I was on the Air India flight from Singapore to India on Wednesday night. Thanks to the flight being full, I had been bumped to Business class and I’d settled down in my seat on the aisle. Soon, my co-passenger for the window seat turned up, put his bag away in a hurry and sat down.
He seemed the restless sort as he was moving a fair bit at first, and he gradually settled down. The air hostess came to us with the customary check of whether we would like to have juice to refresh ourselves. His reply to her was dipped with every kind of sarcasm possible (in my view atleast)- ‘Water, if you can manage it’. The air hostess smiled and got him what he wanted.
To Air India’s bad luck, there was one malfunctioning TV on the flight, and that happened to be his. He alerted them and they immediately responded by heading over to their central console and resetting it. Given they were attending to a full flight, they proceeded with their other duties. When they came next with their juice, the exchange went like this –
‘The TV is not working, just like everything else on Air India’ – he said with a condescending tone
‘Sir, I just reset it on our system. Would you please try switching it on? The button is on the seat.’
‘I know how to do it – thanks. Can’t you get anything right?’
‘Sir, I’m sorry. If it was any other flight, I would have changed your seat but the flight is full’
‘It’s ok’ – he said gruffly and looked away.
Well, I felt for him. He’d paid for business class (presumably) and he couldn’t watch TV. Now, I didn’t have TV watching on my agenda so –
‘I’m not going to be watching TV. Would you like to swap with me?’ – I offered
The air hostess caught on ‘Yes sir, please do feel free to swap if you would like to watch it’
‘NO, I WANT MY WINDOW SEAT’ he snapped and looked away.
Let’s forget for a moment that this was a night flight and as the flight had already taken off, 50% of all you could see from your window seat was already over. And let’s also forget for a moment that it was unfortunate that the TV in the seat he had paid for was not working. Moreover, the air hostess, to her credit, handled the situation very well and was very nice to him throughout despite his behavior.
To me, he chose to lose twice. The TV was not working. And his reaction was to get upset and ruin his own flight. What was worse to me is that this was his choice anyway. If you pay for a ticket to fly on Air India, you are generally prepared for a few delays, for a few things not working etc – if you would like everything to be perfect, buy a ticket on Singapore Airlines for goodness sake.
In all fairness, he must have had a bad day but it’s funny how we are programmed to only behave worse when we have a bad day, thus making the day worse instead of trying to behave better and get better, step by step.
All the analysis aside, my empathy had turned into a wide grin by now. As a friend says, life is all about stories from what we see and experience. And this one was worth re-telling and learning from. Most importantly, this was ‘alearningaday’ material and that’s always good news! :)