At last airline passengers are airing their concerns. Of all the airlines I have regularly used over the past 28 years, the worst are those with a North American superstructure. The flight attendants are off-hand, the service poor, drinks are expensive, the meals fewer in number than with other airlines and the portions not enough to satisfy a toddler. This is certainly the case in economy class, where most of us sit. And these airlines seem to be oblivious to − or contemptuous of − the poor reputation they have built up.
Some years ago, on an overnight flight from New York to London, we got one snack-meal during the night. No breakfast was served, and an apology was offered over the loudspeaker. The reason given: “There was turbulence and we did not want you to end up wearing your coffee instead of drinking it.” It was meant to be funny, but no one laughed − we were ravenously hungry. On another occasion, different airline, when the washbasin got clogged and could not discharge the used water, we were advised to “use the toilet but don’t wash your hands”! On another, when the crew’s attention was drawn to the unhygienic condition of the toilet, one flight attendant told us cleaning toilets was not her job − that was the job of the ground staff. Passengers had to cope as best they could. These are just a few examples of in-flight indifference. The cabin staff seemed to be inadequately trained and in the wrong job.
Experts advise that passengers complain while on board, because they are more likely to get a positive response than after-wards. Sadly nowadays, if one complains on the spot, one risks retaliation from spiteful flight attendants (they always close ranks). They then covertly use the “suspicious behavior” rule, to intimidate and underline their power. A few years ago, while travelling from Los Angeles to London, I asked the elderly chap in the bulging seat in front of me not to recline to the full, as the seat was cutting into my knee. He apparently moaned to the crew, and one female attendant’s manner became insufferable. On landing, after clearing Immigration and on the way to reclaim my luggage, I was stopped and asked what passport I travelled on and where I had spent the last so many months, as this information was needed “to help the government.” Later on, I queried this with the Home Office. They said her claim was nothing to do with them. The airline said she was not one of their employees. I gathered her presence had something to do with a non-British security outfit operating (undercover?) at the airport.
That experience put a stop to my flights with any American airline. And, of course, there is now the added irritation of having to cope with ‘enhanced security issues.’
About the chap who needed water to take his medication and was requested to wait for mealtime, he should have gone immediately to the ‘kitchen,’ preferably with his medicine, and insisted on it. Isn’t there some rule about ‘duty of care’ to (fare-paying) passengers, or are airlines exempt?