Anand Halve

Service In The Air

As we all know, the aviation sector has made tremendous strides in recent years. Air Deccan intended to make air travel possible for all Indians and was launched with a long TV commercial; the net effect of which was that all carpenters refused to travel by train or bus any longer.

And unconfirmed reports suggest that at some counters the airline wouldn't allow you to check-in, unless you were carrying a carved wooden airplane or at least a matchbox with a picture of a plane on it. Elsewhere, several winsome young people who were unemployed and found jobs in the airline 'space' (as the people on business channels say), are now employed but without a salary.

In such times, one wants do one's bit for the aviation sector, and I have been adding to my flyer miles with bleary-eyed flights across the country. During these patriotic activities, I have been able to observe the operations of various airlines at close quarters.

The heavily accented (not to mention perfumed) air hostesses begin proceedings with a bright: 'Deviyon aur saj'janon'. After which they abandon the patois of Mohenjo-daro, and revert to normal language. Other airlines are more inclusive, and wish 'Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls'. They will soon - in an attempt to enhance the customer experience - add: "...not to mention toddlers, infants, and those pretty little embryos"

The bonhomie continues, as we get to know the names of the entire crew, details of their domicile and their linguistic versatility. I heard one air hostess recently, practice in the galley, Version 2.0 of the announcement: "...Rekha, jo Jaipur ki niwasi hain, Mumbai mein 20,000 rupaye tak-ki PG room chahti hain. Aur Sudha jo Tamil bolti hain, ek achhe var ko dhuund rahi hai. Uski kundali mein mangal nahi hai" You can expect to hear that on a flight sometime soon.

Having become familiar with the crew, we next learn about the flight rules. These airlines think of our safety all the time, so they tell us that our mobile phones must always be in the 'Power off' mode. Huh? Why not speak clearly, as in 'Your mobile phone must be switched off throughout the flight.' I spent one entire Mumbai-Delhi explaining to the chap next to me that she did not mean, 'power off mood'

We then hear the 'captain speaking from the flight deck' who informs us that we are flying at an altitude of 38,000 feet. The temperature outside is minus 40, but inside the cabin, we have kept it at minus 6 degrees celsius (Ha ha, no. They actually keep it at about 2 degrees above zero. And that, only to remind us that it is not easy living in Alaska.)

After which he returns to looking down to see if he can - just once - see Jaipur.

Meanwhile, we have hit an air pocket and the lady with the mike squeaks, "Due to bad weather, the captain has switched on the fasten seat belt sign" That's it? Switched on a sign??? Shouldn't he be doing more? Like attending to the instruments, or the engines. Or something.

The turbulence having abated, we are now asked to put away (or 'stow') our luggage and switch off electronic gizmos. With relentless concern, they suggest: "If you have been working on your laptop, do remember to save your work before switching it off' From January they will add: "Please remember that if you forget to press Ctrl S, you will lose it all and apart from failing to impress that PYT in 14D, it will leave you feeling like a prize idiot. Of course, instead of Ctrl S, if you press Ctrl + Alt + S + % + Shift + M + Tab + Caps lock +Del + ? + F3 + & + F8 at the same time, it would show that you have 13 fingers and are a visitor from outer space. Causing us all - especially Rekha - to scream loudly"

Finally we land. I put my phone in the Power-On mode, and as I stagger out, take solace in the fact that perhaps I have helped some young people get a salary this month. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year folks!

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