Air travel: Royal treatment only if you are not Pakistani

Published: October 25, 2013
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Upon entering the Arrivals lounge, the long queues and slow pace often results in queue-jumping and scuffles. PHOTO: AFP

I have realised of late that flying is no longer as enjoyable as it used to be, especially transit travel or stop-over flights. This realisation hit me recently when I travelled from London to Islamabad and had a stop-over in Dubai. The journey began well with the flight from London to Dubai well-equipped with the latest gadgets and gizmos; the air hostesses were polite and smiling; and there was a general aura of comfort and relaxation.

However, this comfort did not last long and there was a world of difference in the connecting flight from Dubai to Islamabad. The plane itself was like something that had just taxied out of the 80s, while the air hostesses’ were cold, unwelcoming and downright rude. I was appalled to see them snubbing passengers and even yelling at those who had difficulty understanding English.

The question is why do Pakistanis get treated like third-class citizens while foreign passengers are given the royal treatment?

Sadly, a lot may have to do with how we behave ourselves.

In my travelling experience, I have seen that many Pakistani passengers lack basic plane etiquette. You can see this lack of awareness from the moment the call to board is announced – there is such an unbelievable frenzy that it seems as if the passengers are afraid that the plane will leave without then. Only once boarding is complete and the overhead bays are filled to the brim with hand luggage of all shapes and sizes – ranging from regular bags to rolled-up comforters and food containers – that passengers relax into their seats.

However, the concept of plane safety is simply lost on our country’s men and women. I have personally witnessed passengers get up to use the toilet or take something out of the overhead compartment while the plane is still taking off! Basic travel sense dictates that the most dangerous time during a flight is at the point of take-off and landing. Yet, countless times I have seen air hostesses’ screaming at the top of their lungs to make passengers sit down, but their plea usually falls on deaf ears.

After this battle of the crew and passengers, the next drama ensues over the toilet.

I have been traumatised more than once by walking in on someone whilst they are sitting on the toilet simply because they didn’t know how to lock the door properly!

However, all hell breaks loose the minute the wheels hit the tarmac. While the plane is still taxiing, one can hear a sea of seatbelts being unlocked, followed by a human stampede as passengers scramble to unload their overhead luggage and run for dear life. Watching from a distance, sitting comfortably in my seat for the queue to thin, I sadly see an almost animal sense of urgency – an urgency so intense that people almost climb over each other to get out of a very small exit. As expected, the air hostesses are too exhausted to muster a goodbye or even fake a smile by this time.

Unfortunately, the trauma is not over once you disembark. Upon entering the Arrivals lounge, the long queues and slow pace often results in queue-jumping and scuffles. Passengers travelling from far and wide to visit loved ones, attend events or even conduct business are already exhausted from the uncomfortable travel and these delays don’t help at all. Needless to say, such an experience puts a damper on the much-awaited arrival in Pakistan.

After all, first impressions always leave an everlasting imprint, especially for those making the trip for the first time; therefore, it is vital for airport authorities to deal with passengers expediently and courteously.

Passengers are now pinning their hopes on the new Islamabad airport and praying that it will help alleviate these problems. In the meantime, we can only hope that our behaviour on planes will change to pave the way for more comfortable flights, happy passengers and smiling air hostesses’.

Hopefully, some God sent angel will decide to make aircraft etiquette classes mandatory in Pakistan too.

Do you think Pakistanis lack basic travel etiquette?

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Faiza Iqbal

Faiza Iqbal

A law graduate from King's College, London Nottingham Law School. Having worked at Mandviwalla & Zafar as an Associate, she now writes freelance articles and is trying to qualify as a barrister in Canada.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.