To Fly. To Serve. My Arse!

February 18, 2017 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

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To Fly. To Serve.

Well, one out of two I suppose….but with the current industrial action I suspect that British Airways is not doing very much of either at the moment!

Now I am no supporter of the so-called mixed fleet strike action. To my mind if you accept a job based upon a set of contractual conditions then you should do your work accordingly. And, if you subsequently decide that the job doesn’t suit you, go and find something different to do and give somebody else a chance. Don’t just go on strike and torment the very people you are supposed to be serving.

To my mind, this is just another example of those political dinosaurs at the Unite Union – they who have inflicted the inconsequential Jeremy Corbyn upon us – trying to drag us all back to their image of pre-Thatcherite Britain.


I remember it well. When the lights used to go out at the weekend. When rubbish piled up on the streets, and small children queued for bread on ration at the local bakers. A time when the current-day “service” offered by Southern Rail would have been aspirational.

Would those of you who are calling for the nationalisation of our railways please dig out the back catalogue of Morecambe and Wise. There is a reason that most of their best material was at the expense of British Rail and British Leyland. Because they couldn’t run the railway and the cars were shite.

And, sadly, I think we are now witnessing the dramatic downfall of another great industrial icon – British Airways.

In my working life, most of which has been spent sitting in unyielding plastic seats in airport lounges resembling refugee centres, waiting for planes and searching for somewhere to charge my phone, I have seen the sad and steady demise of the British Airways on-board food and in-flight service. Of customer service.

To be honest, the disappointment with the modern British Airways experience begins at the very start of the flying experience. The online check-in.

I am a frequent flier with BA. I fly at least 6 times a month. I have bronze status. And given the current generosity (not) of the loyalty programme I will be lucky if I can attain silver status before I retire. I have registered my preferences online with the BA Executive Club. An aisle seat. No special preferences with regard to food…..nothing too demanding one would have thought.

Despite my loyalty, my executive status, and my preference for an aisle seat, the online check in system NEVER ALLOCATES ME AN AISLE SEAT! And so, I have to pay €10 every time I fly to change my seat. If there are any aisle seats available to change to.

The disappointment continues when you have struggled through all of the security checks and the chaos of the departures area and arrive at the gate. Passengers are essentially kettled into two queues – one for the priority boarding; the other for general boarding.

Now the only real benefit of my bronze status is that I get priority boarding. This is essential if you are to stand any chance of stowing your luggage. More of that later. But, even the priority boarding privilege is being eroded. Now even the most loyal of frequent fliers have to wait while the ever-increasing number of wheelchair users board the flight. We have to wait while the people who volunteer to put their trolley bags into the hold board the plane. And, we have to wait while families with small children and others requiring assistance jump the queue too. I have often considered blagging a wheelchair for myself….

And then we board. And then the “luggage rage” begins.

It is quite simple. Trolley bags overhead. Wheels in first. Other bags tagged with the yellow label under the seat in front of you. Any coat that does not fit on top of your trolley bag should also be placed under the seat. Except in an emergency exit row.

But, apparently these rules only apply to me.

Luggage rage spreads through the cabin like wildfire. Those of us already sat in our aisle seats, having paid €10 for the privilege, get annoyed at being smacked on the shoulder by everyone taking their seats further down the plane with a bag on their shoulder, and, being hit in the face by every rucksack wearer turning to ask their companion what seat they are in. How can so many people be so spatially unaware?

And then everyone else boarding gets annoyed when there is no room for their luggage because everyone else, except me, has ignored the advice about the yellow tag, coats, and wheels in first.

Fist fights almost break out when people see passengers using “their spaces”. Or moving other people’s luggage to make room for theirs. Or, when the cabin crew intervene and snatch any bags with no home from already disgruntled travelers and send them to the hold never to be seen again.

Eventually everyone manages to sit down and begins to relax, ignoring the safety video, and looking forward to a glass of something to calm the nerves. Or not…..

Back in the day, business travellers would look forward to a decent complementary hot meal served with a couple of glasses of your tipple of choice by a smiling, smartly dressed stewardess who had just stepped out of a teenage boy’s wet dream.

We used to look forward to making that key decision of “beef or chicken?” (always chicken), peeling back the foil lid and tucking in with an actual knife and fork made from actual stainless steel, sipping our Cabernet Sauvignon from an actual glass glass, wiping our mouths with a cloth napkin, cleaning our teeth with a wooden tooth pick, and refreshing ourselves with a hot towel.

But, over the years the great English breakfast gave way to a soggy bacon baguette which would scold your tongue on a short-hall flight because you didn’t have time for it to cool down. Metal cutlery and glass have given way to plastic. And, the choice of “beef or chicken?” gave way to “crisps, nuts, or sweet biscuit?”

And this year, BA has terminated its complimentary service in Euro Traveller (economy) class for good. Thus removing the only thing that differentiated our once great national flag bearer renowned for its customer service from RyanAir’s cattle class. Instead, they have replaced it with a trolley service of M&S produce at Fortnum & Mason prices that you can only pay for by credit or debit card using some over-engineered iPad POS that constantly has to be rebooted and takes forever to process a transaction.

Nowadays the in-flight experience is shattered by frequent incidents of “trolley rage”. It begins with the first free rows behind that irritating curtain that separates the business class passengers with their complimentary food and drink and an accessible toilet from those of us that now get the full-on budget airline experience.

It begins when they realise their free packet of nuts and can of Heineken are no more. For many that was to be their only “meal” after a busy day of international commerce. It builds when they are told that the M&S sea salt and balsamic vinegar hand cut crisps all sold out on the incoming journey. It builds when they are told that they cannot pay with actual money, requiring them to unbuckle and search for their wallet in the overhead baggage compartment. And, it builds when the iPad needs rebooting.

And then the trolley rage spreads. It spreads because the two members of cabin crew, with their one trolley of M&S produce (minus the crisps) and temperamental iPads only have time to serve the first two rows before we have begun our descent into Heathrow. The rest of the plane goes hungry. The rest of the plane gets grumpy. And the whole of the plane, at least those of us behind the curtain, gets angry.

Traveling with BA is stressful. And now you can’t even get a drink to calm your nerves. No amount of the Flower Duet Sous le Dome Epais is going to help you then….

To Fly. To Serve. My arse.

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Entry filed under: middleman.

America! What’s this got to do with me? It is Nineteen Eighty Four……Resist.

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