Saturday, 2 May 2009

Hello Qantas. Shall we talk about PAIN?

Like the moment the cabin steward came round to stick needles under my fingernails and beat me about the head with a spanner?

Or did I just dream those moments? Like they are indistinguishable from the reality of torment? For which read the overnight Qantas flight from Hong Kong to Sydney.

But before I recommend everyone out there grab a donkey and use that because it's a darn sight better than becoming a Qantas customer, I would just like to put in a word of praise.

But hey, bear in mind I was young and foolish. Travel was an exciting thing and the huge enticing variety of air experience lay ahead of me, so twenty years ago flying with Qantas was an experience that, although not up there with the likes of Cathay or Singapore (who handed out fresh orchids), then Qantas was rough and ready and entirely serviceable and no messing about, and I quite liked that. Like they say over the tannoy no sleeping in the aisles because that is what the Aussies probably do when the aisles present a practical solution to a problem, but I welcomed that and warmed to it, probably because I felt their heart was in the right place and the steward handed Dig a full bottle of wine. And I mean a real bottle, not these poncy miniature millilitre plastic bottles everyone hands out these days.

But something has gone deeply wrong.

Deeply, badly, wrong. Qantas, you should have owned up to the few minor problems on this flight. And then we might have forgiven you the horrible errors of your ways. Like the routine way we discover there is no online check in for our flights, so every time we turn up for Qantas we have to leave a good two hours just to stand in a check in queue.

And then you bloody well knew about the problems on this flight and never had the courtesy to admit right up front it was all arse about face. No. You made me suffer. And for that, you sink to the lowest of all airlines and now sit right down there with TAP.

OK, where shall we start? We had a warning, when we are standing on the beach at Lamma, and Dig takes a call from Qantas suggesting we agree to be bumped, so long as we can get on an early morning flight leaving in less than 12 hours. Now if you are facing the idea of waking up sleep deprived triplets at 5am to be dumped in Sydney a day before your accommodation and car are booked, facing the prospect of walking into a hotel to pay rack rate for two rooms with connecting door, then the offer starts to look less attractive than it might.

Should we start there, or with the additional hour spent sitting around waiting to collect one boarding pass? Qantas woman says they cannot let Shark on the aeroplane. Better leave her in Hong Kong.

When she finally returns saying oh yes, you can take Shark to Australia with you, our mistake, here is the boarding pass, she then adds, casually and smiling, like people might add, And did you know your wife is having an affair with a horse? Or, Your car has now exploded because I have pressed the detonator, that By the way, all the visa information submitted for all your passports is WRONG and you will be turned away at Sydney immigration. Have a nice day.

Dig may stand there with evidence in his hands to prove everything is RIGHT, but now this is no concern to Qantas woman. If five minutes ago there was an issue with Shark, now it's the entire family they have screwed up. But strangely there's no need to worry. Just hurry along, because if we detain you for ten minutes more you might miss your flight.

Oh that might seem like luck. When we chain ourselves to the seats on board, everyone discovers the on demand video system doesn't work. Now I am not particularly intuitive but something tells me they knew it wouldn't work, knew it never had a chance of working, and yet even used a straight face to suggest vaguely someone might fix it. Hmm. I didn't know engineers could fly several thousand feet in the air, unless you keep one on board. Well for lying, Qantas, to disguise your failure, you sink right down there, straight off. If you had been honest and said right up front, OK, we fucked up here, we haven't got any kid's video, we haven't got anything by way of entertainment, and guess what? We don't even care about your kids! then I sort of could have forgiven you. I sometimes feel the same, but that's because I'm a parent.

But should I go on? Like, if you fly Qantas, please take your own food. The vegetarian mush shoved at me was possibly one of the worst meals in aviation history. The one with some indistinguishable brown goo, a bread roll and a banana. But a side order of salt? Did you omit the potato by accident? Why not inject that salt straight into my children's brains next time? You would do your job of killing us all with hypertension so much quicker.

But then the whole script was wrong, Qantas, WRONG. Like you straight off suggest we all buy duty free. I should have taken up that offer, ordered a bottle of scotch and anaesthetised my brain so I wasn't conscious to witness you throw inedible food at me, then leave it to abuse me for an hour before coming round to ask if I need a drink. Hey! At least I got asked that question! Dig was missed out entirely and had to suck his own feet. Then again you do have your impish ways, like removing my cup and only then asking if I'd like tea.

Of course this litany doesn't cover all the small and painful miseries we all endured. Like the oppressive heat in this cabin. Perhaps you were just trying to cook us all and serve us to the next flight to shave a bit more cost from the inedible meals service. Or the convenient way my overhead light doesn't work. Or after two hours in I was frantically pressing the call button and pleading for the cabin lights to be dimmed so I could try and sleep and imagine myself elsewhere.


screamish said...

oh my god. Im still trying to get the courage up to go home to Oz with the twins.

I have childhood memories of qantas, being pretty're right, not to luxurious service of Cathay pacific..but not bad.

Two years ago I flew Emirates...a 9 hour stopover in that sordid shopping centre Dubai "airport" convinced me never again. That and the 25 minute bus ride to the terminal past small armies of underpaid Sri lankans and Pakistani labourers toiling in the sun while we we bused past in airconditioned comfort to be frisked and have gold duty free pushed on us....stop me, im ranting...sorry!

sharon said...

Should have come to Perth on Cathay Pacific is all I'm saying about your choice of flight. The only good flight I've had on Quaint-arse was a free business class trip from Sydney to Coolangatta that my Aunt got me courtesy of her frequent flyer programme. Even they couldn't do too much damage in just over an hour. Personally I am using Virgin Blue for my interstate trip to Melbourne next month. No idea how the service will be but at least it isn't costing too many dollars!

Grit said...

hi screamish, the actual air travel bit is never as bad as i imagine it will be - it's the bits before and after which are hard work.

sharon, we would all love to visit perth, and one day we will! we have all put qantas as a last resort choice though. i've never flown virgin, so we need that report!

Michelle said...

Qantas was shit when we used them. We flew on 7 different legs with I think 5 different carriers and Qantas was the only one that refused to allow us to take our carryon luggage (correctly sized) with us on the plane and it had to be checked in.

Their argument was that if the door opened and teh case fell out, it could hurt someone. We argued that the cases were more secure than the carrier bags of glass bottles people stuff in the overhead bins having purchased them from duty free. But to no avail, adding inconvenience to our departure on arrival in Sydney.

Also, they wouldn't let us off the plane until they'd walked up and down the aisle with a disinfectant spray being sprayed over our heads - what was that all about?