jeudi 5 janvier 2017


In the last three months, I have been lucky to have flown Qatar Airways QR 12 times, 9 of them long haul flights and three flights of 4 hours duration, fortunately all of them in Business Class.
(a very foggy morning when we left Doha for Boston)

Today’ flight was without doubt the best Qatar Airways Cabin Service and wonderful personnel aboard.
Ever since I took a QR flight in 2012 from Houston to Doha to Jakarta, I have been lucky to fly them fairly often but not often enough, after today’s wonderful flight which was taken to further heights (pardon the pun).
Why are they so good?
(let the lunch service begin, this is to whet your apetite)

First of all, when you fly QR you are not looking to get from Point A to Point B, but there is a whole experience: ground, airport, Lounge, transfers, hotel accommodation if the time between your flights at Doha is more than 8 hours and most importantly wonderful, cheerful service by a multinational crew on board.
Not to mention that they fly new planes, todays flight was on board a Airbus 350 aircraft with mood lighting and comfortable seating and I always request seat 1 K on this plane because of the extra privacy it affords me to enjoy the food, savour the drinks and read and write my thoughts.
I am an Anthropologist and always interested in the WHY of things? Today, I can say that it reflected two people: One very high up, the CEO HE  AkbarAl Bakr, who maintains a visionary approach to aviation at the same time has a strict philosophy about everything to do with service, including the layout of the plane and selection of the personnel.
And then while in the air, the service is under the direction of a Supervisor, today we were lucky to have Ms. S from Thailand, who was busy throughout the flight while the multinational crew attended to the needs of the passengers. The service is efficient and very proactive, even before I need to ask for something, someone comes and says: would you like..? I am sure that a pleasant, supervisory, strict but relaxed approach to the staff would give each one the freedom to act on their level and offer the best service as requested and necessary. Not everybody worries about the quality (some may about the quantity?) of the champagne or the menu on offer. When I entered the plane, and greeted by Ms. S, I knew that I am in for a good flight, she whispered to me: I will make sure you have an extra special flight, perhaps because I wanted to sit in seat 1 K, and it did happen.
Who are the people with whom you have a chance to chat? I am very reluctant to speak to other passengers when I travel, either in the USA or Europe but always friendly towards the staff, thus enlarging my own horizon with stories from the lives of these people drawn from all parts of the world.

After an initial period of rest, I sought out V, from Russia who could discuss intelligently about the champagne and wines on offer and made sure that I did taste all that I wanted. The Champagne was certainly one of the best in the air: Comtes de Champagne Taittinger, Blanc de Blancs, 2006. It went down very well with Dill marinated prawns with smoked salmon. Huntaway Sauvignon Blanc, slightly less sweet and finer than the ones we are used to (Kim Crawford) went well with the Seared Red Snapper with asparagus.

 Ms. V suggested that I try Lions de Suduiraut, Sauternes 2013 from Bordeaux in France while I tasted, slowly and mindfully the dessert, Dacquoise biscuit with chocolate ganache. It was just like a friend serving you food at their home, while we talked about Russia, the recent tragedy of the Choir and fond memories of her visit to Cuba one year ago.
Because of the long duration of the flight, 13 hours 40 minutes today, the cabin crew breaks the tedium with a 3 or 4 hour break and another set of crew comes in. I was so fortunate to have had Ms.M, a graduate of Sociology with a Master’s degree, from Bucharest in Romania who has been with QR for five years. While she never practiced as a Sociologist, her education had prepared her well. Many days later a friend of mine, Mrs. I, who is married to a Pilot (who flew 777 for Singapore Airlines): Why do these women, so well educated, choose to become Flight Attendants? Her worldview is from the USA where the status of FAs is quite different, in many cases it is a career and it is not unusual for you to see middle aged Flight Attendants. For many of the QR FAs that I spoke to, they like the freedom, and more importantly the chance to see the world and the chance to interact with a wide variety of travelers. Certainly the diversity of passengers in QR would outclass the same in any USA based airlines because QR serves the world, not any one region in particular. While the FAs are based in Qatar, they have ample opportunities to return to their countries of origin, Ms. M returns at least twice a month to Bucharest, another FA from South Korea said, she goes back as often as she can and the schedule permits, even though it is a long way from Doha to Seoul.

Ms. turned out to be a very good conversationalist, a listener and a curious person. While the plane was crossing from Iceland to Greenland to the northern reaches of North America, she would come, when she had a moment to spare and we would talk about various subjects, most of them to deal with good conduct of our lives and what is that we expect out of our lives, bringing in of course, the usual pathfinders, Sadh Guru, Dalai Lama, American Indians. She was extremely open to the concepts of sacrifice and putting the other person before oneself and our conversation, punctuated by her absence attending to her work. I truly enjoyed this conversation with this Romanian Lady, who often goes home in between her flight schedule.
One thing is universal, I asked each of the five FAs in my cabin, how do you like working for QR? The answer was unanimously and enthusiastically, Yes! As I had mentioned earlier, this reflects on the administration of HE Akbar Ali Bakr and the conciliatory strictness of the supervisors. I thought to myself, what a great supervisor Ms. M from Romania would be and I look forward to that.
The path of the plane took a southwardly shift as we approached the Gaspe Peninsula and I see Ms.M setting my table up, with table cloth. Yet another meal? I asked. No, a surprise, she said. And all the five of the FAs , one from Romania, others from France, South Korea and Jamaica, came with a plate with a hand written message and a cake and an éclair .

It said, To our amazing Guest, Dr.Yehuda
I was so emotional that I was about to cry. These ladies, had shared a bit of their lives with me. The chances of my ever seeing them again, despite my wishes to see them, is very remote. They had done a great job as required of their airline, I was very satisfied, but somehow my conversation with Ms.M kindled this sweet, sensitive and kind gesture on their part. We made sure that we had taken photos of the occasion. I felt so good afterwards, and for the day to follow, feeling a glow, to know that such people exist in this world, sweet as Ms. M who turns one brief encounter to something so touching to your heart.