There’s been a recent fuss in the news about an airline who had overbooked and wanted someone – someone who had paid for a seat and was already sitting on the plane – to leave to make room for one of their staff who needed to travel to wherever the plane was going. OK, but after asking people politely to go on another flight they them dragged a customer out of his seat and forced him off the aircraft.
Of course this made the headlines. If the travelling public had any sense of fair play the airline concerned would shortly be filing for bankruptcy. Who in the right mind would want to travel with a company who treated their fare-paying customers in this way?
Alas, people are so used to the idea that the airline – the big wealthy powerful organisation – is always right, I doubt if their turnover will even decrease by a small amount. In fact it might well increase as newspapers in search of a good story will send their reporters to see if they can get “bounced” and if they are treated well or badly.
Of course it is ridiculous that airlines can overbook in this way. Remember they’ve already been paid for the seats and stand to lose nothing by reneging on their contract to transport the passenger to the agreed destination.
The remedy I suggest is this:
All long-haul airlines to be required to have at least 5% spare capacity – ie seats that are not booked and are kept available for airline employees and emergencies that do not require to plane to deviate from its planned route or make an emergency landing. I’m thinking of scenarios where a passenger is taken ill with something unpleasant rather than life-threatening. Who wants to sit for several hours next to someone who is vomiting copiously every ten minutes? There should be somewhere segregated to take such a passenger. The same should apply to a very noisy and disruptive child whose parents cannot control his behaviour. The cabin staff can hardly knock the brat out with a strong sedative however much they might like to do so, but they can and should be able to minimise the discomfort to fellow-travellers. This could be done by taking the child and parents to the “spare” seating area where they can at least be separated from the rest of the passengers.
Air liners are notoriously cramped and uncomfortable and I feel an airline who offered more space, not just slightly wider seats but room to move around, even a lounge where passengers could chat and play games and lie down if they wished should attract passengers looking to get there not in the shortest possible time but with the least degree of discomfort. An airline that advertised as “Never overbooked” or “If you’ve paid for a seat, we guarantee you get a seat” should be first choice for any sensible customer.
Alas I don’t think this will happen. Airline passengers are so used to being treated badly and herded around and made to stand in queues that they expect it. Any airline that offered space and comfort to its customers would immediately be suspect.
I can imagine a cartoon – unfortunately I can’t draw so have to describe it – where a man is arguing with an airport official “What do you mean I’ve been bumped off the plane? I’m the pilot!”
(this is the best way to fly!)
I lie awake
An ache like toothache
Will not go away.
Nothing feels as empty as a double bed
With a single sleeper.
Nothing as empty as a solitary life
Where once there had been two.
I rise, dress, prepare to meet the blank day
I set two places for breakfast.
C cataract of clutter, clumsily cascading
H hurrying heedlessly
A anxiously awaiting anticipating
O order only order
S stretching saving surmounting surrounding
John Milton wrote this sonnet “On His Blindness”. He had daughters to whom he dictated his poems – I sometimes wonder how they felt about spending their time acting as unpaid amanuensis to their father.
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
After I had a cataract removal operation I couldn’t resist wrting, not exactly a parody, but a sonnet in the style of Milton about my own experience. I had was plenty of friends telling me what an easy and painless operation it was . (I need larger print!)
On Her Cataract Op
When I consider how much time I’ve spent
Of my allotted three score years and ten
Waiting in hospitals and wondering when
They’ll tell me the prognosis what it meant
In words I understand, so I’m not sent
Adrift in vagueness, neither screen nor pen
Of use. When will I see things clear again?
I ask in terror, life is brief and time but lent.
“Fret not, they tell me, you’ll be find indeed.
Relax, this surgeon is among the best.
The op takes only minutes, there’s no wait
Admittedly, at first it’s hard to read
But soon your eyes will pass the hardest test
Trust me, this new perspective’s really great!”
I am clumsy. I’ve only recently come to admit it, but I am clumsy. It’s partly age – after 65 you are bound to be less agile, less dexterous, less flexible – plain clumsy in other words.
Add to age-related clumsiness, arthritis and subsequent joint replacement operations, plus incipient cataract – my optician says I need it removed – “a mere twenty-minute procedure, a routine op. The eye surgeon does dozens of them every day.” Maybe he does but I don’t!
Once I could sew and knit – not brilliantly but adequately, now I struggle to thread a needle. Once I could write if not beautiful copperplate at least a legible hand. Now I am profoundly grateful for word processing and spellchecks. How would I have coped if I’d been born fifty years earlier?
I like to think I’ve reached the stage of “knowing my limitations” as our gym teacher used to say. I admire delicate things like Faberge eggs – but from a distance: I don’t pick them up lest I drop them. I’ve been called “ambi-sinister” the reverse of ambidexterous- and it’s probably correct.
I wish I were stylish
I wish I had style
Perfect taste, perfect dress sense
I’d stand out a mile.
Every head would turn
When I entered a room
Poised and composed
A true fashion icon
Moving with grace
A delight when I speak.
I suppose I should face it
I’ll never be stylish
Except in my writing
Style’s clearly not my dish.
Definition of an expert: “A has-been drip under pressure”
“Ex”- as in ex-policeman plus “spurt” – water coming from a pipe under pressure.