Smoke on my Flight to the Middle East

This was my first time heading to the Middle East, and the flight from KL to Bahrain was easily the worst international flight I’ve taken.  Please pardon the upcoming rant. Like many flights, this was a packed plane with seats crammed together like cattle in coach. The guy in front of me reclined so much that the seat slammed against me every time he repositioned. There was no room to even open my tray table if I wanted to.  This creates a chain reaction where everyone reclines just to have room, but do so at your own peril since people sitting behind tend to fight back.  There was no support on my seat either. My seat kept getting kicked, pushing me forward into the one in front of me.  As people walked down the aisle they’d grab and pull the seats next to them for balance, which would jerk the whole seat back.

There were people coughing on all sides of me, and perhaps the custom is different but NONE of them covered their mouth.  Does anyone reading this know if there’s something to that?   Maybe I’m more of a germophobe, but I can’t remember the last time I was in a confined space and the majority of people coughing didn’t cover their mouth – not with their hand, their sleeve, their arm, nothing. Every time I started to fall asleep my seat got violently kicked from behind or yanked backward.  But it’s a flight, all of these things happen.  Then they went from bad to worse.

At this point of the flight I thought I smelled smoke.  It can’t be, that’s ridiculous. Perhaps I’m hallucinating from lack of sleep. I took a moment to confirm. I asked the people seated near me, and apparently everyone around me only spoke Arabic (or didn’t want to hear from me?). The smell was getting stronger.  I had a brief panic thought of, it’s probably nothing but… I’m on a flight to the Middle East and there’s smoke. Ahhhh!  What would you do?

The flight attendant came over, confirmed, and she started playing detective. It was coming from the lavatory, and as the door opened a small cloud of smoke came out, and the guy said it was like that when he got in. There was some brief commotion and finger pointing and they tracked down the culprit. Fortunately it was just cigarettes in the lavatory, and not a another 911 moment.  Hasn’t smoking been banned on airplanes for two decades??  In all my years of flying I’ve seen the no-smoking sign lit the entire flight, and wondered why it’s still necessary.

Apparently there’s no fine or punishment – she just explained to the guy that it’s not allowed and he played dumb. She said it in English and Arabic.

Perhaps they should have made that a teachable moment for the flight, because an hour later…the exact thing happened an hour later. Different guy. Where am I??  Welcome to Gulf Air.  Welcome to the Middle East.

[note – the flight back on Gulf Air was actually on a modern plane and lived up to the reputation that you’d expect from highly rated international airlines]

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