A long post…so, please bear with me…
I was reading about the success and functioning of JetBlue Airlines. One trivia given about their CEO was the fact that he always travelled in the last seat, when he flew in his own airline, because that was the seat that did not recline. The customer comes first, he mentions, and sends his crew scurrying to look after other passengers upfront, rather than focussing on the non-reclining seat at the rear-end seating the CEO.
I leaned back, and reflected on another airline experience I had.
Location: Bangkok airport
Travelling with: Dear husband, extremely active 1 year old who had a fitful slumber from Hongkong to Bangkok, and was brimming with energy to explore the surroundings.
When I approached the Indian Airlines counter, I requested for the first row. Since I was travelling with an infant, the phrase “travelling light” was dropped like a hot cake from the phrases I was allowed to employ. Secondly, the first row allows the baby some space to develop immunity by running her fingers on the dirty carpet, and drooling on those fingers a while later!
“Sure Madam. I can do that for you”, said the courteous airhostess, explaining to me at great length about how she empathized with me for the long flight we had already endured. You are in good hands, she assured me and handed us our boarding passes. I emanated warmth. I smiled at her maternal instincts.
I was busy running between the chairs and playing a sophisticated game of Peek-a-boo when she (the air hostess)interrupted me and said she would like to change our boarding pass. I explained that I had requested for the first seat…blah, blah. She flashed a smile, and said she would still like to change our boarding pass to give us the “right” one. I handed it over to her with childish innocence. My eyes resonated with a warm feeling, and I did not quite catch that flicker of hesitation in her eyes. 8A, 8B was changed to 9A,9B and handed back to me along
with some candies for the 2 footer by my side.
I boarded the plane and this is the layout:
8A,8B,8C 8D, 8E, 8F
9A,9B,9C 9D, 9E, 9F
There must have been a mistake I told myself and settled down in 8A. That airhostess was too sweet, and this must be an error. I settled the various bags, took out the relevant toys, milk bottles, baby blanket and other paraphernalia. I eyed the passenger across the aisle, and he explained why he had requested for the first row too. I nodded understandingly – he was nearly the height of a building and he would have had trouble fitting into those tiny seats with nil legroom. Hefty but courteous, I noticed and got on with my task of settling down.
Just then, the air hostess came by, and told me to vacate, and get moving to 9A. I blabbered, and explained again.
“That’s true madam, but a senior officers family is travelling, and they need these seats. You understand na?”
I didn’t understand. Imagine a baby chick and mama chick standing on the carpet, and the mama chick walks out of the carpet, and pulls it from under the baby chick’s legs. I felt like the baby chick now. Those very eyes that had emanated warmth, now displayed with a sense of betrayal.
She eyed the building sized man, and for a moment debated whether to tell him or not. She did, and she watched on with trepidation. He stormed that he wasn’t going to take this lightly. Apparently, he had made advance reservations and had come to the airport 2 hours in advance for this exact request, and it was being denied because the officers family “needed” the seats?!
To cut a long story short: The flight departed with grouchy 9th row passengers and a brood of happy officer family folks in 8th. A while later, the poor man across the aisle was failing miserably at trying to seat himself comfortably – he finally heaved himself out, and told the air hostess to put him in First Class, and he would bear the difference in fare if necessary.
The clouds cleared, the sun peeped and the air hostess smiled and bustled only to come back a few minutes later with first class seats ………… for the officer’s family!
The 8th row was available once again and everybody flew happily thereafter.
So, the Officers family flew first class while the CEO sat upright at the back.