Riding in coach on a three hour airplane flight is bad enough, but having to sit next to one of those people who won't stop whining only makes it worse. This is precisely Kristina's experience as she spends her journey to Albuquerque listening to her seatmate's "gripe machine" (Aboard United 1425).
We think, though, that Kristina just may be a little harsh on the guy. After all, he's newly widowed, obviously depressed and lonely, and just seems to be looking for companionship, even if it's from a stranger on a plane. Sure, he might not be the most attractive guy (the chapter titled "Hot Landing" makes it clear that he's got fake hair and teeth) and he gets on her nerves a little, but ultimately, Kristina's able to see something about herself reflected in her experience.
After all, she's pretty lonely, too. "I've been alone since my mom met Scott," she tells us. "He sucked the nectar from her heart like a famished butterfly. No nurture, no nourishment left for Kristina" (Aboard United 1425.5). Ultimately, the whole reason this guy shows up in the story at all is so we can get a glimpse of Kristina's own tortured soul as she reflects on Albert's lonely condition. This is key to appreciating that she's unhappy before she goes to see her dad—which is key to understanding her rapid undoing once she arrives.