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dimanche 28 février 2016


When one talks about service aboard a flight on long haul journeys, one is not talking about USA based airlines or European ones. With individual exceptions (young recent recruits such as CLT based AA FAs, Nicole and Isabel or the MIA based Canadian Jamie), USA based airlines are not interested in service. On a recent short flight of 50 minutes on Sri Lankan Airways from Cochin to Colombo, we were served a hot meal in the Economy Class! The Air France FAs are there to look good, God Forbid if you wanted a glass of water! SE Asian Airlines are a cut above and all legacy airlines from the region outshines the USA/Europe based legacy airlines.
I have flown a fair bit on the long haul flights of Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways and I am a little partial to QR.
I have no experience with Emirates Airways, and I will rate my experience of lounges in this particular order:
Doha Qatar Airways
Istanbul Turkish Airways
Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways

On this trip east, BRU to DOH portion was on a 787 and Fay from Manila and Bandana from Sikkim were in charge of the service. Whenever there is a lull in service, I like to chat with them and get their stories. Thank you Fay and Bandana.

When I arrive at DOH, I go into the Lounge and position myself at the Café/Tea Bar. There is a cook to order (from fresh ingredients on display) restaurant, as well as a Buffet restaurant which also has a la carte service.
All these are well and good but the unsung heroes, whom you very seldom hear praised about, are the people who work in these places, always pleasant and polite and all of them with their own stories to tell, if a traveler is willing to listen.
I could have caught an earlier flight to COK from DOH, but I wanted to spend some time in the lounge and relax a little bit, to catch up with the lack of rest of the past week in Belgium and France.

As I sat down, I was greeted by Aksam Abu Tahir from Sri Lanka, the person I have known the longest at the Lounge at DOH. Almost always we have coincided at the Lounge, for which I am grateful. He is one of the managers of the Café/Tea Bar. Always attentive, I wonder at the modern lifestyle that brings two people like him and me, in this strange but welcoming ambiance of the QR Lounge at Doha.
There are many others, all from South Asian countries, and the department of Hygiene seems to be firmly in the hands of Bangladeshi young men. Polite to a fault, these young men are happy to be working, as they had “fled” unemployment, political instability, and general poverty of the country. I noticed that all of them spoke English.
My own thoughts, as an Anthropologist, is to give their individual stories a meaning. I ask about their working conditions, what they hoped to do and whether or not they are happy in Qatar. Uniformly they say, yes we are happy to be here. It is no wonder that Bangladesh and Philippines are two strong economies in the region because the income is depended not on production but the unfailing support of their sons and daughters toiling under the sun of the Gulf Region. (In most cases inside well air conditioned buildings). Both these nationalities are also found where labour is needed such as Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Hong Kong and Japan.
Would it be better for them to appear at the doors of European Union as refugees or work hard and send money to rebuild their countries? Here they are not migrants, but workers on contracts. Arab societies have always been closed societies, in fact this extends to many other Moslem countries as well (Malays are much more closed than Indonesian Moslems, reflecting their respective colonial pasts and the rigidity of current political systems). This closet nature extends to Bangladesh itself, and you can see it analyzing their treatment of the Rohingya Bangla refugees. Bangladeshis at DOH are cheerful and are glad to be of service

Salmon Suny from Bangladesh welcomed me as I waited to have a long shower before boarding my next flight. He made sure that I had all that was needed for a leisurely shower: Towels, soap, shaving utensils. He would repeatedly ask me, do you need tooth brush? Do you need a shaver? A comb? A nod of the head, and everything appears, all packed nicely and ready for use. The shower room was spic and span clean, so that when I arrived at my destination COK the next morning at 8 am, I did not look bedraggled
Thank you Salman
There were other attendants at the Men’s Toilet, a young tall Bangladeshi with receding hair whom I recognized from a previous visit, and Raju whom I met this time. They were eager in their service and chatted if you showed an interest, otherwise were full of smiles and silence. No other airline outside this region would provide this level of service. Thank you, HE Abu Bakr, the CEO of QR!
These are the unsung heroes of QR that makes the total flight experience more comfortable, human and meaningful.
FAs on the flight from BRU TO DOH Q 196 on 16.2.2016 were charming and lovely to talk to. Fay the lead FA was from Manila, closer to Clark Airport (QR lands there), she has worked 7 years with QR. Bandana (the meaning of the name is the one that binds people together) was from Sikkim and was very sweet.
I have never seen the same FA twice (there are thousands at the employ of QR) but I am always hoping. But our unsung heroes at the Business Class Lounge, including Aksam Abu Tahir I see them almost always when I transit through or I can send my personal greetings to them through their colleagues.
I thank them for making my journey a pleasant one.
PS As I was leaving the restaurant, Aksam appears and escorts me to my gate which happened to be a long ways distant, 20. He engaged a golf cart to take me and some others to the gates at E! The conductor of the vehicle, smartly attired was Mahares from Tunisia. We had a brief chat about the good relations Cuba enjoys with Tunisia (I know the man who was sent there to set up the embassy!)

The QR 516 to COK from DOH was a blur in memory because of the tiredness but did manage to chat a little with Zeny, the FA from Philippines. Just before landing at COK as the sun was coming up, she especially made a Chai to wake up my drowsy body. Selamat, Zeny.