Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Some Flight-Time Stories

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I happened to read the article “In Fight for Better India, Best to Look Within” written by Anand Giridharadas in The New York Times. I agree with each and every word he has written in that article. I could easily relate to each example he narrates in that article. 
While reading this article I thought about all the strange behaviors I have seen of fellow Indians in the airport and in flights during my travel to US in the last 10 years. A minority of Indian travelers test the patience of airport staff and the fellow passengers like anything. Let me narrate an uncouth behavior of an Indian family I witnessed in 2009. 
We were travelling from Dubai to JFK airport in Emirates A380 aircraft that can accommodate more than 700 passengers. That particular day it was raining heavily and all the connecting flights from India landed late due to the rain. So this flight to New York waited for an additional thirty minutes so that all the passengers from connecting flights from India can board. 
We boarded our flight and took our seat. To our immediate right there were four members of the family standing on the walkway in the flight blocking the passengers who were trying to reach their seat. That family consists of a husband (H), his wife (W), her mother (M) and a five year old kid (K). They were talking loudly in their mother tongue that I could not understand but my wife could. My wife told me that they were upset because two of them were seated at one place and other two were seated in some other seats. Since they were blocking the walkway, the flight attendant (FA) came and asks them to take the seat. Here is the conversation between the flight attendant and that family. 
FA: Sir, Please take your sear so that other passengers can go to their seats
Husband: First give us all seats in one row then we will move; otherwise we are not moving.
FA: Sir, Please Sir.
Wife: We don’t care if others are waiting. It is none of our problem. Give us seats together.
FA: We will try to give you seats together. For the time being please move from the walkway so that all passengers can go to their seats.
Wife: (shouting to FA) We are not going to move till we get the seats together. 
FA having convinced that there is no point in arguing with them and asked all the passengers to take the other walkway. Now all the passengers have boarded the flight but this family refused to take their seats. The Flight Attendant (FA) now comes with the Chief Flight Attendant (CFA) to them and starts a conversation. 
FA: Sir, please take your respective seats for now; once we are air-bound we will make sure that we will give you seats together.
Wife: (shouting at FA in a voice everyone in that huge aircraft can hear) see this family or this family (pointing to other families in the aircraft); they all got to sit together; Why are you discriminating against us. I need an answer to this.
FA: Maa’m, the flight is fully booked; When you checked in, these were the only seats available. Please help us by taking your seat so that we can start moving.
Wife: Fully booked is not an excuse; we want to sit together and till you give us seats together we will stand here.
FA: Maa’m, we are already late by an hour and if we don’t start in another 15 minutes we won’t get airspace to land in JFK and will get delayed by at least 8 hours. Please take your seat.
Husband: Delay is your problem. Four of us have to sit together. My wife is eight months pregnant and her mother is travelling for the first time to US and she cannot sit alone. My five year old is scared to sit alone. So we want to sit together and we will not agree for anything other than sitting together. Let it get delayed.
Now the Chief Flight Attendant (CFA) who was listening to all these conversations stepped in.
CFA: So who is pregnant now (pointing her finger towards wife and her mother)?
Wife: I am pregnant and this is my mother.
Wife: (Now turning towards her mother) Mother, CFA thinks that you are pregnant hahaha.
CFA: So you are 8 months pregnant? Can I see the doctors’ certificate that you can travel in a flight during the 8th month of pregnancy.
Wife: We have medical certificate
CFA: Show that
Wife: here it is (opens the bag and gives a piece of paper).
CFA: (after going through that paper) This was a medical certificate issued 5 months ago when you are three months pregnant. We need a recent medical certificate.
Wife: This is all we have. If I am good to travel when I am three months pregnant why not in the eighth month with the same certificate?
CFA: Do you know that you need the most recent medical certificate if you are over seven months pregnant to travel in a flight?
Husband: (to CFA) Madam, in fact she is only 6 months pregnant; accidentally she told you she is 8 months pregnant.
CFA: (raising her voice) Sir, what do you think about yourself? Do you think that you are smart and all of us are fools? If the third month of pregnancy falls on XXX month we know what stage she is in now. Show me the medical certificate that is less than one week old or please get down from the flight.
Husband: How can you ask us to get down from the flight? We travelled from Hyderabad to Dubai and no one objected. How can you say like this?
CFA: (at the peak of her voice) Gentleman, you have 2 options now – either sit in the allocated seats or just get out of this flight. 
By that time fellow passengers also started getting impatient and started shouting at them. Finally without arguing more they went to their allocated seats. The H and K sat together and M and W sat together. 
Now about thirty minutes after take-off, husband dropped the son with his wife. This boy started running around, hitting with his leg the backside of his front seat and shouting loudly. W or M never even asked him to behave. The lady sitting in the front seat got fed up with the sound and the continuous hits on her back, she had to bear and she stood-up and blasted this kid. Again these ladies tried to argue that he is small and blah blah blah but got a stomach full from that lady. From then they were very careful to keep that boy in check. 
I thought things will end there. But it was just the beginning. The flight attendants started serving food to every one and this family was also served food of their choice. M and W just tasted the food and called the flight attendant. 
Wife: (In a very harsh tone) Food is so bland. Can you please give us some spicy food? You know Indians eat only spicy food and why are you serving such bad food? 
FA: This is all we got and this is the spice level in all the food we serve. 
Wife: Oh God Why did you make us book our tickets in this stupid airline. They gave each one of us seats somewhere and now giving us food which the dogs in my house won’t eat. Take this stupid food and eat yourself. 
She took the entire food and virtually threw it towards the flight attendant. He could get hold of some but majority of it fell down and on his dress. He gave an angry look and went away. He came back and cleaned the floor where the food has spilled. 
May be after 30 minutes, they started feeling hungry. They pressed the call button in the flight but no one turned up. Again they pressed and they turned up after 15 minutes. W wanted some food and the flight attendant told them all the food was over and you need to wait for another 3 hours for food and went back. They served them food only after 3 hours and from then on that family ate whatever they were given. A lesson learnt in a hard way. 
There were more scenes created by them when they landed in JFK that I am not mentioning here. Now I have seen such kind of characters every time I travelled from US to India and back. They are not only stubborn and rigid but have no respect for the fellow passengers and rules that need to be followed. I’d like to end this piece of blog quoting from Anand’s article “There is an idea that you, the individual, are the best judge of how the system should run, not the people whose system it is. There is an idea that rules are mere hints, to be applied when useful.
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Blogger scorpiogenius said...

Pretty hilarious at the end but very very embarassing as well. How many times have we come across the random drunk Gulf-man arguing with the flight attenders in pathetic broken English, for which, if on land they'd be taken in for public nuisance. Some things won't change :(

July 07, 2011 12:55 AM  
Blogger Venkata Jeetender Yeddanapudi said...

Brijesh, interesting blog....can you post the link to the article in the NY Times, seems this would make more sense to people not from an Indian Origin.

July 07, 2011 4:56 AM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

it was infuriating just reading it. I am sorry for all the other passengers who had to go thru this nonsense.

July 07, 2011 5:48 AM  
Blogger Brijesh Nair said...

People getting drunk in flight from Middle East and shouting at the crew- I think it happens daily

Linking to NY Times is a good idea but can you tell me how :)

July 07, 2011 1:16 PM  
Blogger Jijo V.G said...

Kollam....Good exp..

July 07, 2011 7:18 PM  
Blogger Jhanvi Sharma said...

hmm..i've seen such things happen only in movies..

July 07, 2011 7:39 PM  
Blogger Balaji said...

Doesnt sound real

July 08, 2011 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know this sounds hard to believe - but I used to sit next to a guy at work that was worse than this!

July 08, 2011 5:38 PM  
Blogger Saketh Dheer said...

I have witnessed this more than once. I plainly hate these kind of nuisances.

April 11, 2013 6:17 PM  

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