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April, 2017:

Plane truths

It is annual summer vacation time, a period when you set out with your family members to a new place for some fun and frolic, a trip that will enhance your understanding of the world, a voyage than can help you gain more wisdom, one of which is: a family which travels together is the family that keeps fighting each other.

Vacation travels provide a lot of tension and lead to friction between spouses, and also parents and kids. Most of the problems that occur during such trips are due to lack of planning. But if you can work out a proper plan and also stick to it, you will be surprised to know that how much things can still go wrong. Especially if you choose flight travel.

The good news is these days air travel is getting cheaper. The bad news is because of cheaper travel, airline industry has had to resort to extreme austerity measures, including switching off the flight engines at high altitudes and agreeing to power it back only if the passengers bought the in-flight peanuts packet (containing exactly 4 pieces) at Rs.100 a pack.

Things have turned so bad that they are selling tickets for seats near the emergency exit gates at a higher cost because they have two extra inches of leg-space. So, if you are ready to pay more, the airline industry will even let you take the pilot’s seat. But don’t worry as to what you will have to do as a pilot. It’s just the usual stuff: Sit in front of the controls, wear the headphones, relax yourself, take a deep breath and, in an even tone, announce that the flight will not be taking off for the next five hours due to technical snag.

Then there is the airline food, which if it were offered on any occasion other than when travelling, can lead to bloody riots and organised hooliganism. But on flights people often shell out good money to buy sandwiches that are so cold possibly because they were made during the ice age.

After paying for air fuel, airport charges, flight running costs including incidental expenses on accidents, expenses on the public address system to announce that your flight is delayed and the amount to be paid to the crack team of staff who specialise in misplacing your luggage, the airline companies can realistically make money only if they resort to open burglary. Okay, technically they call it in-flight services.

For example, the aforementioned sandwich (recipe: two lame slices of bread, some leftover vegetables and plenty of chill and stupid passengers) are available in many flights for around Rs.150- Rs.200. If you have any sense, you should not even have a look at it. But when you fly as a tourist — this is a scientifically proven fact —- your intelligence level dips to that of a cabbage.

 So you not only  buy airline sandwiches, but also make bold to try what is offer under the description: ‘coffee’. They call it coffee because aviation laws probably prevent them from openly labelling it rat piss.

The sandwiches and coffee are free for travellers in the business class. Those who are wondering as to what’s the difference between economy and business class, well, from the evidence of the flights that we have travelled in, the travellers in the latter class had the exclusive privilege and class and style that come in the form of individual arm-rests.

The airline industry also employs most number of people who are the world leaders in making a mess of any reasonable situation. They are capable of misplacing your carry-on luggage. If the staff do not screw up enough, the airline system rises to the occasion to make difficult for the patrons: For example, last year, on a flight from Chennai to Coimbatore, we had a cabin crew that spoke, “English, Hindi and Marathi”. Why Marathi, and no Tamil, I asked. The stewardess replied, this is a straight quote, “because my mother tongue is Marathi and I live in Pune“. No, my point is why in this flight to Coimbatore do we need Marathi and there is no Tamil, I persisted, and her reply was — again this is a straight quote —- a dazzling smile, which was dazzling enough to make many of the fliers to buy that infernal airline sandwich.

So, all things considered, maybe you shouldn’t take a flight and go anywhere for your vacation this year. Maybe you should just stay home and spend a lot of quality time with them. It will be great fun for two hours, after which you all can go back to staring at your digital screens.