Wait Till They Get My Letter

21 Jul

The flight from Lahore to Abu Dhabi is like a bus ride. The only things missing are the armpits in your face and the elbows poking your back. The airlines use older planes on this route and the flight attendants don’t even bother to be polite. They almost throw the food at you and every request is greeted with a roll of the eyes. Their instructions are barked rather than spoken. SIT DOWN! TURN THE PHONE OFF!

The passengers, most of whom are contract laborers in the UAE, are treated with unconcealed disdain. I’ve noticed it before, but this time I found it more grating than usual. I have a lower tolerance for rudeness now than I did when I was younger, and I’m glad of it. I won’t keep quiet when I see unjustified, obnoxious behavior, much less when it comes from people who get paid to serve others.

When we started our descent, my daughter woke up and wanted to go to the bathroom. The seatbelt light was on, but we were still a good seven to ten minutes from landing. I told the flight attendant that I needed to get up.

 “It’s not allowed,” she said.

By this time my daughter was quietly crying and begging me to let her go. I asked again but nothing changed. I finally said:

“I’m just warning you. My daughter will pee herself on the floor or the seat”

“That is YOUR choice”, the flight attendant answered me.

I felt so sorry for my daughter, and so angry with this woman.

I’ve read about people who have argued with flight crews over little things and been arrested for disturbing a flight. Their manner throughout the flight did not make me think they would be conciliatory, and I didn’t want to have a bigger problem on my hands. The man sitting next to me kept telling me to get up, and he started telling some of the other passengers what was going on. I kept trying to get the attention of the other flight attendant, and her purposely turned face infuriated me more.

My little girl was so brave, I was proud of her. I told her to do it on the floor. I took off her pants and urged her to relieve herself where she could, but she held on, the fat, round tears running down her cheeks.

In the end the other flight attendant told me I could get up at my own risk, and my daughter made it to the toilet well before landing. But I was burning with anger and ready for a fight.

When we landed I asked for the particular flight attendant’s name and employee number. They immediately called the supervisor over and I had the pleasure of giving her a piece of my mind.

What made me angry was not that I was told I couldn’t get up. It was the manner in which I was refused, and the words ‘YOUR choice’, as if I would purposely have my little girl go through this experience. As if it would ever be my choice to have my daughter pee herself on the floor in front of everyone.

They took me back to First Class and the supervisor was very apologetic, but I could tell that they were all stunned. I was not irate, but I was forceful, and I berated them for their overall behavior.

“Oh, we can tell that you are not like the other ones”, I was told. I felt like smacking her, but all I said was that nobody should be treated like that. I wish they all get to read the letter of complaint that I will write when I get home.

Overall it was a hellish flight. My whole experience in Abu Dhabi was dreadful. I went to a cell phone store to buy a phone card and I was kept waiting for 10 minutes while white people who came after me were served first. When I complained to the salesman he laughed and said he hadn’t seen me, but I was right in front of him at the counter the whole time.

I was fed up, tired and with a sleepy toddler in my arms. I told him off. He whispered something in Arabic to his co-worker, and when he tried to give me change in the local currency (I paid in dollars), I flatly refused.

I was too tired to seek his superior, and with the prospect of nearly twenty hours of flight time ahead of me, I had had enough for one evening.

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4 Responses to “Wait Till They Get My Letter”

  1. charlotteotter July 21, 2007 at 11:46 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear what a ghastly experience you two have had. I hope the next 20 hours were better and that you and your daughter have recovered. Well done though for complaining. People do need to know when their level of “service” is unacceptable.

  2. lvmg July 22, 2007 at 6:42 am #

    Thanks, Charlotte. It took a couple of days to recover, especially for my daughter, but we are fine now, enjoying my mother’s cooking.

    I flew on Virgin Atlantic from London and we had excellent service. I actually prefer longer flights, because we can relax and get comfortable.

  3. Helen July 27, 2007 at 2:14 pm #

    Grrrrrrr!! It makes me so angry to read of your treatment on this flight. Unfortunately, I can relate to it all too well. We had an absolutely horrendous experience at the hands of Qantas when Kiko was four months old and we flew to the Philippines for his christening. I don’t want to go into the details because it still upsets me so much but they put his health in danger and behaved as if we’d brought a dog on board the plane rather than a baby, and they kept us waiting so long when I asked to speak to the supervisor that I fainted in the airport terminal – and they couldn’t have cared less about that either. I will never fly by Qantas again. When I wrote to complain they sent back a weird letter in which they’d cut and pasted bits from their manual on how great they were with kids. It was insulting and if I ever see the staff I encountered on that day I will have to restrain myself from punching them.

    I am also disgusted to read of your treatment at the mobile phone shop.

    By the way, we flew to Queensland recently by Virgin Blue and they were great. Ever since the Qantas travesty I’ve done long distance flights with Singapore Airlines and they are so excellent with children, I could not speak more highly of them. These airlines need to know that passengers vote with their feet, especially when it comes to treatment of children.

  4. lvmg July 27, 2007 at 11:13 pm #

    Helen, that’s exactly what I felt when I thought about my daughter doing it on the floor: like a dog. And I told them so.

    I’m surprised to hear about Qantas. I always thought they were a good airline, sort of embodying the qualities of Australia. At least that’s how they market themselves. Good for you for never flying with them, they don’t deserve your money. I think that’s almost the only power we have as consumers.

    I have an eight-hour stop in Abu Dhabi on my way back, and Etihad always provides a hotel room voucher on those occasions. I’m hoping they live up to their publicity slogans, or they will get into another fight with me.

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