Air India has lots of competition

I blogged a few days ago about the many complaints from Air India’s customers and I’d like to follow upPlane
with this observation: Air India is hardly outstanding, not even when it comes to poor service. The airline has plenty of competition, particularly in recent years, as Michelle Higgins of The New York Times writes.

OVER the past few years — and this will probably come as no surprise
to anyone who has gotten on a plane over this Thanksgiving weekend —
flying in coach has become an increasingly miserable experience.
Legroom is practically nonexistent. Passengers are more tightly packed
together. Hot meals have been eliminated. Ditto pillows and blankets.
And the next time that guy in front of you leans his seat back directly
into your face, few of your fellow passengers are likely to blame you
if you feel a brief, murderous urge to strike back.

All this has created a
generation of fliers who now view getting on a plane as roughly akin to
entering the ninth circle of hell. [Link]

"Flying in coach" means "economy class," but as far as the airlines are concerned, it might as well be called "animal freight." Actually, some animals have it better. Pigs, for example, have more legroom and better tasting food.

Doug Fesler, an executive at a medical research group in Washington,
wasn’t expecting much in the way of amenities on his American Airlines
flight to Honolulu in September. In fact, knowing the airline no longer
served free meals, he had packed his own lunch for the second leg of
his flight from Dallas to Honolulu. But he said he was shocked at the
lack of basic services and the overall condition of the cabin.

On
that flight, the audio for the movie was broken. The light that
indicated when the bathroom was occupied was squirrely, causing
confusion and, in some cases, embarrassingly long waits for passengers
in need of the lavatory. And though food was available for purchase, it
ran out before the flight attendants could serve the entire cabin,
leaving some fellow passengers looking longingly at the snack he had
packed. [Link]

Passenger: "May I have a roast beef sandwich please?"

Flight attendant: "Sorry, sir, we’ve run out of food."

Passenger: "You’ve run out of food? What’s wrong with you people?"

Flight attendant: "Please don’t raise your voice, sir. It could have been worse. We could have run out of gas."

… airlines are increasingly cutting back services in coach or charging
passengers for things that used to be free, like meals ($5 for a snack
box on United) or drinks ($2 for a 16-fluid-ounce bottle of water on
Spirit) or, in the case of Delta, US Airways, Northwest and
Continental, starting to use narrow-body planes more frequently on
trans-Atlantic flights, making those long-haul flights more
cost-effective, albeit at the expense of passenger comfort. [Link]

When the airlines start using narrow-body planes, you’d better be a narrow-body passenger. Otherwise you could find yourself getting stuck in your seat, which is actually a good thing for other passengers: they’ll have a shorter wait at the lavatory. The passengers sitting right next to you, however, may never fly again.

It’s all simple economics. In January, United removed half-ounce
pretzel snack mixes from the economy section of flights that are less
than two hours long, about 29 percent of its flights, to save what it
says is about $650,000 a year. (Cutting out pretzels has reportedly
saved Northwest $2 million a year.) Meanwhile, American has estimated
that it would save $30 million a year by eliminating free meal service
in coach. [Link]

I wonder how much they would save by eliminating free oxygen. Perhaps they could charge for it. Of course, many of us would do without oxygen, cheapskates that we are.

They could also charge for in-flight magazines, barf bags and toilet paper. Actually, if you have the first, you don’t need the other two.

The story is much different in the front of the plane — and it’s not
just things like the four-course meal (served on china, with real
utensils, and with a choice of four wines) that American now serves its
business-class passengers on overseas flights and the fact that, yes, a
pillow and a blanket still await you.

Passengers flying business class on United from Washington Dulles to
Frankfurt, for example, are now offered “180-degree lie-flat” seats.
The upgraded seats, which are part of a multimillion-dollar makeover of
its international premium cabins, transform into 6-foot-4-inch beds and
feature larger personal TV screens, iPod adapters and noise-canceling
headphones.

Delta Air Lines and
American are also upgrading their upper-class cabins on international
flights with such features as wider, bedlike seats, improved in-flight
entertainment, and new food options. And Delta and United have turned
to celebrity chefs — Michelle Bernstein for Delta and Charlie Trotter
for United — to create menus for its business- and first-class
customers. [Link]

Is that all they’re offering in first-class? No whirlpool? No pool table? No back massages from the pilot?

I don’t know about you, but I’d ask for a refund.

Photoshop by Ma1974

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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