Thursday, August 24, 2006

Behave Yourself, You Are On An Aircraft


A few years ago, I was on a KLM flight from Delhi to Amsterdam's Schipol airport, my destination as well. The plane took off at 6 or 7 am in the morning. It had been a tiring night, leaving the hotel at 3 am or some such hour and then dragging oneself to the Indira Gandhi International.

Not so for many of my co-passengers and country men as I discovered. Barely had we lifted off, some of them began walking up and down and loudly greeting their friends sitting elsewhere, like the take-off had been something to celebrate. Next, the purser was summoned and alchohol was requested for. The purser declined saying service would start a little later.

They waited for a little longer and then dispersed. I found out where a little later when I took a walk to the lavatory in the rear. A group of 10 or so men had collected and were imbibing fine scotch, or so it looked like. "Some whiskey for you ?" one of them asked me in a tone that was more a suggestion than a offer. I declined and requested to be allowed to pass. The `whishkey' was offered once more, till another, presumably more considerate, member of the group raised a `cheers' to me and moved his friend out of the way.

Their Idea Of Fun

For the next couple of hours, the pursers and air hostesses were constantly badgered for alchohol and accompaniments. When the purser put his foot down, they would cosy up to him, put an arm around his shoulder and wink.."Come on yaar, just one drink for us." The audio levels of the conversation at the rear steadily rose. By the end, it could have well been a Sunday morning bazaar.

The young men were having fun, the rest of the aircraft was not. There was a strained silence all across. Most passengers, particularly some younger women, looked extremely stressed. Like me, everyone was hoping these guys would not do something stupid. And not knowing what would happen if they did.

This was a few years before 9/11. No one had used aircraft as instruments of destruction so the fear was limited. People on my flight were worried about a law and order problem. They were not worried about any terrorist problem. At least I don't think so. Fortunately, nothing happened and the exuberant gathering soon dispersed, fully satiated and settled down to sleep.

Decorum On An Aircraft

I am pretty sure this sort of behaviour would have caused equal consternation today. With a difference. Some of the actions and defiance could be interpreted as terrorist behavious. Or someone with a design to do serious damage, either to the aircraft, the people or a third target.

The problem is many people fly for the first time. Understanding decorum and behaviour on aircraft (or for that matter buses and trains) is not something that comes naturally. No one teaches it to you. Perhaps its time that we did. Notices at international airports (I noticed them in the US I think) already warn you against making any statement about a bomb in your baggage..jocularly.

Some not so frequent fliers might think its fun to run around the aircraft, brandishing cell phones and the like. Some of us who grow up don't do so respecting authority. After all, this is something you do as a kid, not as an adult. We also assume authority everywhere to react the same way our local `pandu' does - a fiver and he's on his way. It struck me that the young men who boarded the KLM at Delhi were treating the purser like they would a local constable or some minor government official.

No More Mid-Air Antics

Well, don't expect airline staff or marshals on board to think similarly. And not just on international but aircraft flying domestic skies as well. Not any more. The world has changed, mid-air antics will not be tolerated. And you better understand that. Airlines need to to their bit to tell passengers in no uncertain terms that funny behaviour will not be tolerated. For their own good. Its not tough to do it.
The guys on my KLM flight to Amsterdam got away luckily. Personally, I would have liked to see them taught a lesson. Maybe a small one, but one nevertheless.

8 comments:

apurvrdx on 9:22 pm said...

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I am apurv rai i had taken a chocolate which turned out to be covered with fungus like pojections off its surface when i complained to the officials they did not take prompt action and the company confiscated all the chocolates of that batch and tried to put the case under cover by corporate politics lets see what the citizens of india do to support a 17 year old to fight against the mnc producing the chocolates visit www.apurvrdx.blogspot .com and see the pictures yourself . after opening the page click on creativity in writing to view the photos , the blog's name is homeless.
May the force be with us !!

Anonymous said...

Govind,

I completely agree with the sentiment expressed in this blog. Ever since this whole issue has broken out, this has exactly been my view of the situation. It is a known fact in the airlines industry that we, Indians, are the among the worst behaved and hardest to please on flights.

I had a similar experience on a recent domestic flight where a group of people travelling together were hooting and virtually calling out to the airhostesses as though the stewards were servants! They were also asked on numerous occasions to be seated and wear their seatbelts.

Now, does this mean they deserve to be treated like terrorists? No. But in a tense situation as the world is today, everyone is under constant watch. And may be, and quite unfortunately, some skin colours more than others...

Blog-Capt. Anup Murthy on 11:38 pm said...

I agree with the anonymous writer above. There's an interesting point that has come up Govind, when you mention that "many people have started to fly for the first time". I wonder if the middle class upbringing in India is not as good as we normally tend to think.
The people who used to travel by trains and buses are now flying on airplanes. While that is a welcome thing for everyone in aviation because this spells tremendrous growth in an industry that has long suffered, it is also true that this mass travel (because everyone these days can afford it)has resulted in bad behaviour inflight as you have experienced.
Some decades back, loud, boisterous behaviour at airports were attributed to American travellers. "The Ugly American" expression was coined then, based on a 50's novel that was about american arrogance. But this kind of behaviour did not involve alchohol and they did not take this attitude on board. With the "Ugly Indian", they take this attitude everywhere they go. The problem with them not staying in their seats, not wearing seat belts and jumping for the exit the moment the airplane lands all starts with the indiscipline in their homes, classrooms, that they never wear seat belts while driving in India, never know how to stand in line with people constantly pushing and shoving and the free-for-all dash into a train or bus compartment to get the seats. Their behaviour is perhaps born out of this. Now put these people on an International flight and they begin to show off their recent elevation to the status of an International traveller and add to it a good measure of whiskey (the favourite drink, especially when it is free!) and its amazing that riots have not broken out yet.
How do you make people learn about good behaviour if it did not start from the home and school? How does one change people's attitudes?
The Airlines will put up with this behaviour, at least for some time till they can come up with a solution of sorts, because Indians travelling abroad (and domestic) have been a cash cow for the Airlines and they don't want the tap to stop.

ps said...

Not just behavior in planes, trains or buses, but public behavior in India is generally boorish. We just haven't learnt the art of respecting the rights of others to their personal space. Driving in India is a pain because of this lack of respect for another person's space - not just in terms of physical space, but of space in a psychological sense.

I have travelled from planes coming into India from the middle-east(UAE. etc) and from southeast asia(singapore, etc) and these flights are usually packed with Indians who erupt into noisy banter treating the aisles of the airplane like as if it was some chawl. They mess up the toilets, drop food everywhere and treat flight crew like servants. These morons do harm not just to their reputation, but to the reputation of all Indian's who fly. So it's no point ruing the fact that Indian's are generally treated with caution on international airlines.

I'm sure the 12 guys on the Dutch airline must have behaved like idiots. I don't think they were suddenly hauled up for no reason as they have been trying to imply on news channels.

I think our desi airlines should also get tough with such behavior. If our culture doesn't teach them the idea of personal space at home, then we need to teach these morons on the road. Give them a trashing they won't forget in a hurry. So well done KLM, these guys had it coming.

White Magpie on 2:11 pm said...

Haha..I've had some pretty good experiences during flights. And all this boorish behaviour will change in good time. Till then, gryn..

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