Cheap flights…in prose and verse

This one definitely made me think of and her experiences with Ryanair, and her own witty comments about her travel.

ALL our airlines have now formed cartels and there are NO cheap flights any more..even the starting figure (50p in this lovely song!) is pretty high!

My friend Hema, who used to be a flight hostess in the Good Ol’ Days, had this to say..

read it here

For those of my friends (many of them, indeed, on LJ) who are not on FB, here’s her note in full. You’ll agree, it’s worth being two blogposts! She lives in the US, and I’ve become close friends with her over FB. She visited Chennai recently, to meet her family here, and here’s her account of her flight(s) back.

1.In flight entertainment
April 2, 2015 at 7:01pm
As a former flight attendant, my take on any flight is a very critical one.

You see, I flew during the hey days of the airline industry. It was a privilege of the elite where crew and passenger alike played their best. A cabin crew member was put through rigorous training on everything from basic etiquette, to the highest safety standards always. We had to be dressed and groomed just so, be able to maintain poise and politeness under the worst of circumstances with a smile. We were constantly reminded that we were the ambasssadors of our country, at a time when diplomats were looked up to. The food standards were of the best, cabin comfort and decor were enviable,our uniforms were stuff designers spent months on.

As for service, we used the best china in first class and very good quality porcelain in economy. The seats were plush, pretty and cleaned thoroughly at every transit halt by energetic maintenance staff. Our passengers dressed up for their journey – men wore suits or at least, very clean casual attire. Women wore smart, beautiful travel clothes and sometimes, a more than liberal splash of perfume! The heady mix of Dior, Chanel, Yves St laurent, etc, could leave us all in a Kubla Khan daze. But that was decades ago, now flash forward to today!

I am glad the classicism of yesteryears is gone and flying is affordable to so many more now. In other words, the passenger groups are totally classless! So are the crew – they do not undergo the same kind of training now, nor have the same sensibilities and refinement. They are more focussed on today’s world – safety,business and economic sense and just plain crowd control.

Planes are redesigned to pack in as many human bodies as possible, comfort takes a back seat, ( pun intended), flight attendants are barely courteous and food is a foretaste of famines to come! The elderly, disabled and tender infant passengers all get the same careless.callous treatment despite all the advertsing of providing special assistance to these special passengers. Don’t you believe a word of all that glossy magazine stuff – ad agencies are making loads of money at selling illusions, that’s all!

Reality is a nightmare. Long haul flights take their toll on crew and passengers alike – grouchy, irritable, demanding and just plain mean tempers are in full force! Yes. Some flight attendants do practice discrimination based on color, race, class and creed with no compunction at all. One white British female crew member with 20 + years of experience openly admitted that she hated the Chennai to London flights as Indians were so demanding, always asking for this or that!!! I asked her why she had bid on that route and she calmly said that it paid more! To her, it was just a job that paid well and she felt entitled to being nasty!

The flip side of the passenger experience is equally mind boggling. A young woman from deep in Tamil Nadu, speaking marginal English, carrying a screaming 7 month old infant is on board with four heavy bags and no adult to help her. Once on board, she assumes that the airline would rush to her aid with bottles of infant formulla, diapers, bassinets and load of tongue clicking sympathy and eagerness to entertain her son and heir. Surprise! A lot was lost in translation, including her confused misunderstanding of where her checked in baggage would be sent. Her little child spent a good portion of the 11 hour flight screaming, while she broke down in tears of frustration, as her co passengers suffered. They paid as much in air fare as she did and felt entitled to some peace and quiet and took out their anger on the the flight attendant. He had no sympathy left to spare and snarled at the passenger.

The beat goes on! One well educated woman advised her daughter to hand over her cranky infant to the flight attendant for baby sitting, and sleep all the way to her destination. Shall we say that expectations are the mothers of disappointments? A knee injury forced me to ask for mobility assistance at London’s giant Heathrow airport and it was pure entertainment, bordering on manic lunacy. There were at least five staff members wearing ” Heathrow” purple jackets professing to help us poor unfortunate “gimps’, but couldn’t untangle themselves from each other’s way to do anything effective. They were of Indian, Russian, African and possibly Spanish origin. I watched in pure amusement as they got deeper into the mysteries of prioritising passengers according to the time of the departures to get them to their respective gates. It was the theater of the absurd. Something happens to people wearing uniforms – they really assume such attitudes of power it is comical.

To me, those purple uniforms looked like Teletubbies ! All I want is transport to reach my departure gate so that I can board the flight to my destination, the number of stripes on the sleeve of the official means nothing to me,Then, there is the recent black immigrant to UK who flaunts her self procalimed authority over the miserable little Indian passengers – “I’ll get you for all the years of humiliations you have dumped on my forefathers in East Africa all those centuries ago! Grrrr!” Finally, a very efficient and kind pair of Brits did step up to the plate and managed to clear me through security ( they had deep suspicions over my half used tube of Colgate herbal toothpaste!) and onto the plane. Another comedy of errors awaited me for the next 7 + hours of travel, but that is a whole other post.

The bottom line is, racism exists everywhere and one just has to get used to it if one wants to keep moving. Ineptitude also exists in varyng degrees and has to be endured if not cured, as the saying goes. Keep your expectations low, preparations high, read the fine print, carry packaged food for yourself and children, plenty of reading material and turn on your sense of humor for that long awaited trip!

Also, try to blend in with the crowd – anonymity provides some cool vantage points into life. I did take the time to write a rather scathing letter to the airline about their ineptitude and have been privileged with a special ‘case number of reference” – how cool is that? The airline I travelled by continues to be one of the major carriers in Europe and Asia and is by no means a budget special.

2. Women and children first

April 3, 2015 at 4:46pm
The beautiful glossy ads feature a sweetly smiling flight attendant who seems to coo at the little infant passenger securely laid out in the bassinet with the airline’s logo! The proud Mom beams at her baby and leans back for a restful, long flight while the flight attendants cater to her every need!!! That’s what the ads are made of, but the farthest thing from reality. Oh, ye mothers carrying your babies and four bags of assorted supplies, read the fine print before setting foot on that plane.

A young mother speaking the Tamil of the deep south gets priority boarding privileges as she carries her 7 month old infant son and bags of supplies for their long trip from Chennai to Nashville, TN. Once air borne, the activity begins. Child starts screaming at take off as his tiny ears are hurting from the climb in altitude and his mother has not been taught to let the child suck on a bottle to ease the pressure.

The harried mother desperately looks to the flight attendant desperate for help, but is greeted with a blank look. Once the plane levels off, the screaming stops, but the child fusses still as he is hungry. The mother asks the flight attendant for the formula that she has been told will be supplied by the airline. Once again, a blank look and the answer that they do not have infant formula on board. Reading the fine print would have informed the passenger that it is recommended that parents carry formula for their infants.

Now what? The little guy will not drink just plain old milk and is too young for solid foods. After an hour of screaming and crying, falls asleep in his little cot fixed to the bulkhead. By now, the young mother is convinced tha the flight attendants have conspired against helping her and her attitude takes a downward slide. She attempts to communicate in her poor English, but gets nowhere, so whimpers into silence, until the baby starts wailing afresh.

Her co passengers have just about had enough of this concert by now and are irate at everyone, including the flight attendants. I stepped up and offered to hold her screaming baby and she gratefully handed him over, not caring who or what I was. She was that dustraught. Good thing I did not have kidnapping in mind – this would have been a cinch!

A male passneger a few rows dow, wearing headphones is getting ready for his ‘gourmet Asian veg meal, when his tray is placed before him. After the first mouthful, he erupts into a volley of gaalis! His is NOT vezeetayreeyaan” ( actually the label on it reads ‘chicken tikka masala!!!), but the cocky white male flight attendant is indifferent and suggests that he eat it anyway!!! His nerve was quite appalling.

Luckily, a female flight attendant intervened, requested that the passenger remove his headphones, lower his voice and wait a few minutes while she gets him the proper meal! Meanwhile, my own special Asian veg. meal ( aka AVML) arrives bearing the label “chicken biriyani”. Chicken seems to have been the flavor of the day on BA 202.

Being a diabetic, I always carry some sustenance with me and survived the 9 hour flight on my own supply of food. Breakfast consisted of a generous tablespoon of gloppy, congealed Upma, a 2″x2″ serving of sambhar and two pieces of dosa, each measuring 2″x2″. My thoughts flew back to the days when we served amazing, gourmet casseroles of Pongal, iddli, vadai and sambhar on Madras bound flights and Poori, aloo, roti sabzi and other North Indian fare to Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta bound passengers. Nostalgia only makes one hungrier so I returned to munching on some precious Hanuman prasadam of crisp milagu vadai to stave off my own pangs.

I’ve told you about my trip, now do tell me about yours – it is always fun to exchange tales of woe and misery, isn’t it😀

You can understand why I’m waiting for teleportation to be invented…..

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