“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... the captain has not switched off the seat belt signs, so please remain seated.” In a sing-song tune, the airhostess mouths these words, and boy, they sound the same in every flight. On my seventh domestic flight in a month, I had learnt these lines and more by heart. Their rehearsed dialogues and horrible pronunciation come with a stomp - everyone pays a deaf ear and so my co- travellers are all wrapped in their cell phones much against the red, warning signs.
Inside India’s perpetually packed domestic aircrafts, I feel I am in one big playground. Like you get what you paid for. A lady next to me is so busy on the phone, probably she is in a tele-conference with someone in Alaska. With the other she hands her luggage to the steward without even looking at him as he adjusts it in the upper head locker. Where is the ‘thank you’ madam? Now barely has the bloke adjusted his seat belt, he pushes the attendant button. A busy airhostess walking down the aisle, checking if seats are upright, puts off the button and carries on her catwalk. Five minutes later, the man presses the button again. An airhostess asks if he can wait as the flight is about to take off but he fumes, “I have been waiting for 15 minutes, I need some water.” He has his way.
The lights are dim and the flight has taken off. I hear a “happy journey” exchanged between two friends. How sweet is that. My laughter is not controlled. The seat belt signs are on but the queue for the ‘lavatories’ is about to begin. “Please wait, sir, madam.. it is for your own safety.” No they have to do the needful, of course. Someone else has taken out his video camera and is filming his family seated on the plane. “Excuse me sir, please put off the camera,” he is told but he resumes the moment he sees the back of the airhostess. “This is a going to be a good flight, can’t wait for the flight to land,” whispers Lolo. He is enjoying every bit of the action and has kept his book aside.
The flight descends. It is still moving on the runway but passengers have switched on their phones. “Haan ji, poch gayi, badi gaadi laana lene ke liye (I have reached, come and fetch me in a big car),” I hear. The other half have stood up and begun opening the overhead lockers. The airhostess screams, “Please be seated, we have not reached our destination.”
Not easy to be an airhostess in India. But do we also need an orientation on how to be good fliers?