I have suspected for a long time what I am about to tell you. For a few years now I have had to travel from Jordan to Cyprus via Beirut when I was unable to get a 45-minute direct flight between Amman and Larnaca. The stopover is typically 1 hour where you have just about enough time to disembark from one plane; walk into the terminal building, go through transit and two sets of securities, which you occasionally find very crowded; build your anxieties up as you wonder whether or not you have enough time to make it to the gate; before finally boarding the Larnaca plane. Basically, you are taking a 60-minute flight to Beirut, and then a further 30-minutes flight to Larnaca, with the added 60-minute stop over instead of the direct 45-minute flight.
My suspicion was that the carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA) used the very same plane for both legs of the trip. There was something very familiar about the plane but I was never certain and besides, I thought: why would they get rid of passengers like me for an hour? It did not make sense.
Last night I had my proof! Halfway between Amman and Beirut the stewardess passed through offering landing cards to non-Lebanese nationals. Being in transit, I usually decline the card. On this occasion however, I volunteered an unnecessary piece of information:
Me: No thank you, I am going on to Larnaca
Stewardess (cheerfully): Oh, that’s nice, so are we
Me (interestedly): What, you and this plane?
Stewardess (still cheerfully): Yes!
Me (equally cheerfully): Great, can I stay on board then, I even have the very same seat 2D for the next leg!
Stewardess (sternly): Oh no, that’s not possible
Me (not so cheerfully now): Why not?
Stewardess (grandly): Regulations
Regulations! I hate this word with passion. It ranks alongside: rules, security, safety, procedure, and policy. These words are called upon, by officials and semi officials, to shut you up because they have no time for awkward characters like me. They are in fact trained to spot and deal with awkward people better than they are trained to serve them.
So when we landed, I had to put away my stuff, collect my carry on luggage and walk for 1.25 km (I checked on my pedometer), show my already issued second boarding pass at the transit desk, go through two sets of security checks and have my passport and boarding pass checked 3 more times before I was allowed to board the very same plane and be “cheerfully” greeted by the very same “Regulations” stewardess as though I was a long lost friend before I finally sat in seat 2D again. I swear it was still warm!
I have had two-legged trips on airlines in the past like: Emirates from Dubai to Malta via Cyprus; British Airways from London to Amman via Damascus (no longer); and Gulf Air from Cyprus to Bahrain via Kuwait. In all these cases, the airline decant some passengers and collect others while those carrying on are allowed to remain seated while the airplane is fuelled and refreshed. I find it mildly irritating to have to wait but, it is infinitely less irritating than what MEA does on this particular route.
Seriously MEA, I would love to know before I go to my grave; why do you do that? And please, please give me a grown up explanation instead of the condescending “Regulations” answer.