Brewer's Droop #211
WOULD YOU CARE TO JOIN THE CAPTAIN AT HIS TABLE?
I seem to have been reading quite a lot recently about poor food quality being served on airlines.
Personally, I think all money spent on food should be diverted towards making sure the plane is safe. I’d rather the airlines spent less on olive oil and more on engine oil frankly. I really couldn’t give a damn about the food but am quite fond of the idea of the plane landing safely. (Well, that and the wine of course.)
Complaining about airline food is a bit like going to PEP Stores and expecting to find a tailor with a measuring tape around his neck waiting to serve you and then walking out with a bespoke suit.
I mean, who in their right mind, thinks that spending a night in a hotel is the same as an overnight flight to London? You can complain in a hotel when the choice for dinner is only chicken or beef, but they don’t expect you to sleep upright in a chair so you can’t moan about the scrambled eggs being rubbery or sloppy.
Most people get onto planes in order to go somewhere else. Airlines are not in the food industry – they’re in the travel business, but because someone at an airline once decided that they could get a competitive edge by offering food, that was the beginning of all the trouble.
Now they have to cater for all kinds of tastes – vegans, vegetarians, halaal, kosher, nut allergic and lactose intolerant people. Can you blame them for not caring whether you like your potatoes mashed or boiled? I did once sit next to a man who asked for his steak to be done “medium rare” – no kidding.
Then there’s the hygiene issue. All those meals have to be heated and served in conditions as sterile as possible. The last thing any airline wants is a plane full of passengers with diarrhoea and only a few lavatories. It still amazes me how cabin staff can produce and serve over 300 hot dinners in galleys smaller than most caravans without introducing some kind of bacteria.
I’ve travelled a fair bit and discovered that mainly the ONLY people who complain about the food on board are those who think (for some weird reason) their flight food makes a good topic of conversation for (a) the person next to them or (b) their friends later on and, of course, (c ) the ubiquitous Facebook and Twitter. They cannot allow themselves to enjoy it, otherwise it’s just another boring story.
Okay, to be fair, I’ve had the worst hot dogs in my life on American Airlines. I’ve also had delicious fillet steak on SAA.
Of course, from time to time, you’re going to get a lump of suspicious looking stuff which is not nice, served by a surly stewardess who’s probably having period pains [Droop 199]. But, on average, the food is pretty good.
Air Chefs produce 22,000 meals for 125 domestic and international flights every day [Droop 203] so it’s a bit unfair to compare them with whats-his-name (you know, the TV cook who can’t speak properly). Don’t expect haute cuisine you won’t be disappointed.
ON THE SUBJECT OF FLYING
“Cheap” flights can often end up being expensive – I think everyone knows that by now, yet we still sometimes make the same mistakes over again like idiots.
Some time ago we’d been skiing in Austria and had decided to visit friends in Guernsey (no, not the best time of year I’ll admit.)
As we’d been spending money faster than a newly appointed Cabinet Minister, we decided to try the budget airlines. So we flew over on “Aurigny” which was quite nice actually. (Mind you, there was an excellent bar at Bristol airport so that may have influenced my experience slightly).
We flew back on “Flybe” and oh dear. Although the fare was about ￡10 cheaper than Aurigny (who had no seats available) I was about to discover their baggage charges. It seemed that their allowance was slightly less and, as I hadn’t pre-booked a suitcase (and couldn’t take it into the cabin) I had to pay an extra ￡30 just to get my bag onboard (now, in my book, R450 just to carry a small bag on a short journey is a bit much). The rest of the flight, needless to say, was horrible.
And now I read that “easyJet” have reduced the acceptable hand luggage limit by a massive one-third. They say that they won’t be charging to put travellers’ previously okay bags into the hold but that’s only a half-truth. There is a weight limitation on bags going into the hold so, yes, they actually will be squeezing more money out of passengers.
Having over-weight baggage can be a pricey business. Even more recently we flew to Rome on Turkish airlines and had a 32 kg hold allowance. Marvellous (and a very pleasant airline too). We went on a cruise and ended up back in Rome, but rather than end the holiday there we booked an extra five days in Sicily. We’d take an Alitalia domestic flight to Palermo.
Problem is that Alitalia has a domestic hold allowance of 23kg and are very strict on cabin luggage weight too (8kg). Of course we were a few kilos overweight. Their excess baggage rate is €10 per Kg and, as we were about 10 kg over the limit that was going to cost €100 (R1,000 at the time). Sod that.
So I dressed up like a Michelin Man with about eight layers of pullovers and jackets, while the check-in lady watched with great amusement. At one point I asked her if what I was doing was actually legal and she smiled “Si, certo” which got me thinking what the whole bloody point of the exercise was.
Anyway, we slowly and uncomfortably got the weight of our cases down. The check-in lady was continually weighing them and saying “solo un po ‘di piu” (“just a little more”). She also suggested that my wife carry all the laundry in a bag as hand-luggage.
Finally we made it and the check-in lady triumphantly handed us our boarding passes.
After going through check-in I disrobed and we packed as much as we could into our hand luggage.
I’m not proud of what we did. Rules is rules after all. But it was just the senseless futility of the entire exercise which got to me. I mean, the same amount of weight ended up on the plane – just distributed slightly differently. Fortunately we were checking in very early (regular Droop readers will know about this obsession of mine about arriving early) so we didn’t delay anyone else or cause any major disruption. In fact all we did was provide amusement for the Alitalia staff.
When we were leaving Italy a few days later, we were sitting in an airport lounge, and some Italians asked me how I’d enjoyed my holiday. So I told them it was very nice but that their pizzas were not up to South African standards – and neither was their pasta. (Yes, I am a spiteful bastard.)