SKY HIGH (Oct. 11)–After crossing the globe this week on the new, double-decker Airbus A300-800 aircraft on an established Middle Eastern carrier, I am now off to the Caribbean on a “legacy” carrier for a tourism conference.
While I know comparing the service on Middle Eastern carriers to those in the West is like the proverbial apple and orange, it seems like some Western carriers are only serving up rotten apples on some of these flights, and they’ll make you pay for it!
I am not a complainer by nature, but traveling to the Caribbean in recent weeks has featured a litany of challenging experiences: equipment downgrades just hours before flight time, swapping passengers out of their pre-assigned seats, downgrading those who have been lucky enough to be bumped up front and delayed departures–once because the pilot was landing a plane from another part of the world and had to rush through customs to take command of our flight.
After flying across the globe to America a day earlier, I woke up pleased to learn I had been upgraded to the front of the cabin for my Caribbean trip so I could stretch out and relax a bit. Well, so I thought.
However, during check-in at the airport, I was told my aching frame had not been bumped up, but rather slumped down to coach class due to an equipment change.
While seeking clarity on the matter, one ground staff agent after another expressed their disbelief at the levels of service being offered to customers, and I got the distinct impression that employee morale was not high. (I am being diplomatic, y’all.)
As I get older, I have learned to shake these things off since, for me, travel remains a privilege for which I am thankful. However, what really amazed me was the sheer contempt displayed by one flight attendant; she was practically shouting at me for completing a phone call while we were still at the gate and the official announcement to turn off cell phones had only just been aired over the intercom.
She acted as if I was her troubled teenage son who had just disobeyed Mommy’s orders to come inside because it was getting dark.
I shook it off because I have world-class parents whose lessons on courtesy have largely stayed with me.
However, exhausted after flying halfway around the world, the blood started to really boil when my request for a blanket about an hour later was summarily rejected by “Mommy,” though I had eyed several unused ones in one of the overhead bins in the business-class cabin.
“Mommy” once again put me in my place, informing me that they don’t offer these amenities in economy class and implied that I should just sit back, relax and freeze!
I then politely asked the purser if there were any blankets up front and whether he would help a brother out. He agreed to check. Bottom line, he never returned.
Taking matters into my own chilled hands, I looked left, looked right and with no flight attendant in sight, opened the overhead bin in business class, fetched me a brand-new blanket and wore it proudly for all and sundry to see!
Yes, it was customer self-service during this flight, and I remain perplexed as to why we humans have to make life so difficult for each other. It really is time for carriers in the West to learn from the world’s best and start valuing their customers, especially those who have been loyal to them through thick and thin.
Now, back to sleep, blanket and all.