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Analysis

Updated on: Friday, June 28, 2019, 08:45 PM IST

Airline etiquette is up in the air

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american-airlines |

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Who is going to bell the cat? Someone has to make a difference. Some courageous countryman must show incredible inner strength of mind and body. There has to be one amongst 1.37 billion Indians, (include all NRIs, PIOs and people of Indian descent across the globe) who has the conviction and good sense to read out the Riot Act. By now fellow desis, I guess, you have… er… all guessed the point I’m trying to make here, airline etiquette. It sounds like airline air ticket, but don’t be confused, airline etiquette is something else, all together, and it is largely extinct in the country of India.

It all begins with the security line outside the airport. Long lines are formed, and soon these lines are doubled, as one revolutionary decides to rebel and start his own. This line is negated by the well-meaning security staff at the gate, who are all crack shots but are all incapable of basic reading. Even when you hand your tickets with the name and airplane highlighted in the interest of saving time, they’ll still take the mandatory 45 seconds to read what amounts to two words and one three-digit number.

For instance, ‘Cyrus Broacha SJ 357’. Now this sentence took me 0.5 seconds to read. In 45 seconds, I can read it 90 times. So why do the security staff take so long? There are only three possible explanations, (a) They hate all passengers, (b) They lack basic reading skills, and (c) They are all in some sort of vertical coma. The self-check in that follows is a game devised by the authorities to keep you on your toes, and give you that sense of adventure. Many of these machines don’t work, but are still there. This allows you, the passenger, to play a game called, ‘Find the machine that works’.

That brings us to India’s new national sports, ‘cutting queues’. You wake up at 4am to catch the cab that brings you to the overcrowded village, that may also be an airport. After many long queues, you are nearing the ticket counter, and some guy will break the queue, and request you to let him approach the counter first. His reasons, “I have a flight to catch”. Which means and implies, the rest of us don’t. We are all standing in that line because it’s a form of transcendental meditation, and none of us have any interest whatsoever, in catching a flight, not now or ever.

But what really upsets me, more than queues, and rude security, is the wheelchair fraud. When a passenger asks for a wheelchair, it implies he or she can’t walk. Hence, the wheelchair, hence the first-in-line preference and so on and so forth.

They sit in wheelchairs, looking sad and forlorn, and your heart feels for them. Then suddenly upon entering the aircraft, they spring to life, like bats out of hell. Skip all the way to their seat, on two perfectly good working legs, and on my last flight, the wheelchair lady actually asked me to give up the window seat for her. And like a perfectly healthy gazelle, she glided from the aisle seat to the window seat, while I huffed and puffed to do the same. I think airport authorities should stop all wheelchair passengers and make them do an exercise test. If they can squat their own body weight, no wheelchair, allowed. And before getting a wheelchair, perhaps, they could take a short written test. Questions should include: (a) When was the last time you ran 100 metres in less than ten seconds? (b) Can you touch your toes? (c) Can you touch anyone else’s toes? And do you know why we have queues inside planes? It’s because passengers spend a whole minute checking their ticket again and again. Why? You know your seat number. You went online and sought the number. You slept the night before dreaming of the number, so why, why, why do you feel insecure upon entering the aircraft? The number hasn’t changed? It’s still the same seat as the one you saved!!!!! And what’s with the oversized hand baggage? You’ve travelled before and you know that bag won’t fit overhead! So, don’t play the confused innocent I-don’t-know-what-to-do with-my bag act.

Somehow, I feel airport etiquette has declined in the last year or so, there doesn’t seem to be any specific reason, but there is one peculiar insight. It all started going downhill after Vijay Mallya’s departure. Coincidence? I think not. It’s time to bow our heads and say, ‘Ooo la la la lay oooo’.

-Cyrus Broacha

The writer is a comedian, TV anchor, theatre personality, satirist, podcaster and an author.

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Published on: Friday, June 28, 2019, 08:45 PM IST
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