Jaci Stephen: 'My friends are mystified as to why I'd give up my airline seat to a celebrity'

Way Out West

Share
Related Topics

For ten minutes this week, I had more in common with La Toya Jackson than any other human being on the planet.

Waiting to board an Air New Zealand flight to Los Angeles, I was sitting in the Star Alliance lounge (more of that horror later), when an announcement came over the speaker: "Would passenger Stephen please come to the reception desk."

Given the dreadful year I have had so far in every respect, I was expecting another bereavement, or a doctor standing by, advising me not to travel, as I had less time to live than the flight took.

I was therefore shaking when I went up to the desk, where I was greeted by a lady speaking in hushed tones. "Miss Stephen?"

"Ye-e-e-s."

"We wondered whether you would be willing to change your seat on the airline."

Now, whenever I travel, I am extremely particular about my seating arrangements. Eurostar: have to be travelling backwards, odd number, in the aisle and near a toilet (73, 77, 11, 13), but not right next to the staff kitchen where they uproariously get the meals together (usually carriage 8).

Flying: next to the window, provided there is no one seated next to me, near an emergency exit, no upper levels, near a toilet (I have a very small bladder and drink at least three litres of water a day, hence the toilet obsession).

On Virgin Atlantic, I am less fussy, as I love their Upper Class lounge so much, I am so relaxed by boarding time, they could strap me to a wing and I wouldn't care.

I have no idea about BA because I refuse to fly with them at the moment. I am still chasing a claim from 16 months ago, when they lost my luggage on a flight to Toulouse, and I had to reschedule meetings, cancel the flight back, and take the Eurostar to Paris.

This week, they wrote to say they had credited me with £3.60 and thanked me profusely for choosing my "preferred airline". I will strap myself to a pigeon before I fly with them again.

But on Air New Zealand, I am quite particular about my seat. Their LA service (where they break before travelling on to Australia and New Zealand) is second to none. Terrific food, wonderful staff on board, and although they don't have a great lounge, they know how to look after people.

At the LA end, I have the amazing Lounge Concierge, Thierry. He sees me on and off the aircraft, gets me through Customs, and looks after me so well I think he now even beats the Virgin lounge in terms of my priorities.

The problem for ANZ is the Star Alliance lounge in the UK, which they share with what feels like 100 other airlines. Awful food, screaming kids, bad lighting and, this week, no internet.

And then the request: would you give up your seat, because. . . even more hushed tones: "We have a celebrity on board who would like it." Oh, for God's sake. Who is it? La Toya Jackson.

United, at last: she wants 7K; I have it. But I melted. I have a soft spot for her, after her appearance on I'm A Celebrity last year, and it is clear what terrible pain she has been going through since her brother's death.

So I said OK; suddenly, 7K was gone. My seat. My special, special seat, quiet, away from the throng. I had surrendered it in a rare act of martyrdom, not to someone who I thought deserved it more than I did, but who I thought really needed the privacy more.

"OK," I said, "as it's her."

"If it was a Royal, I'd have told you to," I was informed.

Then I saw red. Quite frankly, if it had been a Royal, I would have told them where to go – somewhere a darn sight further down under than even New Zealand is.

My friends are mystified as to why I did it, but I was quick to point out that I expect an upgrade next time I travel, as reward for my sacrifice. I had also requested that La Toya thank me in person – which she did. I suspect that if the poor lamb had realised she was going to have to show grateful thanks for the entire 11-hour journey, she would have stayed in 5K.

Anyway, at least it got me talking to her wonderful business manager Jeffre (lost the card, J – please get in touch!), and in La Toya I found a person of such extraordinary gentleness, sweetness and charm, I was even more won over by her than ever.

If I'd had the chance to spend 11 hours in 7K, I'd have been Miss Sweetness and Light when I landed, too. Thierry, poor man, ended up seeing what 5K can do to a girl.



LAnotsoconfidential.blogspot.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project