Friday, April 3, 2009

In a blue mood

The thing about KLM aircraft is that they are blue. Not just blue in parts, but solidly, obsessively, Dutchly (if I may) blue. And so are the crew, or at least their clothes.

Nothing wrong with blue per se, it's my favourite colour actually. But flying from Taipei to Bangkok today on an ancient decrepit blue KLM 747 aircraft staffed with ancient decrepit blue KLM staff brought home to me how the world is changing. I've already pointed it out on this blog before, but this put the lid on it. At a bargain-basement price of US $ 225 for the Bangkok-Taipei return ticket one can hardly complain, so this is probably not a complaint. But contrast today's KLM with any Far-Eastern airline (Singapore, Cathay, Malaysian, Thai, China Airlines..) and it's an out and out loser. Where the East has gracious service to go with gleaming equipment, the West increasingly offers surly, hostile crew members on its aging fleet of planes. Even the food looked sort of hostile. The seat cushions were falling off and when I pried under one of them looking for a misplaced spectacle case, I discovered a pair of earphones and a knife from some long bygone meal service lodged in the gaps. And Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (and Taipei and Beijing and Osaka and Hongkong and...) all make the once-famous Schiphol airport look like Dharavi in comparison. (Note how I'm studiously avoiding all mention of Indian airports here!!).

On boarding the geriatric KLM plane I discovered that my "window seat" simply had a wall in place of a window! So I asked the stewardess to tell me when boarding was complete so I could change my seat. Incredibly, she said I should do so only after take-off, since the balance of the plane was important. I looked at her in disbelief. "I could unbalance a Boeing 747?" I asked, but she stuck to her guns and gave me a sort of decrepit, blue, hostile look (I desisted from telling her the joke about a Lot Polish aircraft having too many Poles in the left half-plane! Sorry, this one is only for people who've studied complex analysis!!).

Anyway the fact that I could potentially destabilise a KLM Boeing 747 just by changing my seat suggests that either I'm a lot fatter than I think, or the plane truly is as withered as it looks. I'm just hoping it's the latter.


jatkesha said...

Anyway the fact that I could potentially destabilise a KLM Boeing 747 just by changing my seat suggests that either I'm a lot fatter than I think, or the plane truly is as withered as it looks. I'm just hoping it's the latter.


Rahul Basu said...

Schiphol with Dharavi... -- slight over the top, n'est-ce pas monsieur? I was in Schiphol a couple of years back and I wouldn't quite call it Dharavi even in comparison with Suvarnabhumi.

As for the service, indeed, I agree with all you say.

BTW people claim that the new Hyderabad airport is as good as any international one. Is that really true...I wouldn't know since I haven't seen it.

Anant said...

Re. Hyderabad airport, if you think paying about 90 rupees for a cup of coffee is an essential requirement for making an airport feel like any other international one, then it certainly qualifies.

sukanya said...

your hilarious post reminded me of the time when the Indian Airlines pilots went on a long strike and the management had to recruit Uzbek pilots + planes to keep the service going. One of my cousins travelled on one such flight during this period. He told me that they indeed loaded the plane according to the weight of the passengers, strategically placing overweight guys to balance underweight ones. They certainly did not want anyone like you moving and upsetting the stability of the plane.
There were also the routine announcements of keeping your seat
backs upright and closing the overhead compartments ... except that all the seats were permanently reclined and very few overhead compartments had covers to close!

Shushma said...

Very amusing story Professor! The weight of intellect counts in the balancing of the plane and maybe the stewardess took this into account. Could it happen though that many passengers, shifting from the rear of a half-empty 747 to the front could upset the load balancing even if each were an intellectual lightweight?

Cheeta said...

Hmmm - these ancient decrepit blue KLM staff... any kin to Mr Ratan Tata's fat and old women?

Sunil Mukhi said...

Cheeta: point well taken!

Shushma said...

Cheeta, how an uncharitable view is now immedediately "so Tata"!!