High level hospitality
To fly or not to fly….that is a question which Hamlet never did get to ponder. However, these days it seems to be the first choice with most people as is evidenced by the sweaty masses who congregate early in the morning at Luton, Stansted and other airports that offer direct flights to Alicante, Majorca or Ibiza. This crush of commoners doesn’t seem to be limited by school holidays either, with snotty brats whining and hanging on to their parents if they’re not throwing screaming tantrums on the floor. The kids, that is….not the parents. It’s at times like these that self-respecting businessmen on their way to work in a foreign country are forced to mingle with these tedious tourists. Not only do they block the thoroughfare through the airport, but they take forever to check in their bulging suitcases that are clearly over the stipulated limit. One after the other they are singled out to pay excess baggage charges or lose some of the excess weight. In many cases a jog around the airport would help greatly, but mostly these individuals end up feverishly re-packing their luggage next to the check-in. It all takes time and, as we know in business, time is money.
I therefore find myself wishing that there were some alternate method of travel, but the channel tunnel train to France fills me with dread at the thought of travelling at speed below the North Sea with no daylight for all that distance. Then there’s road travel and ferries, but that just isn’t feasible in terms of time. Let’s face it…air travel has opened up the world for contractors such as myself and we should be grateful. We should, but we aren’t really. If I had a pound for every time I have heard the on-board safety demonstration on all the various airlines, I would not be bothering with flying or even contracting any more. It’s ironic, though, to think that I pay THEM to deliver that speech to me every time I fly! I have often tried to think of alternatives to the safety speech that I could recite by heart at this stage. One alternative; which is very welcome, is the safety demonstration displayed on the drop-down screens rather than having airline staff fix you with the beady eye if you’re not paying attention. This seems to be catching on with many airlines. The other alternative would be for the airline to give every passenger a short quiz at check-in time. Those that pass the quizz get a flag printed on their boarding pass that they can show to the flight attendants and which effectively allows them to sleep through the safety demonstration. The worst of these demonstrations are the ones that use real live flight attendants, but where their supervisor becomes indignant that passenger are not paying attention. Their solution is to crank up the volume on the cabin sound system so that passengers have no choice but to listen to the safety demonstration even if they’re bleeding from the ears when it’s finished.
It always amuses me listening to the foreign flight attendants trying to speak English. It can also be unnerving for the passengers. I was seated on a flight that was due to take off in the twilight hours. The flight attendant, a woman, was making the usual announcements about safety. Then she announced: “We will be dimmingde kebbin lights during takeoff. Dis is normal procedure when flying in de house of darkness”.
My unconscious mind was processing the information as she was talking, but did a double-take at the last comment. “House of darkness?! Aaaaaaaargh! What the?!! Why?!” When the initial confusion subsided I realised that she was trying to say ‘hours of darkness’. Unfortunately her Polish accent hadn’t allowed her to say it as one would in the Queen’s English.
Certain questions arise if you actually listen to those safety demonstrations. We are told that, in the event of an emergency, we will hear the words ‘brace, brace!’ This is an indication to passengers to cover their head with their hands, put their head down between their knees and kiss their ass goodbye. The latter is not really part of the instruction, but seems to be an appropriate follow-on. The problem is that the seats are so close together that most passengers would knock themselves into a state of semi-consciousness if they tried such a foolish manoeuvre. Another question arises: What position should you adopt if you happen to be on the toilet at the time? Does an oxygen mask drop down inside the toilet? It would definitely have been handy to have had an oxygen mask in the toilet on the odd occasion that I have used the toilet directly after a fellow passenger.
As far as making use of the on-board food and beverage service goes, I am one who prefers to close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to be eating real food or to try to sleep for the duration of the flight. Often I’m successful in sleeping simply because I would have woken up at 3 a.m that morning to get to the airport on time for the flight. However, in the case of long-haul flights I have taken advantage of on-board hospitality and have to admit that, in general, it’s not too bad. One day I plan to travel business or first class just for the experience, but until that day arrives, I’ll continue to tolerate the rigours of economy class, ever hopeful that service and food quality will improve and that the pilot won’t crash the plane.
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