I don't know if it's March Madness or what, but lately I've been having bizarre dreams. Not about basketball, though. About airlines. And Oprah. And New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And the new late-night TV wars.
In these dreams, airlines aren't fronted by boring, corporate entities or faceless suits shoving fees down our throats. Oh, no. Airlines are run by celebrities!
And they do it their way. So buckle up your seat belts as I cue the wavy lines and dreamy harp music.
I dreamed I flew the following carriers:
Nanny Airlines: Owner, Mayor Michael Bloomberg
I make my way past a rather intimidating flight attendant to take my seat. Then the beverage service begins.
Flight attendant: "What can I get you?" Rick: "A Coke, please. And I'm really thirsty. May I have the whole can?" Flight attendant: [doubles over laughing] "I think you'd prefer the water." Rick: "Actually, I wouldn't." Flight attendant: [Dumps a bottle of water on my seatback tray] Rick: "But, I thought the courts said …" Flight attendant: "You're in Nanny Air's jurisdiction now, sir. Care for a snack? We have celery."
Listlessly, I accept a stalk while thinking, I could kill for a pack of peanuts.
O Air: Owner, Oprah Winfrey
These flight attendants are warm and welcoming and keep asking whether we "feel good about ourselves." The pre-flight safety video is a little boring (it seems to involve a guy on a bike) but it ends on a high note as a flight attendant urges us to reach for the life-vest under our seats. Attached to each vest is a note saying, "You've won a car!" Talk about feeling empowered.
Then the bad news: "Attention, passengers: We don't have as many of you as we hoped," the flight attendant said sadly, "so until we get the ratings, or passenger count goes up, we have to take the cars back." Our substitute prizes are lovely scented candles and something called Spanx. We're told these are some of the airline owner's "favorite things."
Late Night Air: Owner, Jay Leno
The flight attendants are beyond middle-aged. "Button your sweater, hon," a gray-haired crew member chides me. "It may get chilly." Then, during pre-flight announcements, she asks, "Are you all into March Madness? People are talking about who's in, who's out, who's gonna be eliminated. And that's just here at NBC."*
We laugh, even though we're not quite sure what she's talking about.
Then just before landing in Burbank, Calif., the pilot tells us we have to switch out the crew and divert to New York. Odd since things had been going so well. But I assume Late Night knows best.
Air Late Night: Owner, Jimmy Fallon
We do divert. Younger and better looking flight attendants elbow aside the older ones. Then they take a hard look at us passengers. "Are you between 18 and 49?" they ask. Older folks are forced to retrieve their bags and deplane. I'm allowed to stay, but just barely.
Our new pilot -- is this guy old enough to fly? - chooses this moment to get on the plane's PA and I pay attention because he's talking about an incident I've written about. "A passenger on a flight to JFK had to be restrained with duct tape after he got drunk and started yelling at other passengers," he said, adding, "Duct tape, or what Southwest Airlines calls, 'a seatbelt."**
One of the flight attendants holds up a cue card: "Clap!" My seatmates applaud wildly.
Alec Air: Owner, Alec Baldwin
I love this airline because nobody cares if you ever turn off your electronic devices. Phones, iPads, turn 'em on, keep 'em on, it's all the same to them. Just don't take a photo. The flight attendants have been heard muttering "stupid paparazzi" just before kicking offending passengers off the plane. In mid-flight.
Air Celeb: Owner, Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber or TMZ's current headliner
These passengers are not cattle. They are pampered beyond belief. And when they say, "Do you know who I am?" the flight attendants nod vigorously and seat them in first class. Indeed, we all sit in first class because there is no coach.
I'm not sure how I got on this flight because tickets for Air Celeb are 10 times the price of other airlines but I'm not complaining. The gourmet meals are terrific and the gold-plated tray tables are another nice touch. So are the massages. The only jarring note is that every now and then a flight attendant approaches a passenger and tells them it's time to go.
"Why must they go?" I asked a passing flight attendant who looked surprised. "Why, their fifteen minutes are up."
I wake up. Suddenly, the real airlines aren't looking so bad.
*Actual joke by Jay Leno. **Actual joke by Jimmy Fallon.
The opinions expressed by Rick Seaney are his alone and not those of ABC News.