mardi 2 août 2011

YOGA AND THE FREQUENT FLIER

Yoga Sutra 1.21
For the keenly intense seekers progress is steady

YOGA AND THE FREQUENT FLIER
This was my first flight aboard the new aircraft Airbus 380-800 belonging to Air France on its route CDG-IAD. I had procured a Premium Economy seat and was looking forward to my trip. Just before leaving home at 0700 (Paris time)(0100 EDT) a terse email informed me that the flight has been delayed from its 1040 departure to 13 50. The message also conveyed an unpleasant news, I have been downgraded to an Economy Seat and that the seats would be allocated only at the airport.
I did my breathing Yoga practices as well as some stretching yoga.
Before Yoga philosophy influenced my mind, I would become anxious at such news, at Air France and find a myriad of ways to avoid the delay and the downgrade! I had recently published a blog on what to do when your flight is delayed!
I took the Yoga attitude. There is no need to be upset, the course of what will happen today will not be determined by you or strangely enough, a revelation to me, by anyone working for Air France!
Arrived at the Terminal 2E CDG, check in area 8 and 9 for Premium Passengers. The airport was busier than normal, as the French are beginning their annual vacations. Even the area reserved for Premium passengers were looking more crowded than usual. I waited my turn, an agent, heavy set by French standards, sat down and nodded me over. In my most polite self, I presented to her my dilemma.
Is there any way for me to get to IAD in time to catch my connecting flight? Non
Is it possible to go to another destination in the USA? Non
Since the ticket had been purchased with Frequent Flier miles, can I change it? Non
By then I realized that NON was going to be the word of the day.
A senior agent is brought over, stern as a Military officer, unusually un-French I thought, the initial chubby one learns something from her on her keyboards, issues me a notice to say I have been downgraded and a request that I go to the Air France office down the hall and that they would provide some compensation for my downgrading. She also gave me a seat, in the economy class, seat 84 B.
I have a Delta Connecting Flight (after all they always proclaim: AF KLM Delta). Can you help with that? Non
“If you miss your flight with Delta, it is their problem and not ours”. I thought that was a strange answer. But I was in the Yoga mood and let it go. One thing is consistent with Air France, they treat all passengers this way, whether you are a Frequent Flier or not… Egalite I suppose!
It was incredible to me that during this time, I had remained calm. I was not annoyed at her arrogance (Yoga sutra says, it is the ignorant people who become arrogant, quite obvious here). The dramas of emotional clutter in her life becomes obvious, an uninteresting job for an arrogant person, which could easily be turned over into a happy job for a more humble person.
For the next one hour, I was in line and confronted two AF agents, one at AF sales office. Once again, Non, Non, Non.
“Your ticket is non refundable, so we cant give you a compensation. Who sent you here?”
Your colleagues at the Frequent Flier Desk
“But why”
So that I can do what they asked me to do, which is to give you this paper. Can you help me?
“Non”
I didn't even have to take deep breaths. Felt calm. What has happened to me, really? I have to watch this drama unfold in front of me, detach myself from this show of inefficiency (much reminded me of the bureaucrats in a totalitarian society).
The elderly lady at Delta Counter near Counter 2 says,
“I don't think I can help you and you will have to pay a penalty to Delta to change the flight from IAD to OMA”
What about the Sky team partnership of AF KLM Delta?
“Non, we can’t help you but I will book you onto a later flight. You get hold of Delta when you read IAD. Good Bye.”
I realized that Yoga is not about Asanas or Breathing but it is about the change in your attitude, to abolish or decrease that which normally bothers you, gets you upset, anxious, gets your heart racing, stomach upset, acid ingestion, etc.
I very calmly walked towards Immigration and Security, which took all of 5 minutes and deposited myself in the comfort of the AF lounge.
Decided to take one last chance and talked to an agent in the lounge, who normally tend to be less harassed at their jobs and friendlier. Not so at AF!
“Non, we can’t change your flight”
So far, every thing has been NON NON NON the only OUI OUI OUI has been in my mind.
The flight is late
That is fine; I am sitting at one of the nicest Airline Clubs that of AF in Paris Terminal 2 E with a glass of champagne and some pita filled with toasted aubergine.
I will miss Delta Connection flight. Is that the worst thing that can happen? There are always other flights, tomorrow.
Penalty. Hotels for overnight stay. All are part of the deal of traveling, if you want a lifestyle of traveling, and lead such a life being here and there, you just have to understand it.
1300 to the gate.
Flight further delayed.
1345 back to the lounge.
Tried my luck one more time, with an AF agent at the lounge
Non, you can’t go on another flight
Non, you can’t change your flight.
I smiled at her politely and was glad that the ferocious bald headed man hissing at passengers were not dealing with me.
Thanks for small mercies!
Unable to connect to the Internet, but there are AF computers at the lounge. Logged on to AF, Delta and Choice Hotels all searching for inspiration.
Viola! I can fly tomorrow on Air France for 25000 miles in Business Class with 231 euros in taxes. Not happy. Not unhappy.
Just before making the decision, decided to go to the desk at the reception.
The fierce baldheaded man in charge, fuming at innocent passengers but I spot a gentle looking young man, who was about to sit down.
Bon Jour and I explained the situation.
For the first time, there was a YES.
“Yes, I think we can change your flight. Let me see your boarding pass. Tomorrow’s earlier flight is full but the later flight has seats on Premium Voyageur. Would you like that?”
Yes, please.
Wait a minute, he continued, it is now 3 15 pm and the flight you are booked is to leave at 400 pm and you can board it at 3 30 pm.
Wait a minute, he continued as he scanned the screen. I see that you have been upgraded to Business Class. It is better for you, isn’t it?
Yes, indeed, I said, smiling, still maintaining my calm.
Who suffered and who did a favour to his mind and body (not to mention friends and family?)
The plumb AF agent? The bespectacled agent at AF sales? The elderly lady at AF/Delta? The bald headed dictator of an AF agent at the lounge? And the other AF agent, the young lady who was too impatient to help a frequent flier?
They all could be helped by learning the classical yoga philosophy. There would be no need for Weight Watchers, Spa treatments, Cellulite reduction creams, psychiatrist at 100 euro/hour, and massage at 60 euros per 30 minute!
Et Moi?
Calm, feeling as generous towards the world as possible. Thinking of my dear ones. In KL. In Paris. In Quiberon. In Miami. In La Habana
Thanks to Classical Yoga and the ease with which my mind incorporated it.
Flight AF 028 Airbus 380-800 Seat 79 A upstairs. Typical AF Affaires Seat
Champagne: Philipponnat Brut Royale Reserve
Wine: Limoux Terroir de Haute Vallee 2008 Cave Sieur d’arques
Dinner: Saumon Grille. Sauce vierge a l’huile d’olive, a la tomate, a l’echalote et au herbes, riz basmati, legumes a l’huile d’olive et au romain
Snack: Legumes au curry et au citron, canapé au saumon marine, macaron sale a la tomate et aux amandes.
The usual cheese, fruits, after dinner drinks and dessert of sable au citron meringue, tartelette saint-domingue et verrine au cappuciino

L Haim Salut a votre santé
(Grateful to MC in KL and MM in Paris).

On arrival at IAD, immigration was Global entry, one minute; the customs took about five minutes of waiting for the luggage and no time at the desk. A very pleasant agent at Delta, Rahul, helped me rebook my flight for the day after, a thin Iraqi migrant driving the van for Hilton Embassy Suites persuaded me to go with him, Elisa John at the desk was more than welcoming. And Margarita at the breakfast table had tales of South America to tell me.

All is well that ends well, said Shakespeare. But a good understanding of the Classical Yoga philosophy does help!