Monday, June 2, 2008

Airlines' Cabin Service

I used Korean Airlines in March 2008 on my way to Mongolia. The other occasion was 12 years ago. In the mid-90's they have been dogged possibly unfairly by the 'flying coffin' tag i.e. an aircraft with an unacceptably high accident rate.

The cabin service was exceptionally good and the other surprise was the good food. I have never liked cabin food and will never like it but still this could be the best of the lot. The Korean cabin crew is attentive and response promptly to the passengers needs and requests. Every call was attended to with courtesy throughout the flight. This is important as cabin crews have the habit of disappearing behind the 'veil' or hide in the rear after the meal was served. They are literally afraid of getting out on to the aisle lest some passengers would signal to them for service. Even when have they to walk down or up the aisle often they have a gift of not seeing and not hearing. In actual fact they are blatantly ignoring or pretending not to see and or hear the raise hands or 'excuse me'. I called this 'the after-meal syndrome.' Welcome to the 'cattle' class.

Hope I am whining too much. Here is my 2-cents worth:

1) Malaysian Airlines service is generally good but they are stingy with the meal. I was really unhappy when the took away the bread/bun a few years ago. I asked the crew, "Where is my bread?" Reply, "Sorry, no longer served." I asked again, "Can I have one?" Long pause. Let me check whether they still have any extras in the Business Class. It is not only the bread but the butter and jam that come swith it. Save cost! Thumbs down. Other airlines will be asking if you want a second helping! You can't save on the meal by cutting the serving. Just tighten up on the operations like the tender and award of the catering contract. The cost will go down.

Once on my way home from Vancouver there was an argument betwen a passenger and a male crew member. The crew lost the plot by shouting back and retreated by ending the argument, "Go and report me!" The purser have to return alone to apologize. Bad leadership. Bring the voice-raiser/shouter out and get him to apologize.Cabin crew also suffer from the 'after-meal syndrome.' The cabin crew disappears after the meal. Even the call button will not work.

2) Brunei like most South-east Asian airlines are up to the mark. Good service and meal. Good ticket pricing. However, I have the experience losing my luggage coming back from London. The station office in KL refused to compensate me. They said that they will be delivering it to me the next day. Further I am home safe. I would have let them off but for the statement, "You are already home, you are not overseas where you need to buy underwear..." I stop him there and then. I said that was rude. He caught it. He offered me RM150 for that indiscretion.

3) I must take my hat off for the way they brand Thailand. Of course Thai Airways is the leading ambassador. For selling dreams, mysteries, smiles, charms and service that is as smooth as silk they have no equal. But beware of the hype! The service is generally good and attentive. But its patchy. I am not sure but at times the crew seems moody and irritable. I was berated by a cabin crew in 1995. However, I have used their service countless times. The food is top of the rack for 'cattle class.' There is one unique characteristic of Thai Airways that no other airways can compete. It is their ability to churn out lady crew with almost the same lower body physique. Slim around the hip, thin shins with accompanying petite ankles. This must be their trademark.

They other plus was their ability to exude a charm in the cabin atmosphere and service that are very welcoming. After a hard assignment in a Third World country, you feel that they are partner in your escape and they will deliver you home safely. Singapore Airlines has this too. More airlines should create this kind of mood and atmosphere for travellers on work assignments.

4) The Singapore girl is definitely a class of her own. Suave and too well train! They can be mean. They are so confident of their plane and their service that any complaints that come may be because of the fussy, demanding and picky passenger. I once have a seat that was uneven and I am feeling the strain on my upper left thigh muscles. I complain. Initially the crew tried to talk me down, then they offered me another seat but I do not want as I am with a group. So I asked for a blanket to even up the seat. This was done reluctantly.

This was in the late 90's. I am sure with competition from LCCs and open skies agreement they are more amenable to customer complaints. Later when the fasten seat sign came on and I thought I should go to the toilet to ease myself for the last time. Bad move. The same crew reprimanded me in no uncertain terms. The empire strikes back. Well no arguments. They enforce the law. But it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But for their professionalism, good offers and airport connections I have used them many times. And off course the Star Alliance frequent flyer points. What do you expect from Singapore Airlines? Everything should work. Except that the Singapore girl has transformed into a lean and mean machine.

5. If you fly Airasia, it is solely on the price. They have opened up destinations that no other full-service airlines want to go as it is not profitable. I used to pay up to RM1500 to go to Laos. And an overnight stay in Bangkok on both legs. With Airasia it is just a couple of hundred and direct.

I have my luggage mishandled. Ask for compensation from the ground staff. You will get about RM30 for domestic. Overseas I am not sure. That's all. They will deliver the luggage to you. Don't bother complaining further. It is a waste of time. I once have my luggage (mine and my son) mishandled and it was delivered to me two days later and in the evening. By then we are ready to leave the next day. But kudos to their good and new planes and excellent landing. If you want to know what good landing is for a plane with 200 and below, try Airasia. The pilots are good and land the plane with just a whisper.

6. GMG used to be the best in Bangladesh domestic travel. Not anymore. Since they started their regional service they are going downhill. I was there in January. My flight was canceled. The reasons given were there were dignitaries in the airport of my destination. The other was a technical glitch. Later I found from a reliable source that my plane was diverted to Chittagong. This is a more lucrative route. I took a bus. On my way back it was again canceled. I have to get out a day earlier. And I am having a paid and confirmed tickets. No point complaining to the staff. They are not empowered to do anything except saying 'sorry.' It was indeed a sorry state of affairs. After using GMG over 4 times I will insist on using UA.

7. In my early years (1995) of going into Vietnam, I used Vietnam Airlines because it is cheaper than Malaysian Airlines. The food was bad. Kind of stale. How they manage to turn good Vietnamese cuisine into bad ones is beyond my comprehension. Then I was bump off in one of their flights in the mid-90's. It was joint code service with Malaysian airlines. I called to complain. The manager told me that since it is a Malaysian airline plane I should go to them. It was not their responsibility. Sounds familiar. But I am holding their tickets. My first and legitimate recourse is through my service provider. They will have none of it and their reply to my mail was rude and brusque.

So I stop flying Vietnam Airlines for more than 10 years. I voted with my feet. That was translated to about 50 flights. I started flying with them again when Malaysian Airlines upped their fares unreasonably high level the last 2 years. To my surprise their food was excellent. The only blight was when I requested for service through the call button was not answered after several requests. I tried signaling the cabin crew but was ignored. The 'after-meal syndrome' again. Then I managed to 'flag down' a crew member and requested for the purser. That crew was panic stricken. The purser came and I complained that I was ignored 5 times. This time the purser came with the crew and apologize. At disembarkation there was another round of apologies. This is good capitalist customer service.

8. Garuda is famous in getting their domestic passengers to upgrade to Business or other higher classes even though one have a paid and confirmed ticket. You got to pay more. I rather use other domestic airlines like Mandala, Sriwijaya and Adam but their planes are old. Over 20 years. The overhead bin is of a design that I have never seen before. However, it is these and a few other domestic LCCs that connect archipelago. On the same note, I am not too sure that I will recommend Garuda for all domestic flights as their safety record is also not too great.

9. I used KLM a few times over the short route. From KL - Jakarta and Bangkok - Ho Chi Minh City. I once asked for a blanket when on the way to Jakarta. The answer came back short and quick. "We don't offer blankets." End of conversation and the crew went off. No doubt they are efficient and professional. But don't expect too much from them.

10. Cebu Pacific is fun to fly in. It is a dynamic airline with new planes. They have in cabin quiz and prizes. Their crew sure have personality. Here AirAsia tries to copy but its difficult as Malaysians are more reserved. The Filipina and Pinoy exude warmth. Maybe it is part of their Latin and Spanish connection. The tickets are cheap and so is their safety record since a crash into the mountains in Mindanao 10 years ago.

11. Cathay Pacific depicts the modern face of the Chinese. It prides itself in efficiency but alas their is no representative personality. It is professional to a fault. Still I love some of their special offers to Hong Kong. It is real good and the online booking is an excellent 'a' - 'z' system right up to choosing your seat. A good airline to fly with.


Jeannette said...

Hi. May i quote you on your blog entry on
airlines cabin services for an article i am doing? i will of course give credits to your blog as my source.

jean reyes jgreyes(at)gmail(dot)com

worldwindows said...

Hi, can you pls let me know which portion you will be quoting and for what media (name please)? Thanks. Chin