One Upgrade Too Late

I’m not quite sure what to think about British Airways upgrading the corpses of passengers who die in coach to first class. The point of this article in The Guardian seems to be that it’s quite an imposition on the living first-class passengers, which seems a rather British way of looking at it.

I understand that first-class passengers (or their employers) pay a load of money for their seats. Or else they fly so often that BA upgrades them in return for their lucrative patronage. And I do understand that this insulates them from such annoyances as cramped seats, strangers’ elbows, bad food and an inadequate number of bathrooms.

But I don’t think money buys anyone out of sharing the distress and grief of a sudden tragedy. I think we’re all supposed to share that, and if there’s more room in first class than coach, that’s where it will get shared.

A beloved friend of mine died during a flight. It was not over the ocean, so the plane made an emergency landing. I’d hate to think that the other passengers regarded his death as some kind of petty inconvenience to them.

I know that when I was on a flight that made an emergency landing in Albuquerque with a man suffering a heart attack, my first concern was not about arriving late in Las Vegas. (Actually, my first concern was for the sick man and my second was for the rapidity of the descent, which was rather sharper than usual.)

So let’s give BA its due for trying to treat the body with respect and the relatives with consideration. Given some of  BA’s recent policy changes, I would not have been surprised to see the airline force the grieving relatives to check the body during flight and pay excess baggage charges.

As for me, I’d like my upgrade while I’m still alive. I remember the days when I used to get an operational upgrade now and then. But I guess these days a fatal heart attack is probably the only shot I have left.


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