A double week this week as it’s taken me that long to calm down, to get the old blood pressure under control, and to talk myself out of flight fury.
My travel happens in fits and spasms. I could be on four planes in as many days and then not go anywhere again for as many weeks. The downtime in between flights lets me decompress and get over my annoyance, my frustrations, my amazement at the ineptitude of some of the airline staff I’ve encountered. And then, of course, there are my fellow passengers, many of whom could do with a course in travel protocol or just basic good manners.
Indulge me here. Don’t remind me that commercial airlines have to be commercial and are driven not by a need to satisfy their customers but by a need to make a profit. If you do, I’d suggest you fly Bangkok Airways, just once, and then come back to me and tell me that profit and customer satisfaction are incompatible. They live their motto: Happiness Throughout the Journey.
This side of the pond though, flights are a different story. I can come up with ten things I’d change about the flights I’ve taken within and from the EU recently.
- All staff would know that the only reason they have a job is that passengers have chosen to fly with their airline. Without passengers like me, the planes would be empty, with nowhere to go. I wrote recently about the Four Seasons ethos of keeping employees happy so that they, in turn, would keep the guests happy. Airlines would do well to take note. Unhappy, poorly paid, underfed staff might not be as patient as they could be with their charges, some of whom really need to cop on to themselves.
- Passengers would never be left waiting on an air-conditioned bus with the doors open for 35 minutes in 30+ temperatures… even with an explanation. Seriously – Do the ground crew never fly themselves? Don’t they know what it’s like to be kept in stifling heat and fed a diet of meaningless shrugs instead of assurances, even if we know the assurances are baseless? Don’t they have mothers, elderly aunts, pregnant sisters for whom this would be a nightmare? Where’s the empathy?
- Passengers would be updated regularly regarding delays. “I only speak X language” would never be offered as an excuse for not being able to answer their questions. Keeping the passengers from rioting – that shouldn’t be part of their job – but answering a bloody question could prevent the uprising. Show some initiative. Ask one of the passengers to translate for you.
- No one would never have to sit beside someone with a bad case of body odour unless they were travelling together. Then it would be their problem. I now carry Vicks on all flights…just in case.
- I would never ever again be asked to change my seat. I’d make it a rule that everyone has to sit in the seat assigned to them. Think of all the confusion that could be avoided if the plane goes down. If passengers want to sit with their partners or kids, they should bloody well pay for their seats. Guilting some other poor shmuck who did pay for their seat into moving just because you didn’t think sitting together was worth paying for… I’m sick of it. If you can afford the ridiculous prices for an onboard beer or G&T, you can afford to buy a seat. Rein in the guilt trip, park the pleas, and fork out. And if you’re not man enough to tell her you don’t want to sit beside him/her and were using the cost as an excuse, you need to a long hard look at your relationship.
- Each plane would always carry the full offer. If it’s on the menu, it should be in the cart. Not having chips or sandwiches or beer or hot food because the previous flight was hungrier than anticipated is an excuse passengers should never have to hear. Airlines, forcing your cabin crew to apologise repeatedly for your niggardliness, can’t be good for their mental health. Have some compassion.
- The use of any electronic devices emitting sound and not being used with headphones would be prohibited. And the volume would be limited. What makes you think I want to hear the bass beat of your music?
- The crew would ALWAYS be able to make change – deeps sighs or grimaces from the cabin crew at the sight of a €50 (or even a €20) note would be a fireable offence, if it were my airline. Give me a break lads – I’ve enough on my plate dealing with the thump thump thump coming from yer man’s headphones and the whiff coming from across the aisle. I’m still fending off the deadly looks I’m getting from the wan I refused to swap seats with and ye don’t have any bloody maltesers. That said, having to explain to someone who doesn’t understand any of the six languages you speak why you’re not giving them back their change there and then – that can’t be easy either. Was a solid track record in charades a job requirement?
- If any conversation is loud enough to carry as much as a row forward or backwards, a member of the crew would politely remind the culprits that the world does not need to know about how drunk they were last night or how sore their colonic irrigation was or what lip they gave the taxi driver when he tried to scam them.
- Parents unable to stop their kids from kicking the back of the seat in front of them should be subjected to a seat-kicking themselves. Of course, this would involve the cooperation of the person sitting behind them but show me someone who travels regularly who hasn’t been subjected to a seat-kicking… I’m sure there’d be no shortage of volunteers. And if you think framing me as the nasty lady, the cranky lady, the mean lady will help your kid grow into a responsible adult, think again.
All that said, I am grateful that I have the option to fly. I’m grateful that I have discovered the joy of sleeping pills for long-distance travel. And I’m eternally grateful to HC for their gift of a box of foam earplugs. I never go anywhere without them.