent.
My first window seat was a little tight, but bearable for a quick 6 hour hop to Amsterdam.

Thanks to points and miles, I have gotten to visit corners of the globe I never dreamed about, and in this case, although I could not afford a ticket in business class ($7,000!) or use the miles necessary to travel in a premium class of service (unless I wanted to waste 12 hours laying over in Frankfurt or Cairo- no thanks), I just didn’t care as long as I could get to South Africa to see my good friends. To me, it was more important to have another amazing trip where I know I will be tasting world-class wines, dining in delicious restaurants, getting to know more about what is becoming one of my favorite countries.

It’s true, I was a little anxious about flying over 9,000 miles in coach in one shot because I’ve never flown that long in economy. I realize that many in our frequent traveler community do this all the time, but you have to admit this is not the norm! And not to have a pity party for myself (I LOVE being tall), but economy seats were not made for passengers of height. I originally posted about my trip in order to solicit advice and tips about what I could do to make the time pass, and I would like to thank all of you who offered great ideas and tips on long-haul travel…as well as awesome recommendations for TV shows and movies to download and watch along the way. I’m now addicted to several new shows, including Breaking Bad and House of Cards. The only thing that thwarted my viewing bonanza was the lack of power outlets!

I actually had a really good experience flying KLM. I did have one last Twitter fiasco with the airline (more on that in my review), but I was able to score a great aisle bulkhead seat for the longest leg (Amsterdam-Capteown), and thanks to the reader suggestions I think I made the most of my time flying – I was practically grinning the whole way there, and I literally walked off the plane in Cape Town smiling and feeling relatively refreshed. I’ll do a more thorough flight review in a future posts, but in the meantime, be sure to follow along with my travels on Twitter and Instagram.

I was able to stretch out on my second flight.
I was able to stretch out on my second flight.

Thank you again to all the readers who submitted great comments and recommendations for how to make the most out of 21 hours of travel and even to those who offered constructive criticism. As PaxView Jeff tweeted me “Hard to convey emotion or the emotion of a carefully cocked eyebrow in black and white text. No harm no foul, play on”.   Despite some seat assignment shenanigans and some long-haul flights in somewhat cramped quarters, this was still a great trip, and a reminder of just what a wonderful life that I, and many of my fellow points enthusiasts and readers, get to lead, so I hope to catch up with many of you on the road soon, and in the meantime, happy travels!

This experience has allowed me to think about what is really important about traveling, so stay tuned for a lucrative contest later today all about what makes you inspired to travel!

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