When you travel enough - a status I remember with vague fondness, the childhood before entering the adulthood of Travelling Too Damn Much - it’s all a blur, and it’s the little differences that begin to stand out. The hazelnuts you get when you fly with Turkish Airlines. The deep-voiced prayer before take-off from Saudi. The generalised contempt from Air France cabin crew. These are colour notes, expressions of their national character. Where it gets interesting is beyond this space.
I have been awoken - several times - from a sound sleep by British Airways cabin crew because my bag was not shoved far enough under the seat in front of me for their exacting standards. Fine, it could be a hazard in an evacuation – except that I was sitting in a window seat, the only hazard was to me, and I still have no idea why BA, and only BA, are so excessively devoted to verifying the position of cabin baggage.
They are also distressingly nervous about the whole refuelling procedure. If you’ve ever boarded a BA flight during refuelling, you will know about it, because about once a minute there is a blaring warning to KEEP YOUR SEAT BELTS UNFASTENED while the aircraft is being refuelled. Most other airlines recognise the complete futility of worrying about seat belts during fuelling, as any mishap involving avgas will see the aircraft engulfed in a fireball long before it could be evacuated, seat belts or no seat belts.
Lest this start to turn into an anti-BA rant, what is up with non-English-speaking airlines hiring people with atrocious - nigh on incomprehensible - accents to record in-flight announcements? In every instance the announcer is one of the worst English speakers of that nation that I have encountered, equalled only by the country’s railway announcer. Look, it’s a one-shot recording; hire someone people will actually understand. I remember getting more information from the Greek-language announcement than from the English one on the late unlamented Olympic Airways.
On the topic of announcements, all airlines’ cabin crew just love the sound of their voice. Look, it’s very nice of you to welcome us and so on, but many of us have heard the same message roughly once a week (if not more) for many years. By the eighteenth announcement that interrupts our in-flight entertainment, always at EAR-SPLITTINGLY LOUD VOLUME, we are about ready to storm the galley and risk explosive decompression to throw you out of the plane at ten thousand feet. The worst is the multi-lingual crew, who feel the need show off every. single. last. language they speak, including ones utterly irrelevant to the route being flown. If you must make these announcements, at least give us the chance to skip them, once we’ve heard one language we understand?
I know, I know, first-world problems, but here we are.