JAMES SIDDALL ponders the clock-stopping arrogance of airlines
Douglas Adams wrote it was no coincidence that the phrase “as pretty as an airport” never entered the English language? I can’t blame him.
It’s interesting how airlines feel free to administer a level of “customer service” that only the most suicidal elements of the hospitality industry would dare attempt to perpetrate. Can you imagine a major hotel refusing to provide you with so much as a complimentary cup of coffee if your reserved room was not ready on time? I can’t. But airlines do it all the time.
My BA (operated by Comair) flight from Joburg to Durban was delayed recently, because the plane was caught up elsewhere. Fine, I said to the ground crew, adding that I understood that these things happened but could I perhaps have a Coke compliments of the airline, or go sit in its business class lounge? No, said a hilariously titled “customer service agent.” Not company policy. It will take a winch, a gross of sedatives and a cattle prod to ever get me onto that airline again.
- Cramped leg room – Think deep-vein thrombosis; think some joyless little bean-counter working out just how many seats can be shoe-horned into economy class.
- Armrest fights – Mine! Mine! Mine! No armed territorial conflict has ever been as bitter as the one that erupts over the centre armrest, particularly on long-haul flights in cattle class
- Sniffy flight attendants – When the trolley dollies close the curtains between business and economy class at mealtimes, it’s often with a look as if to say: “Yes. If you’d been a bit cleverer, and worked a bit harder, you wouldn’t be sitting back there, would you?”
- Boredom – flying is 90% finger-gnawing boredom and 10% mild entertainment, normally coinciding with take-off, landing and the serving of meals and drinks. When I used to drink, one of the most celestial sounds was the soft, silvery “tinkle-tinkle” of the drinks trolley emerging from the galley on a domestic flight. Naturally the canny traveller would try for an aisle seat very close to the galley, the better to lunge at the laden trolley on both its arrival and return. But this only really applied to domestic trips as overseas flights in business class, can be exhausting by virtue of the abundance of fine wines and whiskies mated to the lengthy flight time. As John Self, debauched protagonist and narrator of Martin Amis’s novel Money remarked, “Flying First Class really takes it out of you, booze-wise.”
- The “food” – I shouldn’t pander to cliches. I was served a violently technicoloured breakfast just the other morning, and by dint of not having eaten for the past 18 hours, and closing my eyes I was able to keep much of a grey, cylindrical object purporting to be a sausage down. Chicken or beef, anyone?
- Disease – I’m not an epidemiologist, but sitting in a cramped, smelly metal tube for hours breathing the same re-circulated air as a bunch of strangers has to be a quick way to pick up communicable diseases. Air travel is also a great way to disseminate viruses around the globe.
- Business Class Passengers – Don’t you just detest their supercilious looks as you shuffle past them to the cattle-class corral on domestic flights?
- Duty free – I have only two words to add here: rip off.