Thursday, 18 April 2013

Have a Nice Flight


 Let's cut the crap: flying is a horrible experience we would happily remove from our lives. No one has fond memories of their holiday because of the flight there or back; one only remembers flying for the pain that it is. You are, after all, confined to many hours at a time inside a noisy claustrophobic box, surrounded tightly by people you don't know and breathing badly processed air. The only thing we can do to improve the experience of flying is to pay more so as to gain better distractions: better food, better seating, better entertainment, or just a better itinerary. That is, a shorter one.
It occurred to me that flying is entirely negative through my experience with Turkish Airlines, the company that has now taken the crown for the worst airline I've had the displeasure to fly with.
Bad experience started long before the flight. For some odd reason, Turkish Airline won't let my travel agent book me seats; all the agent could do was raise a request for an aisle seat. When I tried to call Turkish Airlines' Sydney number I gave up on being held for too long, leaving messages instead; no one bothered returning my calls. When I tried the online check in, a day before my flight, I got error messages: either because the website uses Java, which I block, or because it's just broken. Regardless, something ain't right.
At the airport I learned Turkish had given me a window seat. I had to go to a special desk the next airport on my itinerary in order to fix things up. To their credit, Turkish was very good at this fixing.
Then came the flight itself, on a very aging (or very poorly maintained) Airbus A340. My reading light didn't work, which meant I couldn't use the Kindle I counted on to spend my time with. Then I noted that of the four toilets in economy class, two were tagged as broken. That broke the toilet to passenger ratio to something higher than 100 passengers per toilet! For reference, when I worked on planes' interior design the acceptable minimum was considered more like 55 passengers per toilet.
Then there was the horrible service. I arrived to find the highly coveted emergency row seat I was given was a blessing in disguise, with me seated right next to the flight's screaming baby. Flying alone with his mother he was cute, but he obviously presented a problem to the mother upon her having to go to the toilet and such. So to the baby's visible disappointment, I ended up looking after him a bit. That is, that the temporary relief did not come from the direction of the crew whose job it is; no, they didn't even leave the baby anything to eat. Oh, and the blanket I contributed for the baby? I didn't get a replacement. Then there were some very poor performing main meals.
On the "positive" side, the crew knew quite well how to disappear into their hidden resting place whenever their time was up for that. At least they looked after themselves; they didn't seem to to much for the passengers. Toilets were poorly maintained, running out of soap and low on paper for hours, while passengers were deferred from accessing business class toilets and sent to the back of the plane.
Overall, Turkish Airlines is clearly not in the same class as Singapore Airlines or Thai. I can also say I learned something from flying this time around: I learned that flying is best avoided, and I learned that a stopover may not be such a bad idea. Because, as it was, flying for more than twenty hours with hardly a sleep and with bad connections thrown in between is just horrible.
And I didn't even mention the excruciating security.

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