Just over a month ago while travelling overseas with a particular airline, I made some observations that the Ministries of Public Infrastructure, Business and Tourism, along with the Civil Aviation Authority, may find interesting and hopefully seek to address.
The airline I travelled with operated on a scale just below that of an airborne Tata bus, for those of us who can remember when the state provided public bus service. The Tatas were large blue and white buses imported from India. Those Tata buses had a long rope connected to some sort of bell. When the rope was pulled it activated the bell and notified the driver when someone wanted to disembark at the nearest bus stop. Unlike the Tata’s bell, the attendant or call buttons on the aircraft I used for travel were nonfunctional.
I wanted to get the flight attendants’ attention when my seat wasn’t reclining, but the call button just didn’t work. Two seats ahead of me, a lady with a clearly agitated infant tried the call button but nobody came. She got up with the bawling infant and began a bounce-like jig in the aisle close to her seat for over ten minutes in her apparent effort to calm the child, while still pressing the call button on her seat’s handle intermittently, but there was no response from the direction where the flight attendants had earlier retreated.
I know from prior travel experience that flight attendants reservedly ignore such calls if an aircraft is in ascent or descent and the seat belt signs are on. But at the time when I and the lady tried activating our respective call buttons, seat belt signs were off, and the plane was at cruising altitude. I assume that we had both taken telepathic decisions not to take that long walk down the aisle to get the attention we desired.
One of the first thoughts that came to my mind about non-functioning call buttons was safety. What if the passenger who was sitting next to me had started experiencing a heart attack? What if I had noticed a piece of the wing flap falling off and wanted to get the attendants’ attention without creating undue alarm? What if it was somebody incapacitated wishing some sort of assistance to the restroom?
Eventually, when one of the flight attendants emerged from her hallowed nest some 40 minutes later I brought the call button occurrences to her attention. She apologized compassionately in a form of English that was clearly her third language, and said that the corresponding alert buzzer for the attendants’ notification was not working. Wow!
In all of my international travel experience, it was also the first time that the only in-flight entertainment was the humming of the aircraft’s engines. The plane was adequately fitted with cabin type video screens, but they remained blank all through the more than five-hour journey. Local ferries, like those plying the mighty Essequibo River, provide on-board television entertainment. Most minibuses and water-taxis carry audio or video entertainment for much shorter periods of travel, but my flight had neither form.
Fortunately, both passengers who sat next to me on the outbound and inbound legs were conversational, and our discourses stole the boredom of our flights.
I believe the least that airline could have done was provide some soft instrumental music to offset the monotony of the flight. They could have played something nice from local artistes like Dave Martins and the Tradewinds, Eddy Grant, Timeka Marshall, or classics from the Roy Geddes and Police Orchestras. In-flight videos on the Rupununi Rodeo, flora and fauna, Kaieteur National Park, etc could have been sourced from the Department of Public Information, formerly GINA.
I trust that the relevant agencies seek to ensure that international airlines serving Guyana do better than what was obtained from the one I used.