She was an attractive woman, small, young and carefully put together. Her only negative was that she was checking people in at the economy desk for the airline.
Dear readers, as the more observant of you will know this would normally mean that the young lady and I were unlikely to meet. However she flashed a charming smile over to where we stood in the business class line, and announced that she would be happy to help us. We looked across to the long line of economy class passengers and for a fleeting moment felt that we couldn’t possibly cut in front of them. But of course we could and of course we did.
She took our passports and studied them. She noted our Indian Visa numbers in her computer and then looked at the photos, looked at us and returned her gaze to the photos. Then closing my passport, she said “Thank you Mr Herman”, and handed it to Gordon.
Now it has to be said that Gordon and I both look fabulous but there the similarity ends. It is true that we both have mixed hair color, but mine is brown and grey, and Gordon’s is light brown and blond. He likes to say that the blond streaks in front are where the sun has kissed his hair. But I know it is where a bottle, an applicator and some bleach have kissed it. Gordon is also slightly vertically challenged, perfectly slim and sexy. I am none of those things.
So it seemed perfectly reasonable to wonder why the young lady was confused as to which of us was me.
Gordon, always one to be nice, smiled at the young lady and said
“A good try. But after all, you only had a fifty percent chance of getting it right”
She looked crestfallen as she smiled back at Gordon.
I, always one to be helpful, offered a few words of advice. I smiled and added
“Another look at the photos might have improved those odds”
She didn’t smile back at me.
We were flying Lufthansa airlines. Not by choice. We had booked our business class tickets on a newer airline out of Abu Dhabi called Etihad. It had just been voted by Travel Magazine as having one of the world’s best business class sections, and they noted it served the best (well most expensive) champagne of any airline. That last detail may be minor to you, but as you might know, I like my bubbles, and if they are expensive bubbles, I really like them .
However, five days before we were due to leave, our travel agent got a note from Etihad saying that we had been bounced from the flight. No explanation. No apology. No offer of help
So after much scrambling our travel agent managed to find us seats on what I now like to affectionately refer to as Luftwaffe airlines. Luftwaffe airlines might have ruled the air once, but that was decades ago. It has not appeared on anybody’s top ten in a very long time.
And we were about to find out the reason why
First of all, we did not have lie flat beds. We had two very long flights ahead of us. The first was eleven hours and the seat reclined to 165 degrees. That may sound good to you, but those missing fifteen degrees cause a world of discomfort. Once relaxed, my body slowly slid down the seat until I found myself in a crumpled heap on the floor. My clothes however, unaffected by gravity, and sticking to the cloth seats, stayed where they were, leaving my trousers bunched tightly around my crotch and my shirt pushed up around my chest. Very uncomfortable and not my best look.
Secondly the food was reminiscent of economy class ten years ago. We are used to a nice little bowl of warm nuts to accompany our cocktail. But Luftwaffe serve the nuts just as they bought them at the local discount supermarket – in a little sealed foil bag almost impossible to open. The tiny salad came with only one choice of dressing, also served in a tiny foil bag and described on the menu as a “delicious dressing” Presumably that allowed them to buy whatever was on sale that day without having to change the menu.
The main course came in a foil covered dish. There were 85 business class passengers and all 85 meals were piled high on a trolley and wheeled down the aisle. The choice was steamed fish or duck confit. By the time the trolley arrived at the back row where we were sitting, there were only three plates left, all of them duck. I chose the duck. Duck confit is twice cooked duck, but by the time it had sat on a plate covered in foil for an hour, it had been cooked for a third time.
If all this had been served with a smile, it might not have been too bad. But it wasn’t. It was served by Germans.
A few years ago in offering up my rather unflattering view of Australians, I offended a few of my readers. I learned my lesson and do not wish to lose any more of my readers. I am therefore taking a moment to advise anyone with a love of Germans to treat this sentence as the end of the blog and to not read any further.
………….. Like the airline, Germans once tried to rule the world but that was a long time ago. Since then they have become known for being unsmiling, aggressive and pushy, famous for grabbing the best chaise round the hotel pool, and the front seat on the tour bus. The service industry is not one that comes naturally to them. They were not born to serve. They do not want to serve. And when they find themselves in the position of having to serve they do it with extreme ill humour. (Ed. All attributes shared with the English!)
Air Luftwaffe has of course always employed Germans, which may explain their decline. Our stewardess was well into her fifties and had clearly been working for Air Luftwaffe for many years, doing a job she was ill equipped to do, but reluctant to leave and lose the wonderful perks that go with the job. She was not a happy woman and greeted us, if that is a term that can be used, with a scowl. She was a large formidable woman who bore an uncanny likeness to Angela Merkel, but not as attractive. Up until this point I had not known it was possible to be less attractive than Angela Merkel, but our stewardess was living proof. I thought you might be sceptical and so I tried desperately to take a photo of her but she had an uncanny ability to turn away when ever I raised my camera. So in an effort to make my point I managed to take a photo of two of the more attractive personnel.
I especially like Air Luftwaffe’s efforts to make the German personality a little softer by wrapping it in a large orange bow. It does little to help
Do you remember dear reader when we traveled on Virgin Australia and were greeted by charming, attractive and smiling young staff who presented us with pajamas and offered to make up beds for us when it was time to retire.
Air Luftwaffe, or Virgin Australia?
Another battle lost.
After more than 24 hours with Air Luftwaffe we finally arrived at New Delhi airport. We were met by Joginder who will be our driver for the next four weeks.
He presented us with garlands of marigolds.
He told us that Indians always treat their guests as gods and welcome them with garlands of marigolds, and as we were to be with him for the next four weeks, we would be his gods.
Air Luftwaffe could learn a lesson from Joginder.
I think he and I will get along just fine!