At one time, boarding an international flight was literally a high; you felt you were part of an exclusive club, you had pretty air hostesses on call, service with a smile, your meals came with starched napkins and gleaming cutlery, and strolling through undiscovered airports was a pleasurable experience. Cut to the present. Terrorism has impacted everything (9/11 made it even worse). In addition, the new class of airline traveller is now a lot cruder, impatient and even downright rude, and the economic downturn has forced airlines to cut out many of the frills that one had got accustomed to. Entering any airport these days is like breaching a fortress, with multiple security checks resulting in longer queues and frayed nerves. I am constantly surprised at the large number of passengers who still flout, or are unaware of, security rules related to carrying liquids and inflammable items aboard. That’s only while you are on the ground. Once airborne and away from the police state that most airports are these days, you would imagine that, as the soft drink ad says, things get better. Think again.
First, you are no longer part of an exclusive club. Airline seats are full of people who will ask you for help in filling in their embarkation forms since they can’t read or write English, snap their fingers to get the attention of the airline crew, and always complain about the cabin temperature being too high or too low. Even the more educated and affluent passengers are now pecking away at their mobile phones and tablets long after the announcement asking passengers to switch them off has been made. All the above is part of a list of most frequent complaints by airline passengers in two recent surveys, one by TripAdviser, the largest online travel site, and another called the Global Business Travel Survey. You can add them to my personal gripes, led by the switch to plastic cutlery. I once had to abandon a Chateaubriand steak because I could not slice it with the flimsy plastic knife it came with. Why have it on the menu then? My second gripe is whatever happened to the pretty air hostesses? On every international airline I have flown in the past few years, they have become as rare as finding an unoccupied toilet. I suspect most airlines are extending the working lives of their older cabin crew