When you catch a flight these days you expect a sleek, professional, uneventful trip from one faceless airport to another. What you don’t expect is drama, excitement and fear. This is our story of Flight 433 from Dubai to London. It wasn’t uneventful ………….
So sit back and relax as I set the scene for you. The two heroes of our story, Jon and Jo, are boarding their flight in Dubai bound for the bright lights of London Town. It’s the second leg of a journey from Singapore and they are hoping to just sit back and sleep for the bulk of the trip. Nice seats right at the back of the central cabin, economy class only of course as they are the poor relations of the family. All the passengers are settled in as the Airbus A380 sets off for Northern Europe and home. Jon sits back with heavy rock blasting in his ears as Jo scrolls through the vast quantity of films trying to decide what to watch (that often takes a while).
An hour in as the huge flying machine roars through the sky over Iran and lunch is served. It’s fantastic food as usual with Emirates and the whole aircraft tucks in. I should really introduce you to some of their fellow passengers at this stage. Jon is by the window with Jo central next to an English guy from Norfolk. This fellow could be a story by himself but we just don’t have the time I’m afraid. Briefly, he’s been drinking all morning and thinks he’s been flirting successfully with Jo since take-off, she has a different take on that though. Apparently, and we weren’t totally convinced of the authenticity of his story, he works for Sheihk Mohammed of Oman as his personal horse transporter. His job is to move the Sheikhs million-dollar race horses all around the world whenever required. His stories of special horse-aircraft and jetting off to Tokyo and Kentucky are fascinating and completely unbelievable, Jo is a tad suspicious but it does pass the time. We shall call this chap ‘The Sheikhs Horse Whisperer’.
In front of them are a couple that we shall refer to as ‘The Upgraders’ as the man continually harasses all of the cabin crew about being moved into business class as ‘that’s how they normally travel’. A few rows back is ex-Scotland and Liverpool footballer Gary McCallister (it really is him) and to his right a strange character dressed all in green who appears to have bladder issues all flight. His name is ‘Green Graham’. Of course there is the obligatory eat-everything couple immediately in front, ‘Mr and Mrs Barry Eater’. Let’s throw in the big Aussie at the front of the rear cabin with his legs stretched out taking up an unbelievable amount of room, ‘The Oblivious Guy’, and we’re almost there. Oh I almost forgot. Right next to us in the central chunk of seats if the actress who played Mrs McCluskey in the classic BBC TV series Grange Hill. Again it really is her, confirmed as several people (idiots) approach and ask her throughout the flight.
So there’s our cast of passengers. I just need to introduce you to the crew. We have ‘Claudette’, our smiley French lady serving teas and coffees, and there is the happy grinning ‘Sancho Panza’ laughing and joking with everyone continually (great moustache). Wandering around is ‘Amir’, a tall gangly confused type of chap who actually doesn’t seem to know what to do but is very very smart and very very tall. Several cute, heavily made-up, ponytail-swinging girls complete our cabin team and we will refer to them as ‘Poppy, Pippa, and Pam’. I’m sure that’s what their names really were, probably. Finally in charge of this top-notch Premier league team of crew is ‘Blondie’. She’s the boss, the cabin manager, and very authoritative and obviously top dog as she marches around supervising but basically doing very little. The voice of ‘Bertie Wooster’ our Captain features but unfortunately we don’t get to see or meet him in the flesh.
Where was I? Right. An hour in, food eaten and trays cleared, passengers sitting back to relax. Jo and Jon leaning back with eyes-closed ready to sleep for the next few hours. Green Graham disappearing through the concertina toilet door again. Perfect.
Then Screaming! Loud screaming. Top of your voice, strain your throat screaming from just behind them. Heads turn as the volume increases. Constant screams two seconds apart. On and on and on …… What on earth? Jo can see passengers standing and moving around behind her as cabin crew appear as if from nowhere. Uniforms running up the cabin from the front. Shouting now from them and still the SCREAMING. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. It just doesn’t stop. More crew running now but with ropes or straps or something. Leaning back they can see a scrum of bodies fighting and hear voices being raised. Suddenly the screaming stops. Is it over? Hell no. The same female voice ‘CUT ME, CUT ME NOW‘ rings out and the cacophony of noise continues.
Cabin crew retreat back down the cabin as the shouting increases in volume. The Horse Whisperer reckons there has been a fight. The Upgraders look terrified. Green Graham appears uneasy as he peeks out of the toilet door. Even Mrs McCluskey is starting to panic. No news from Bertie Wooster or Blondie though, the passengers know nothing. Looking back now Jo can see a woman stretching forward from the front seat of the rear cabin, she looks like a crazed animal. Her head thrashing from side to side, veins popping in her face and shouting at the top of her voice. She’s tied to the seat. The crew tied her legs together, her hands behind her back, and her body to the seat. One male crew member sits behind her pulling on straps, this makes her even crazier. ‘Don’t Touch Me‘, ‘Leave me Alone‘. All of the passengers in the rows around her have gone now apart from Oblivious Guy who is still stretched out three seats away and really looks like he’s asleep. Surely not!
After an hour, yes that’s right an hour of screaming, it goes quiet. Gary McCallister of Liverpool and Scotland looks relieved. Then the spitting starts! The Wild Women of Dubai starts to spit at anything that moves, especially the crew. Absolutely disgusting. This is exactly the reason that The Upgraders wanted to go Business, they’re hating it. As is everyone else. Green Graham needs to go again. Screaming starts afresh as the male crew tie a face mask around her to stop the spitting and some of the noise. Doesn’t really work as it makes her even more cranky.
This is when, after perhaps 90 minutes of action, that Blondie The Cabin Manager appears for the first time. Gone is the strutting superior look though, now she creeps up alongside us and hides out of view of the Wild Woman. She claims its because she might upset her more. I’m not sure she could be any more upset. She is now ranting about Emirates and how she is going to find the crew and make their lives hell. Nice. Blondie hides by the toilet though. Directing her crew. Young Poppy, Pippa and Pam have completely disappeared, we haven’t laid eyes on them for an hour. Even Amir and his gangly legs has legged it.
Green Graham waits by the toilet!
Suddenly, incredibly, a voice rings out. Bertie Wooster is on air announcing that there is a disruptive passenger. Only an hour or so after the screaming started so pretty good. He casually drops in that they are consulting security about diverting but the nearest place is Tehran. We pray that doesn’t happen. Good to hear his calm public-school voice though.
So the situation continues in a bit of a cycle for the next 2 or 3 hours. Screaming wildly followed by long loud rants at anyone and everyone including seriously bad language. Bet Mrs McCluskey doesn’t approve of that! Then a few minutes of quiet when the Horse Whisperer gives a rundown on how the Wild Woman is looking and how drunk she must be after apparently consuming a litre of gin. Following this is always ear-piercing screams and anti-Emirates tirades and stories of how ‘her husband worked for the company for 20 years‘, ‘her human rights are being violated‘, ‘she’s been on the flight for 20 years‘, and much much more.
The aircraft enters western Europe as the Wild Woman begins to wriggle free of her restraints which prompts more cabin crew running and shouting as they grab her by the head from behind and re-tie her to the seat. This doesn’t go down too well as you may imagine. More screaming, more shouting, more spitting but this time her mask and mouth are covered with blood. She must have strained her throat with all the screams. Still the Oblivious Guy lays back dozing just two seats away though. Amazing. It’s at this stage, probably 4 to 5 hours into the flight that the Wild Woman decides she needs the toilet and tells all the plane about it. Just imagine, ‘Toilet, Toilet, I need the ****** Toilet‘ over and over at top volume for another 40 minutes. Doesn’t stop Green Graham going again obviously, or the Upgraders who are hating economy more and more by the second.
Blondie reappears, still hiding, but engages with the Horse Whisperer and tells him that the Wild Woman is going nowhere even if she soils herself. Brilliant! The Horse Whisperer actually starts to flirt with Blondie which is priceless. Mr and Mrs Barry Eater ask how long it is until dinner at this point which cracks our heroes up. Blondie asks everyone if they would mind being witnesses and completing statements but the toilet shouting makes it tricky to have a conversation and even trickier for Green Graham to concentrate on the job in hand.
Let’s recap. Coming up to 6 hours out of Dubai. Wild Woman ranting about the toilet, Blondie looking tearful and completely ignoring the other 300 passengers. Green Graham popping in for a quick one. The Upgraders sitting with blankets over their heads pretending its Business Class. Mrs McCluskey watching some violent shoot em up. The Oblivious Guy still completely ……… oblivious. Horse Whisperer trying it on with Jo again, gin breathe and cheesy grin most attractive. No idea what Gary McCallister of Liverpool and Scotland is doing (perhaps wishing he’d put that penalty the other way?). The crew? Well, Amir occasionally wanders in and out with a plate. Poppy, Pippa and Pam have gone. Claudette walks half way down the cabin regularly but thats it.
Then, with an hour remaining the real drama starts.
The Wildness has calmed a little. She’s leaning forward against her restraints dribbling and talking to herself but looks in a bit of a daze. Suddenly, amazingly, cabin crew appear. We haven’t seen them for hours but now they’re everywhere. Poppy’s got trays of food, Pippa’s serving coffee, Claudette is pushing a trolley. Wonders will never cease. Afternoon tea and scones are on the way. Even Sancho Panza makes an appearance. He hasn’t been seen since Tehran! So serving, serving, serving. Finally Claudette slides trays in to Jon, Jo and the Horse Whisperer and scuttles away quickly. What’s this? Looking down there’s a tray full of cutlery, plastic packets of salt, tissues, strawberry jam, pots of clotted cream, but no food. As Pippa runs past Mr Barry Eater shouts ‘Where’s my scone?‘ She’s gone. The Horse Whisperer is angry. As Claudette tries to sneak by he almost grabs her and demands an explanation. ‘Where are our scones?‘. ‘We ran out‘ she replies and walks off.
Well. The screaming and fighting of the previous 6 hours are completely forgotten as a scone-filled mist descends over mind mannered Horse Whisperer. He is crazy. Claudette makes the fatal mistake of walking by and avoiding eye contact and he explodes. He’s a gold-card customer, he’ll complain to the highest authority, he’ll never fly Emirates again. Mr and Mrs Eater nod vigorously in agreement, even Mrs McCluskey appears to be sympathetic. He gathers up the trays and almost throws them at Claudette as ‘There’s No Food on them so what’s the point of a tray‘. He’s right but ever so slightly over-reacting.
This is the moment that Amir appears. He has been busily and efficiently carrying the same small plate around since we took off but now offers to take the offending trays. Jon feels that this cannot be a good idea. Amir reaches over. Gestures for more trays on the original three (over confident) and turns past the Horse Whisperer before completely losing his balance and his grip and his mind and heaving the pile of trays at the wall and the Horse Whisperer. Carnage! Jon and Jo find it all slightly amusing but absolutely no-one else seems to. Claudette loses patience with Amir. Barry Eater shouts at Claudette. Mrs McCluskey tuts. The Horse Whisperer powers into a gin-fuelled rage. Amir comically tries to collect the trays and just succeeds in dropping more and more stuff. Even the Oblivious Guy stirs and adjusts his blanket.
As the aircraft lands at London Gatwick after what seems like seven and a half days in the air the Wild Woman is almost unconscious as a crew member, not Sancho or Amir sadly, holds her steadily from behind. Bertie Wooster comes on air to praise his cabin staff for being incredible (?) and inform all passengers to remain seated whilst the police board the aircraft. As this is going on Blondie is whispering outside the toilet to various crew members that they have to ‘get their stories straight‘. Suspicious eh? Green Graham is desperate for one last visit but can’t get up. The Upgraders vow never ever to fly economy again, ever. Mrs McCluskey wonders what ever happened to Tucker. Oblivious Guy looks around wondering if they’re there yet. Mr and Mrs Barry Eater discuss whether it should be KFC or McDonalds for the drive home. The Horse Whisperer asks Jo for her number (that didn’t happen unfortunately) and mentions again that he’s off to Tokyo tomorrow. Gary McCallister of Liverpool and Scotland is not sure if he’s pleased or disappointed that no-one recognised him.
The Police efficiently board and secure the Wild Woman as the passengers are hurried off. No ‘thank you for flying with us‘ or ‘have a good journey‘ from Blondie or Claudette though. Only Poppy, Pippa and Pam nervously grimace as we leave. Sancho Panza is nowhere to be seen and we guess that Amir is tidying up his mess somewhere.
What a flight. No sleep from Dubai and incredibly irritating for most of the time but very exciting. Another moment not to be forgotten for our two intrepid adventurers ………